Political Mercury

November 18, 2010

12 minutes with Congressman Steve King


Congressman Steve King was in a fantastic mood. And why wouldn’t he be?

The Kiron Republican will be in the majority in the U.S. House with a presumptive key leadership spot as chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s panel on immigration.

Just before the Nov. 2 election, King had nationally-recognized political pulse-taker Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Company Inc. do a statewide lay of the land in Iowa that King says shows former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa Caucuses winner, in a strong position again for 2012.

“I wouldn’t rule anybody out,” King said. “This is retail politics in Iowa.”

King said Sarah Palin could make a major move in the Hawkeye State should she seek the presidency, and that she does well with older male voters — of which there are proportionally big numbers in Iowa Republican politics.

“I’ve just observed it,” King said.

The congressman was in Kuwait City, in a reception room where four mid-50s to mid-60s men were, on the night McCain named Palin as his running mate in 2008.

“Three of the four jumped for joy,” King said. “They didn’t know each other. They knew who Sarah Palin was. They were elated that she was named by McCain.”

After that, King started to watch the reaction to the former Alaska governor elsewhere — including an enthusiastic turnout in Sioux City just days before the 2008 election.

“Her charisma seems to work well with, you know, guys my age just to put it simply,” King said.

For his part, King will have one of the more powerful national voices in the raging immigration debate. Just after the election, he was publicly saying he had the votes in the new House to strip citizenship from babies born on U.S. soil to undocumented immigrants — a frontal assault on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which King thinks is being wrongly interpreted.

That amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

King said framers considered exceptions, including certain Indian tribes and babies born to ambassadors or visitors — the reason, he said, for the language “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” the line King thinks opens the door to the change he seeks.

“For example if Alexis de Tocqueville had had a baby while he was here, I don’t think they would have conferred automatic citizenship on that child,” King said, referring to the French politician who famously wrote about America in the 1800s during extensive travels here.

King went on to say that automatic citizenship, which results in what he called “anchor babies” for illegal immigrant parents, is a “habit of the heart so to speak.”

“The framers did not consider the babies of illegals when they framed the 14th amendment because we didn’t have immigration law at the time so they could not have wanted to confer automatic citizenship on the babies of people who were unlawfully in the United States,” King said.

King wants Congress to pass a ban on “anchor babies,” place it in statute, and wait for the other side to challenge the prohibition in the courts. If King and his forces lose, they’ll move for a constitutional amendment to change the practice, he said.

“It’s the right policy, and I think we can do it by statute,” King said.

King said news that General Motors posted its largest quarterly profit in years before an initial public offering this week — at which point the U.S. government and American taxpayers will begin to collect back some of the nearly $50 billion or 61 percent stake in the automaker — does not mean he was wrong to oppose the auto bailout.

“Oh, no,” King said when asked directly if the apparent resurrection of General Motors and bright future for the company meant he should have been with President Obama during Detroit’s dark hours.

The government shouldn’t have been involved, King said.

“The principle that has been sacrificed here is a free market principle,” King said. CV


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.


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