Since every commentator in the country is opining this week about the horrific shooting of a congresswoman, a judge and 17 others in Arizona, it seems wise to withhold analysis until more is known. Besides, important stories frequently go unnoticed when such big stories dominate the news, and last week was no exception.
I must say that the incoming House Republican leadership is not inspiring this skeptic with confidence that they actually got the message of the election just two short months ago.
Despite Speaker John Boehner's frequent crocodile tears, the refreshing but largely symbolic gesture of having members read the entire U.S. Constitution out loud on the House floor, and the congressional blustering about repealing the national bad dream that is Obamacare (a vote Majority Leader Eric Cantor has announced has been postponed because of the events in Tucson), the real test of whether these people actually heard what voters were saying in November has come down, as it always does, to decisions made behind closed doors. You know, the ones they make when they think you're not watching.
One of the more cowardly betrayals of a loyal conservative who has fought the good fight and was in line for a promotion came last week when U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, learned that he would not become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law — despite the fact that he is the ranking Republican on that panel.
Last summer, Congressman Joe Barton, R-Texas, called Barack Obama's $20 billion shakedown of BP for "damages" to businesses along the Gulf Coast just that — a shakedown. Boehner, Cantor and company were horrified that one of their own had told the truth about this radical president. You could hear their panicked cries across the land: "You can't say that! Now go thee and apologize!"
Rep. King, like Barton, is an honest conservative who frequently speaks truth to power. He has served on the House Judiciary Committee since his election in 2002. He has made tough enforcement of immigration laws a cornerstone of his campaigns and of his service to his state and his country. And that is what has landed him in hot water. He's too honest and he's too blunt.
I have known Steve King for the better part of a decade. I worked for him his first two years in Congress. He is a stalwart conservative hero. He backs down from no one. He believes that entering this country illegally makes you a criminal. He believes English should be our official language, and has introduced legislation both in the Congress and in the Iowa State Senate, where he served prior to going to Washington. He is tough and he is honest. He believes the things most Americans believe — and liberals hate him for it.
After the last election, King announced some of the proposals he intended to push as chairman of the subcommittee. They included denying federal funds to sanctuary cities and citizenship to anchor babies. This infuriated the Latino lobby. A group known as Somos Republicans, which claims to represent the interests of Republican Latinos in the Southwest and in parts of the Midwest, wrote a letter to Boehner opposing King's ascendancy and claiming that the Western Iowa congressman has taken "extreme positions" on immigration. They called his rhetoric "inflammatory," saying he had the potential to alienate Latino voters. "Steve King has used defamatory language that is extremely offensive to Hispanics," the group wrote.
Such groups apparently also bullied incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas into passing King over in favor of Rep. Elton Gallegly, thus relegating King to serve as the subcommittee's vice chair. Although Gallegly enjoys the support of anti-illegal immigration groups, he once sponsored a bill that would have given legal status to agricultural workers.
Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, which lobbies for tough immigration laws, said of the snub of King, "If this was about trying to muzzle an outspoken member, it is not going to be very effective."
Having once worked for Steve King, I can only smile and agree.