Republican Rep. Steve King tells Newsmax that he decided not to run for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa because he can have more influence on key policy issues by staying in the House and being part of the majority party.
"Running for the Senate would have taken me out of an area of policy and messaging policy, and if successful, put me in a chamber in which I was one vote and it takes 60 to move anything," King explained to Newsmax.
Along with similar "no-go" announcements from fellow Rep. Tom Latham and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, King's exodus from the Senate sweepstakes forces Iowa Republicans to now go to their "B-Team" of possible contenders for Harkin's seat in 2014.
The decision by King to remain in the House rather than try for the Senate also means that one of the chief skeptics of anything resembling amnesty for illegal immigrants will stay in the forefront of the upcoming debate on immigration reform.
The six-term congressman said he was "not quite" wed to the idea voiced by many other Republicans that the House deal with immigration reform on an incremental basis rather than in one "comprehensive" package.
"I would rather have no bill at all than have the House pass something incremental, the Senate comes back with a comprehensive package, and then a conference committee sends us something that is more like the Senate amnesty bill," King said.
King said such a compromise measure could likely pass the House.
"There's no guarantee the conference committee would not send us back a Senate amnesty bill and that we might well have to vote up-or-down on it. If that were so, it would probably pass in the House," said King. "All the Democrats would vote for it, the libertarian Republicans, and perhaps about two dozen other Republicans who could sacrifice their beliefs under the misguided impression that this bill will somehow help them with the votes of Hispanics."
King said immigration reform "didn't work" after Ronald Reagan signed the Simpson-Mazzoli Act in 1986. "That was an amnesty," he said. "It won't work today."
Calling current debate over immigration reform "a very precarious situation," the Hawkeye State conservative explained his view that "the immigration issue is not a legislative problem. It is a problem of the Executive Branch of government refusing to enforce present immigration laws."
"The president has defied his oath by refusing to enforce the law and now the Gang of Eight seek, through a de-facto amnesty, to conform the law to the lawbreakers," King charged.
King said the legislation "legalizes everyone already here illegally, all those who may come in illegally in the future, and all those who have been deported. So the Gang of Eight is saying, 'We're now going to make what has been done illegally legal, and reconcile the law to those who have violated it.'"
Turning to the Senate race he passed on, King told Newsmax, "I don't have a favorite here," but he believed there would be several good Republican candidates.
Former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, a one-time football star at the University of Iowa, announced his candidacy last week. Secretary of State Matt Schultz is expected to get in as well. Schultz, the highest elected Republican in the state to back Rick Santorum, was a strong advocate of voter ID legislation.
The most recently talked-of prospect is state Sen. Joni Ernst, a onetime county auditor and Army National Guard major who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The certain Democratic nominee is liberal Rep. Bruce Braley, a protege of Harkin and past president of the state bar association.
"It will be a multicandidate nomination fight," King said of the Republican primary, "but it isn't until June of next year. So a lot can happen between now and then."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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