Rep. Steve King calls Grover Norquist an "establishment Republican" in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview and says that the conservative activist's attacks on him are part of his effort to "marginalize those who disagree with him on immigration."
"There isn't anyone that can fairly characterize me as anti-immigrant," the Iowa Republican tells Newsmax. "That's a label that the open-borders people have tossed around. They're conflating the terms anti-illegal immigrant and anti-immigrant as if it were the terms healthcare and health insurance.
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"They did that in order to pass Obamacare. Now, they're conflating anti-immigrant with anti-illegal immigration to pass amnesty. So that's one trespass on the part of true justice of the American way for Grover Norquist," King says.
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In defense of his voting record, which Norquist also took to task, King tells Newsmax: "I have voted consistently for what's good for the country. It's God, country, state, district, in that order — and I don’t see a conflict and there shouldn't be."
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, charged in an exclusive Newsmax interview on Wednesday that King, one of immigration reform's strongest House opponents, "could have been a senator if he hadn't self-identified as anti-immigrant.
"He's not electable statewide," he said. "The cost of Steve King is that he can be a congressman but never anything else. Never a governor. Never a senator — and other congressmen want to vote for what's good for the country, not just what's good for the politics of their monochromatic districts."
Norquist backs immigration reform, including the comprehensive legislation proposed by the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators in April that was approved last month by the Senate. The comprehensive reform legislation was sent to the House for consideration.
But House Speaker John Boehner has said the lower chamber will not vote on the Senate bill, opting instead to address immigration reform through individual legislation. Boehner vowed that the House would not take an "Obamacare-like" approach to the issue.
King, long a critic of the Senate bill, says that it grants amnesty to the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants and lacks strong border-security protections.
He tells Newsmax that his discussions with Boehner on reform have come through such open forums as the House Republican Conferences or in the media. "I don’t think that it’s that unusual."
Even though King represents a farming state, he says that the majority of his constituents "want the rule of law enforced — and they understand that if you legalize people in any form, it ends up in citizenship.
"They understand that amnesty itself, the very definition of amnesty, is a pardon and a reward. It's a pardon for immigration law-breakers coupled with a reward for the objective of their crime.
"We do have people who are in Iowa who are advocating for some type of immigration reform," King adds. "What they, of course, mean is amnesty — and then they tell me that I need someone to gather my eggs or I need someone to harvest the hogs. I need somebody to milk my cows.
"Those are arguments that get way ahead of themselves, but there are many, many businesses in the state and in the country that are for immigration because of the anticipation of having cheap, illegal labor ready to take those jobs," King says. "I remind them that if we become independent of illegal labor, we may fall back to a place where we're no longer depending upon illegal labor.
"In doing so, we'll let them see the wages go up, especially in the unskilled and the low-skilled jobs where we have double-digit unemployment today.
"The highest unemployment in this country is in the lowest-skilled jobs," King says. "We don't need more unskilled people in America. We need to give access to people who can earn their own way — and I would think that would be something on which Grover Norquist and I could agree."
While he still considers the Senate bill amnesty, King tells Newsmax, "That doesn't mean there are groups of people in this country that I have sympathy for."
He cites those illegals who were brought to the United States by their parents as young children, for instance.
"Some of them are valedictorians — and their parents brought them in. It wasn't their fault. It's true in some cases, but they aren't all valedictorians. They weren't all brought in by their parents.
"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King tells Newsmax. "Those people would be legalized with the same act."
But even by granting citizenship to a small portion of the 11 million illegals, "what we've done is we've set aside and destroyed the rule of law, at least with regard to immigration," he says. "We will never get it restored again."
Congress — now, however — has "a chance to get it restored," King adds. "If not, if Congress says it's politically too difficult, then if something like the Gang of Eight's bill is passed into law, then forever the rule of law would no longer apply to immigration. Immigration law would be meaningless — and anybody who could get into America could stay."
Further, the Gang of Eight’s bill also "sends an invitation out to those who have been deported in the past and says: 'Come on back into the United States. We really didn't mean it,'" he says. "We've got some leaders who think that's a good idea — and I can't get myself around to even seeing their point of view.
"The members who are standing up and opposing amnesty are the ones who are keeping their oath of office and adhering to the rule of law — and they understand what happens in a civilization if you reward people for breaking the law, you get more lawbreakers," King tells Newsmax.
More broadly, the congressman says the immigration debate has created three groups of supporters in the United States.
"First, there are the elitists," King begins. "Elitists see that they should have access to cheap labor to clean their homes, mow their lawns, and take care of their gardens. The second group is Democratic power brokers. They see a tremendous advantage to the Democratic Party that turns us into a one-party system if they do what they're trying to do with the Gang of Eight bill in the Senate.
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"And the third group is those employers of illegals who benefit from cheap labor at the expense of the taxpayers who are subsidizing them through welfare programs. If you want to support the elitists or Democratic powerbrokers or employers of illegal labor, then support of the Gang of Eight, listen to Grover, listen to Karl Rove," King says, referring to the GOP strategist, who also supports immigration reform.
"If you want to defend the Constitution, the rule of law, and preserve a better destiny for the United States of America — where individuals can make a living with their hands, their backs, their minds, standing on their own two feet — then stand with me."
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