Rep. Steve King of Iowa fully expected to become chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration -- and his party's leading voice on immigration -- when Republicans took over the House this month. He talked as if it were a done deal, and it was reported that way
by many outlets.
But King learned last week it was not to be. Instead, even though he was the senior member of the panel, GOP leaders tapped veteran Rep. Elton Gallegly of California.
Why did they snub King, a quotable cable regular, as their chief immigration spokesman? Just guessing, but . . .
1. He designed a wall topped with electrified wire to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the southern border and explained, "We do that with livestock
all the time."
4. In 2008 he predicted that if Barack Obama won the election, "radical Islamists" would be "dancing in the streets
because of his middle name (Hussein)."
6. Last month he called Joe McCarthy a "hero for America
" and said he favors re-establishing the House Un-American Activities Committee, "but I would support a different committee name so that we don't have to deal with the history, and move forward."
Republicans need to appeal to moderates to do well in the 2012 presidential and congressional races. They also need to attract minority voters, who have been supporting Democrats in droves. Last year, national exit polling
showed, Republicans captured 9 percent of the black vote and 38 percent of Latinos – and that was much better than their 2008 performance
. Two days after King learned he would not be chairman, in fact, former Florida governor Jeb Bush published an essay about the critical importance of GOP outreach to Hispanics
Gallegly's California district north of Los Angeles is more than a quarter Hispanic. The California Independent Voting Network notes that he was named one of the top 10 immigration hawks
in 2006, is part of the Border Patrol Hall of Fame, and chaired a 1995 immigration task force that saw most of its recommendations become law the following year. "He does not have a history of heated rhetoric behind him," the group said, and because of that may be able to "maneuver the waters of immigration reform" with both parties.
In an interview with National Journal, King blamed his situation on Speaker John Boehner and Boehner's lack of commitment to the immigration issue. He said the Gallegly pick proves the House "is not a meritocracy
The day before he found out he wouldn't be promoted, King introduced a bill to end automatic citizenship
for all children born in the United States and instead limit it to babies of citizens, permanent legal immigrants and immigrants in the military. He doesn't plan to abandon that crusade or others. Plan B is to take his case to the grassroots across the country, the goal being enough support and noise that "the guy with the gavel hears it."
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