King leads charge against immigration reform
Sen. Marco Rubio's comments this week on "Fox News Sunday" showed just how far the politics of immigration reform have changed, some may say devolved, since January 2013.
Back then, President Obama was revving up for a major drive on immigration reform, signaling it would be a top priority for his second term. There was a good chance, it seemed, that many congressional Republicans would go along for the ride after their 2012 presidential nominee lost the Hispanic vote by 40-plus points.
Rubio, Florida's junior senator and 2016 presidential hopeful, was one of those Republicans.
He said the party must drastically change its image in the Hispanic community. They could do that, in part, by embracing comprehensive reform including a path to legal status for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Now Rubio says proponents "will never have the votes" for comprehensive reform.
Instead they should focus first on tighter border security and "modernizing" the law to eliminate unintended incentives for illegal immigration, Rubio said, as well as returning the current wave of immigrants to their nations of origin.
Those nations include the violence-wracked countries of Central America that have sent tens of thousands of undocumented children to our border over the past eight months.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa's 4th District says those kids should be incarcerated in a "tent city" near the border and swiftly dispatched back to places like San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the murder capital of the world and a particularly deadly place for children.
Rubio seems to cringe at such remarks, but he also wants to win the Iowa caucuses at the start of the GOP presidential nominating process. He was in Iowa last weekend for a Joni Ernst fundraiser and other GOP events.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, another contender for the GOP nomination, was scheduled to attend a Steve King fundraiser on Monday in Okoboji. Paul, unlike Rubio, has never said anything nice about "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, at least as far as your Potomac Watch correspondent knows.
Rubio feels he needs to overcome his early support for reform, so he is falling in line with King's narrative that immigration reform is impossible as long as President Obama flouts the law. That can accurately be read to mean for as long as Barack Obama is president.
The president's warnings that he will use executive orders to address the border crisis, and other festering immigration issues, in part by deferring deportations, "drive the narrative that this is a president not interested in enforcing the laws," Rubio told Fox News' Chris Wallace.
That's "the number-one impediment" to immigration reform, Rubio said. The son of Cuban refugees, Rubio bristled at Wallace's suggestion that he'd "taken a step back" on immigration reform.
King appeared on the same program, and perhaps it would've been understandable if he let out a "halleluiah!" from his seat in a Des Moines studio.
Last February, King essentially obliterated the House Republican leadership's plans to pursue immigration reform "principles" when he managed to frame the issue around Obama's "untrustworthiness."
House conservatives loved the pithy put-down of a president they despise, and GOP leaders were loath to get into an argument with their own members over how far they should go in trusting Obama.
The dysfunctional dynamic between the president and the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has led to a game of constitutional chicken, with King intoning gravely to Fox's Wallace that Obama's executive actions could "force" Congress to move toward impeachment.
King said the president has unilaterally changed the law by postponing some Affordable Care Act deadlines. Of course, if government officials could be impeached for missing deadlines, there would be a lot of empty desks in Washington, D.C., including on Capitol Hill.
But for King, an Obama move to defer deportation of the child refugees would be the final straw.
"Congress is going to have to sit down and have a serious conversation about the Constitution," King said, including the possibility of invoking "the I-word."
What option do we have? King asked plaintively, saying the president was forcing him and others to reluctantly entertain thoughts of impeachment.
King voted for a resolution last week to authorize the Speaker of the House to pursue a lawsuit over the president's Obamacare moves.
Mark that down as a first step on the road toward impeachment. Rather than engaging in the hard business of legislative negotiation, the anti-Obama caucus is getting a taste for feel-good, legal assaults they can launch against the president.
If Republicans win the Senate in November, leaders of the anti-Obama caucus including Steve King are going to begin making real noise for impeachment.
In the meantime, killing immigration reform and dragging the president into court over his signature health-care achievement already mark this as pretty successful year, at least by the metrics favored by Mr. King of Kiron.
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