U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa is an advocate of what he calls “full-spectrum constitutional conservatism,” which means he’s for restricting access to abortions, upholding heterosexual marriage, enforcing the rule of law, ensuring the separation of federal powers and advancing agendas of fiscal constraint and small government.
He’s also a conservative Republican who has taken some heat for controversial comments in recent weeks, provoking rebuke from his party’s leadership.
In an interview with The Post and Courier while visiting Charleston on Monday, King betrayed none of the hyperbole that’s been generating headlines.
Instead he spoke broadly of immigration policy reform, party unity and the need to erect “guardrails of constitutional conservatism around our presidential candidates.”
King’s name has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, but he stepped around questions about whether he will join the 2016 race.
He did say he was in South Carolina to meet a group of local conservatives and talk about how the party can “coalesce around the issues,” and to get a feel for this early primary state.
Invited by author and GOP activist Mallory Factor to speak at the closed-door “Charleston Meeting,” a gathering of conservative politicians and GOP supporters, King, 64, strongly defended the early, small-state primary/caucus schedule that sends New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina voters to the polls in a cluster early in the campaign season.
“It’s the small states that can get to know candidates in a familiar way,” before the big money is spent on expensive TV ads, he said. “I believe in the early-state system that we have.” And with help from Jim DeMint, he is determined to “tie together” those three states, to build relationships and to strive to unify Republicans so they might make gains in Washington.
King has made a name for himself as a leading critic of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, and last month King suggested that many of the children of undocumented workers were drug smugglers.
“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 said.
That comment drew quick condemnation.
“There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” House Speaker John Boehner said at the time. “What (King) said does not reflect the values of the American people, or the Republican Party.”
King disagrees, insisting that the rule of law must prevail over the “perpetual, retroactive amnesty” proposed by the so-called Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of Senators sponsoring the 2013 immigration reform bill.
He also insists that Republicans need to “restore the pillars of American exceptionalism.”
Conservative people of all racial, religious and ethnic stripes can agree on the fundamentals, he said. Physical and cultural differences shouldn’t stand in the way.
“Identity politics ultimately divide us against each other,” King said. “We should neither advantage nor disadvantage anyone because of those God-given distinctions,” he said.