October 8, 2015

Congressman King to host House huddle tonight over speaker’s job

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King is hoping to influence the vote among his fellow House Republicans to replace John Boehner as the new Speaker of the House. King is chairman of the “Conservative Opportunity Society” in the House, a group that holds a weekly breakfast on Wednesdays and he will co-host an event in Washington, D.C. tonight.

“Also I’ve asked the Freedom Caucus, the Liberty Caucus and the Tea Party Caucus to all join, so we’ll have our four conservative organizations there,” King says. “We’ll interview the candidates…We’ll go as long as we need to until we get all questions answered.”

King says under the current House leadership the legislative branch has too often taken a back seat to the executive and judicial branches. King is hoping the candidates for speaker explain tonight how they plan to restore the power of the legislative branch.

“I want to hear from them: What are you going to do to restore Article I in the Constitution?” King asks. “…We’ve just shoveled our Article I legislative authority out the window.”

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy is currently the number two Republican in the U.S. House and is seeking the top job, but King says a Utah congressman has recently emerged as a leading challenger.

“Jason Chaffetz who chairs the Oversight Committee, he’s a strong candidate for speaker,” King says. “I’ve worked with him on the Judiciary Committee since he came into congress.”

In January, King nominated Florida Congressman Daniel Webster to be House Speaker, but King says Chaffetz appears to be “an alternative candidate” who probably has more support now than Webster does. McCarthy, Chaffetz and Webster will all attend tonight’s meeting.

The “Conservative Opportunity Society” group of House Republicans that King leads was formed by Newt Gingrich in 1983, a dozen years before Gingrich was elected speaker of the House. King has been the group’s chairman for over a decade.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Boehner out, giving life to King’s dream of ‘fresh blood’ in House leadership

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King publicly expressed a lack of confidence in soon-to-depart House Speaker John Boehner 15 months ago during an appearance on Iowa Public Television and a member of King’s staff says King played a crucial role in the internal GOP revolt that weakened Boehner and led to his exit.

“There comes a time for fresh blood,” King said on IPTV in June of 2014, “and I know that dialogue is out there and there’s an open discussion about who that might be.”

In January, seven months after making that statement, King nominated a Florida congressman named Daniel Webster to be House Speaker. Webster got more votes for speaker than any other candidate challenging Boehner. A spokesperson for King today said King’s move had weakened Boehner’s leadership position and added: “That’s what ultimately did Boehner in.” King has indicated he is not interested in being speaker himself.

“It’s not my style,” King said last year.

Leaders have to build coalitions, according to King, to the point where they’re pushing a consensus position rather than sticking to their personal beliefs.

“I learned in the Iowa Senate that wasn’t my role,” King said on IPTV. “My role was to be the conscience of the conservatives — the constitutional, principled conservatives. That’s my role today in congress, too.”

King and Boehner have had very public squabbles during the five years Boehner has been House Speaker. Boehner publicly rebuked King for comments King made two years ago about young undocumented immigrants. Five years ago Boehner did not promote King on a committee that King had been in position to lead and, earlier this year, Boehner cancelled a foreign trip King was set to take. Fifteen months ago, King was directly asked if he would vote to keep Boehner on as speaker.

“If you look at the pattern of his behavior, you could understand why that would be a difficult decision for me,” King said.

First-term Republican Congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque did not vote for Boehner in January either. Boehner announced this morning during a private meeting of House Republicans that he would resign at the end of October. King and other conservative Republicans in the House have been pushing for a showdown with President Obama over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Boehner has been trying to navigate the conflict and avoid a government shutdown.

King told The Omaha World Herald today that Boehner “handled himself with grace and class” in announcing his exit from congress and King said it was time to “reassess” who would be best to lead House Republicans as speaker.  Congressman David Young, a Republican from Van Meter, told The Omaha World Herald Boehner’s move to step down was “a great act of courage and humility.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City, the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation, issued a written statement commending Boehner for his service.

“While I have not always agreed with him, I understand that the challenges of leading a fractured and ideological party must have been extremely difficult,” Loebsack said. “…It is my hope that the Republican Party will elect a Speaker who is able to stop the partisan games that have ruled Washington for far too long and start working for the American people.”

Iowa’s congressional delegation lauds pope for unifying message

A photo of the Pope form his Twitter feed.

A photo of the Pope from his Twitter feed.

Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted his thoughts shortly after Pope Francis finished speaking in Washington, D.C. this morning. Grassley said it was great to be part of the “historic event” and Grassley said the pope’s message was “well-received” by congress.

All six members of Iowa’s congressional were there in the U.S. House as the pope spoke. Republican Congressman Steve King of Kiron said he has never seen the members of congress so “utterly silent” as they focused on the pope’s message.

“I thought it was a unifying speech and it’s a good thing for our country and I think we’ll parse his words for a long time to come,” King told Radio Iowa. “But it was a great experience to be there.”

Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack of Iowa City said everyone was “on their best behavior.”

“A little bit of progress was made today in the U.S. congress because of the presence of this pope and because of his message of increased conversation,” Loebsack told Radio Iowa.

The pope spoke at length about immigration. Congressman King is an outspoken opponent of what he calls “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. King said “everyone expected” the message Pope Francis delivered on that topic and on the others he addressed.

“It was a broad speech. It was inclusive,” King said. “It was designed not to divide, not to create division, but to unify.”

Loebsack was moved by the pope’s message about social justice.

“That we do everything for those who are the most down-trodden, making sure that everyone’s full lights, as he said, are realized,” Loebsack said. “Those are just themes that I think have been important throughout American history and are important to this day.”

King was struck by a phrase Pope Francis used in the middle of the speech.

“And that is ‘our common home’ meaning the Earth itself,” King said. “And that speaks to the commonality of humanity, the commonality of our environmental interests and the commonality of the floor of our economy.”

While the pope didn’t use the word “civility’ in his speech, Loebsack said that’s what the pope inspired today.

“We had at least a 45 minute period of that in that chamber,” Loebsack said. “And I’m hopeful that we can have more of that moving forward.”

Congressman David Young, a Republican from Van Meter, said it’s too bad House and Senate members didn’t immediately start debating some of the issues the pope touched on.

“It would be really nice if we could have been trapped in there,” Young told Radio Iowa early this afternoon. “The essence and ambience that we felt while listening to the pope, with that spirit of unity, I hope it sticks around for a while because we could use it.”

No pope has ever addressed a joint session of congress and Young, who is a rookie congressman, said he was honored “to be part of history.”

“I liked the message,” Young said. “I liked how he was deliberate and soft-spoken, very respectful, but to the point at the same time.”

Young noted the pope used the words “responsibility” and “opportunity” often.

“And he said it won’t necessarily be easy and there will be tough decisions, but we’re a nation, when we are unified, that has faced dire situations before and we’ve always risen to the challenge,” Young said, “and we need to do that again, for the good.”

Congressman Rod Blum, a Republican from Dubuque, is also in his first term in congress and he described today as “exciting” and “exhilarating”.

“I never dreamed that I’d be in the same room as the pope,” Blum said.

Blum also used the word “unifying” to describe the pope’s message, but Blum expects the effect to evaporate rather quickly.

“Washington, D.C….is uber partisan,” Blum told Radio Iowa this afternoon. “…Though today everyone is uplifted and in a great good, in a great spirit. It’s wonderful. It’d be nice if it was this way every day.”

Congressman Rod Blum, Senator Joni Ernst, Max Ortner and Senator Chuck Grassley. (L-R)

Congressman Rod Blum, Senator Joni Ernst, Max Ortner and Senator Chuck Grassley. (L-R)

Blum gave his extra ticket to a seat in the House gallery to Max Ortner of Waterloo. Blum asked the more than 100 Catholic churches in the first congressional district to submit the names of lay people who’ve been valuable church volunteers and Ortner won a drawing for the ticket to see the pope in person.

“He’s delivered communion to over 85,000 shut-ins over the last 35 years, so very well deserved. He did all this volunteer work for the church over the years expecting nothing but the grace of God in return,” Blum said. “…He says it feels like a dream that he was in the same room with the pope.”

Blum paid for Ortner’s trip and the two flew from Iowa to D.C. together.

“He doesn’t have a cell phone and we didn’t want him to get lost in the airport,” Blum said. “But just to hear his story, you know, a 54-year marriage to his wife, Patty, who passed away four years ago and just his reverence that he has for the pope and the Catholic Church, it’s really special.”

Having Ortner around took today’s experience to a whole other level, according to Blum.

“I’d be excited anyway, but this made it really special for me, just to listen to Max and to see it in his eyes,” Blum said.

Ortner is flying back to Waterloo this afternoon. His 81st birthday is tomorrow. Before he left, Blum introduced Ortner to Senator Grassley, who celebrated his 82nd birthday this month, and Senator Joni Ernst.

Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, issued a written statement this morning shortly after the pope’s address to congress.

“Pope Francis’s visit reminds all of us that we each play a role in showing compassion for and improving the lives of those in need. As a person of faith, I appreciate the goal of identifying those struggling and working to find ways to lift them up,” Ernst said. “While we may not always agree on the right approach, I truly believe that we can all work together—across party lines and across faiths—to ensure the challenges we face are met head on.”

Nearly 17 percent of Iowans identify themselves as Catholics. Twenty-two percent of adults in the U.S. are practicing Catholics.

(This post was updated at 12:10 p.m., 12:54 p.m. and 1:56 p.m. with additional information)

Photo courtesy of Senator Grassley on Instagram.

Congressman King suggests Kentucky clerk deserves Rosa Parks Award

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Republican Congressman Steve King has taken to Twitter to say that if the courts can command a Kentucky clerk to violate her religious beliefs and issue same-sex marriage licenses, then the courts can order same-sex marriage ceremonies at “any altar” in a church, synagogue or mosque.

“If the state legislature had passed a same-sex marriage piece of legislation, if that happened in each of the states, then I’d accept that decision as the voice of the people and constitutional, but the Supreme Court has not only violated the constitution, they have amended it and manufactured a new right,” King said Tuesday during a telephone interview with KSCJ Radio. “What are we for as American citizens? I think that’s what we are going to have to answer.”

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was found in contempt of court and jailed when she refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, was released from jail yesterday. Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were in Kentucky, holding a rally for Davis, when Davis walked on stage and spoke to the crowd.

“Cheers for Huckabee and Cruz, whoever else has stepped up to defend Kim Davis,” King said. “I think she deserves the Rosa Parks Award.”

Rosa Parks, an African American who was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white passenger, was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement. There are many scholarships, awards and events around the country that carry the Rosa Parks name. Many Rosa Parks Awards are given by NAACP chapters.

(Reporting to Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Democrat Kim Weaver announces bid in 4th congressional district

Kim Weaver at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding last Friday night.

Kim Weaver at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding last Friday night.

Two Democratic candidates have emerged as potential challengers to two of Iowa’s Republican congressmen. Kim Weaver of Sheldon — the chairwoman of the O’Brien County Democratic Party — hopes to be the Democratic nominee to challenge Republican Congressman Steve King in 2016.

“Every day we wake up to have one of the most ineffective and offensive members of congress representing us in Washington,” Weaver said.

Weaver announced her candidacy this past weekend during the Iowa Wing Ding in Clear Lake where more than 2000 Democrats cheered her on — and booed King.

“Hardly a week goes by without him making some kind of derogatory comment and this has to stop,” Weaver said.

Weaver supports raising the minimum wage, opposes “privatizing” Social Security and Medicare and she described herself as “strongly pro-choice.”

“I believe that women should determine their health care and not have it dictated to them by Steve King,” she said.

Weaver, a Des Moines native, has lived in Sheldon for the past 24 years. She’s a single mom with two children in college and another who’s a graduate of MIT. She is a long-term care ombudsman who travels in 15 counties in northwest Iowa for her job. The fourth congressional district has a Republican voter registration edge. King plans to seek reelection in 2016 to an eighth term in congress. He defeated Democrat Jim Mowrer in the 2014 election.

Mowrer, who is now vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, has moved to Des Moines and announced on Monday that he would run again for congress, but in the third district. The seat is currently held by first-term Republican David Young of Van Meter.

Mowrer will face a primary. In July, Democrat Desmund Adams of West Des Moines announced he would run in the third district. Adams was an unsuccessful candidate for a state senate seat in 2012.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Congressman King ‘very concerned’ by Iran nuclear deal

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Congressman Steve King. (file photo)

Republican Congressman Steve King says he’ll review all the details, but he’s more than skeptical of the nuclear deal Iran, the U.S. and five other countries have just struck.

“I’ve listened to what they’re saying in places like Israel, who rejects this deal and I’m very concerned that this starts the nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” King said Tuesday afternoon. “If Saudi Arabia is against it, if Israel is against it, how do we think that we’ve made a good deal here?”

King watched on TV early Tuesday as President Obama spoke about the deal.

“It sounded so good and so compelling,” King said in a video statement released by his congressional office. “I felt like I were Rip Van Winkle and I’d been asleep for the last 20 years and I woke up not knowing all that had transpired between us and Iran throughout all these negotiations.”

If the deal is ratified by the U.S. congress and Iran’s supreme leader gives it his blessing, King doubts inspectors who are to be policing Iran’s nuclear capabilities will be able to go wherever they wish in Iran — and King doubts economic sanctions would be restored if Iran fails to grant those inspection requests.

“What really happens is this: $100 billion in sanctions and assets will be released of the Iranians,” King said.

And King believes the oil embargo will be undone for good if this deal goes through, regardless of Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon or financing of terrorism around the globe.

President Obama said “every pathway to a nuclear weapon” in Iran would be “cut off” by the deal and Obama argues no deal “means a greater chance of war” in the Middle East. Congress now has 60 days to review the deal and take an up or down vote on it.

Negotiators from the United States, Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia spent 20 months negotiating with Iranian diplomats before the deal was announced early Tuesday. Read more reaction from others in Iowa’s congressional delegation, as well as the GOP presidential candidates who were in Iowa when the deal was announced.

King seeks House vote on same-sex marriage ruling

Steve King (file photo)

Steve King (file photo)

Republican Congressman Steve King is trying to get the U.S. House to pass a resolution that says States “may refuse” to recognize or license same-sex marriages, although such non-binding resolutions do not have the force of law. King’s resolution is his latest response to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

“We’re in a place where the Supreme Court has put themselves above the law, above the Constitution and above the will of the people,” King said Thursday evening during a speech on the House floor.

Most Republicans in congress have publicly expressed opposition to the court’s ruling, so the resolution would likely pass, although House leaders have not indicated it’s a priority for debate. King’s House Resolution embraces what he calls the “traditional definition of marriage” as a “union between one man and one woman.”

“The domestic life of America has been dramatically transformed by the order of the Supreme Court,” King said.

King calls the court’s same-sex marriage opinion a “blatant act of judicial activism” that has “perverted” the word marriage.

“And they will impose it on the rest of the country because they’re the ‘enlightened five’ of nine in black robes,” King said. “Well, the Supreme Court has had a terrible record on dealing with large domestic issues.”

King cites the court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision which ruled African Americans weren’t citizens and the federal government had no authority to restrict or regulate slavery and the 1962 decision that ruled mandatory prayer in public schools is unconstitutional.

Earlier this year, before the court’s ruling on same-sex marriage last month, King tried to get congress to pass legislation that would forbid the federal courts from deciding such cases, but that legislation stalled.