King ready to play leading role on farm bill, immigration

Rep. Steve King is in fighting form as Congress completes its first work period of the new year.

The 4th District Republican is getting fed up with the slow-moving negotiations over the Farm Bill and wondering what’s going on, behind closed doors, with his amendment on egg-producing hens

And he’s really ready to do battle over immigration reform, where the message to his own GOP leaders in Congress is simple: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

As Capitol Hill reporters lined up to ask about Chris Christie’s bridge scandal — Christie “manned up” in his apology, King said approvingly — King sat down with Potomac Watch to discuss a couple of issues that strike closer to home for the people of western and central Iowa.   

King’s amendment to the Farm Bill targeting a California state law on the treatment of hens isn’t the biggest stumbling block for House and Senate negotiators, but it is one of the final unresolved issues.

King, who is a member of the House-Senate conference committee on the Farm Bill, said it would be “counterproductive to talk about the conference to the media.”

But he still had a few things to say about the process.

The problem, he said, is the negotiations involve just a few lawmakers, and one of them — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. — refuses to discuss the hens amendment with King.

“Maybe she picked that up from Barack Obama,” King said of her alleged refusal to negotiate.

The King amendment would block California and other states from setting animal-welfare requirements that affect egg production in Iowa and elsewhere. California’s law requires farmers to provide a minimum level of cage space for hens that produce eggs for sale in the Golden State.

King dismissed a recent letter from 14 law professors who questioned the constitutionality of his amendment and said the opposition was nothing more than a ploy by “the vegan lobby.”

“I’m not going to be defeated by people without a logical reason,” King said.

Opposition to King’s amendment is coming from the Humane Society and ASPCA, better known for rescuing your pooches and cats than for vegan extremism.

The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures says the King Amendment would “preempt vital state agricultural policies,” including at least one Iowa law.

The influential Farm Bureau supports the King amendment.

While other lawmakers expressed optimism that the Farm Bill was nearing completion, King said it still faced “a possibility of blowing up.”

We’ll know soon if negotiators can wrap up the Farm Bill before taking off in the coming days for a one-week recess.

Just saying no to immigration reform

King is planting himself firmly in opposition to House Speaker John Boehner’s strategy of developing Republican immigration-reform principles followed by a series of targeted bills.

A House GOP aide told Potomac Watch that Boehner, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and a small group of other members “have been working on a ‘principles’ or ‘standards’ draft document.  They hope to release that in the next few weeks. Once that’s out, we can gauge reaction and figure out how to proceed.  We have definitely ruled out going to conference on the Senate-passed bill, and made clear that the House will pass individual, step-by-step bills on different issues.”

That is completely unacceptable to King, who said “amnesty” for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country inevitably would be part of any legislation that President Obama would sign into law.

Amnesty will be the result, King said, even if there is no explicit path to citizenship in the legislation.

“You have a president who refuses to enforce existing law, why believe he would enforce a new law?” King asked. “We can’t pass any immigration law (because) amnesty will be a component of anything that gets the president’s signature.”

One congressional insider suggested about 20-30 House Republicans are aligned with King. But this source said a majority of the 233 House Republicans probably would support a pathway to legalization that stops short of allowing citizenship.

Republican leaders have asked for his help, King said, “but there is no path.”

A portion of the Republican Party buys into the “flawed premise” that the GOP must embrace immigration reform or risk losing a generation of Hispanic voters, according to King.

That appears to be a rather large portion, including Boehner and many Republicans who hope to win statewide races or the White House in 2016.

No matter.

King leaned in and emphasized each word: “I am right about this.”

Choppy waters ahead, Mr. Speaker.

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