His bluntness is what is believed to have cost Iowa Republican Steve King the chairmanship of the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee last week.
But the apparent snub hasn’t mellowed King. Shortly after the snub, he told the weekly magazine The National Journal that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was to blame for his being passed over to head the subcommittee.
“The speaker holds the big gavel, and he decides who gets the other gavels,” the magazine quotes King as saying. “It makes it very clear that it’s not a meritocracy.”
King had been considered the front-runner for the top slot on the subcommittee, given that he was the ranking Republican member on it when the Democrats were a majority in the House of Representatives.
But on Friday, Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the chairmanship would go to Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif. King was named the vice chairman.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told reporters that Boehner had nothing to do with the selection of the chairman.
But King indicated to the National Journal that he believes otherwise.
“John Boehner isn’t very aggressive on immigration,” King said, according to the publication. He said that the GOP’s “Pledge to America” makes scant mention of immigration.
Gallegly is not less hawkish than King on immigration issues. Like King, he has pushed for laws denying automatic citizenship to babies of illegal immigrants, and is firmly against measures that would offer illegal immigrants a chance to legalize their status.
Gallegly also has been the force behind past proposed measures to deny public elementary and high school education to undocumented children, and also supported a measure that would have required hospital workers to ask patients for immigration documents.
But moderate Republicans and those with a liberal view on illegal immigration say Gallegly’s rhetoric is nowhere near as pugnacious as that of King’s who, among other things, once suggested in a congressional speech that the U.S. could use an electrified fence – a handy tool, he said, for livestock -- to stop people from illegally crossing the border.
King told the National Journal that he does not give his critics much thought.
“It’s the militant left,” the article quoted King as saying. “And I don’t lose one second of sleep.”