Rep. Steve King (R-IA) — one of the new House majority’s most vocal on border issues — says he welcomed President Obama’s immigration talk in the State of the Union tonight, but expects little in legislative action to come from it.
In his speech, Obama tried to build a bridge to anti-illegal immigrant advocates like King, who consider unauthorized population flow across America’s southern border to be among the country’s most dangerous problems. As he has in the past, Obama said that getting tough on illegal immigration was a priority — but he asked the Congress to come with him in supporting at least one path to citizenship for illegal immigrants along the lines of the recently failed DREAM Act.
“I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort,” Obama said in the prepared version of his SOTU remarks. “And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
King would have none of it.
“Two out three of things I agreed with,” he told me after the speech. “The securing our border part and enforcing our laws.”
What part don’t you agree with? I asked.
“The amnesty,” King said flatly.
“[Obama] said he wants to enforce the law and secure the border, well I’m all for that,” he said. “If we do that first, maybe we can do the other stuff later. But I don’t think we’re going to get there.”
Obama’s attempt to bring the two sides together on immigration wasn’t the only failed attempt at bipartisanship Tuesday night, King said. He also dismissed the so-called prom seating scheme, where members of opposite parties sat together rather than on opposite sides of the House chamber during the SOTU.
“There wasn’t much response from the crowd, and there wasn’t much particularly inspiring,” King said of the speech. “But I think some of it had to do with the checkered seating arrangement. It was just a completely different tone. I’ve never sat in a State Of The Union address and seen such a flat response.”
“They won’t do that again,” King said of the prom seating. “It was a failed experiment.”