If the GOP manages to win the Senate next week, says Rep. Steve King, a number of possibilities will open up for conservatives over the next two years—like having both houses of Congress pass bill after bill repealing Obamacare as many times as necessary, despite President Obama’s expected veto. “It’s not so much about what could be passed but setting the agenda and debate for the next presidential race,” said the Iowa Republican.
King spoke to The Daily Beast from the campaign trail in the hills of rural Iowa, where he said he was feeling “pretty good” about his race against long-shot Democrat Jim Mowrer. He was more concerned, he said, about his party’s prospects for winning control of the Senate: “It makes so much difference to presidential candidates to have a Congress that can lead on a constitutional conservative agenda.” That is not to say a Republican Congress won’t pass bills; King noted some issues of common ground, including a new continuing resolution to fund the government. He also pointed out that Obama can’t veto everything—but added that forcing the president to veto conservative legislation means he will have “to return any vetoed bill to its chamber of origin with his objections so we can build a record” of why he is ignoring Congress.
In the short term, any hopes for an active lame-duck session will rest on the results of the election, King said. He warned, however, of the consequences if the Obama administration moves ahead with some form of executive action for undocumented immigrants after Election Day. If the president takes unilateral action to legalize millions of people, King said, “it will create a constitutional crisis.” The Iowa Republican said such an executive action would represent an attempt by the Executive Branch to undermine congressional authority and by Obama “to see how far he can push this country before it reacts.”
King made clear that if Obama uses executive action, he will have “abandoned all pretense that he is restrained by the Constitution, and [Congress] will have to take immediate and abrupt action so that implementation is immediately suspended.” King declined to elaborate on what that “immediate and abrupt action” would be, saying only that he had “a few ideas.”
The congressman appeared unconcerned about the prospect of a greatly increased House majority reducing the leverage of conservatives in the Republican caucus. King said he “hadn’t analyzed those possibilities about how the center of the [GOP] conference might drift left” in a Republican wave. To the contrary, he said he thought that after the debate on border security in August, “our leadership had picked up the signal to work with conservative members of the conference” and then move toward the center, rather than the other way around.
King also expressed outrage at the Obama administration’s handling of the Ebola epidemic and at the president’s ordering of American troops to West Africa to help stop the spread of the disease. “We don’t yet know how top experts have been contracting Ebola,” he said. “No public position from the CDC, NIH, surgeon general, White House, or the president tells us how that the doctors and top Ebola practitioners [have contracted the disease]. If they can’t answer that question, then ordering troops into an epidemic is a mistake, and they should be asking for volunteers.” (Scientists universally agree that Ebola is spread through blood and other bodily fluids, but several medical personnel treating patients with the disease have become infected despite wearing protective gear.) King added of Obama: “He’ll give a ‘no boots on the ground’ speech at the drop of a hat, except in a deadly epidemic.”
While the president delivers speeches about the Ebola crisis in Washington, King is “on the road constantly” in his native Iowa, he said. After all, the crucial Senate seat contested by Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst isn’t the only open seat in the Hawkeye State: Two congressional seats are open, as well. And every GOP win helps King achieve his goal: “to move the political center towards the right and towards the Constitution.”