Steve King can stop worrying about immigration reform (updated)

Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) has long been one of the leading voices in Congress against any immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He even lost out on a subcommittee chairmanship because of his perceived hostility to immigrants, especially those who came to this country illegally. In early 2013, many pundits predicted King and his allies would not be able to stop a bill like the one that passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support, because of the Republican Party’s urgent need to improve its standing with Latino voters. But the anti-reform Republicans won promises from House leaders not to bring the Senate bill up for a vote on the House floor. (It would surely have passed with a few dozen Republicans joining most of the Democratic caucus.)

Every few months, pro-reform forces mount a new push to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and King mobilizes opposition. I think he can rest easy now that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost his Republican primary to a little-known tea party challenger in Virginia’s seventh Congressional district. While immigration wasn’t the only issue brought up during the campaign, it was a salient issue in the primary.

[Challenger David] Brat ran hard against immigration reform, and the issue dominated conservative talk radio in recent days as the Obama administration’s request of funds to cope with an influx of recently detained young illegal immigrants from Central America.

Cantor sought to neutralize the issue, running hard negative television attacking Brat as a “liberal professor” and sending direct mail pieces saying he fought President Obama on “amnesty.”

Regardless of what Cantor said in campaign mailers, beltway insiders considered him a pro-immigration reform Republican.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – During my childhood, there were several Jewish Republicans in Congress. Cantor was the last remaining after Senator Arlen Specter switched parties in 2009. Don’t hold your breath waiting for another one to be elected.

UPDATE: King commented on Twitter, “Earthshaking primary results in Virginia tonight. Resounding rejection of #Amnesty and support for Rule of Law. Personal regrets to Eric.”

SECOND UPDATE: King posted on June 11, “Wanted: Applicants for Majority Leader in US House who have a record opposing amnesty. Come see me.”

THIRD UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin believes Cantor was defeated because he “lost touch with his district.” He pointed out that Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina survived his GOP primary this week, despite openly supporting immigration reform. But Graham had six opponents splintering the protest votes, not one challenger making a coherent case against him.

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More fallout from Steve King's comments on DREAMers

Representative Steve King’s assertion that there are 100 drug mules for every “DREAMer” who’s a valedictorian continues to reverberate across the country. National television networks and blogs have chewed over the story, and many politicians have condemned King’s statement, including House Speaker John Boehner.

King stands by his comments and claims that the intense criticism proves he has “won the debate” over immigration policy. Yet a new poll of residents in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district suggests that King is out of step even with his own constituents.

Follow me after the jump for details on that poll and a roundup of reaction to King’s words about undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children.

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Weekend open thread: Dumb ideas edition

In case you hadn’t noticed that President Barack Obama named the wrong people to his debt commission, check out the commission’s preliminary recommendations, an idiotic blend of Social Security cuts and tax increases for most Americans. The cuts would cover the cost of deeper tax cuts for high earners, as if the top 1 percent in the U.S. need any more help. Congress would never pass this package as-is, but it was probably leaked to make the final horrible recommendations look reasonable by comparison. The best thing Obama could do is dissolve this commission. It only puts bipartisan window-dressing on right-wing ideas.

Speaking of Washington Republicans, the incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, recently assured the Israeli prime minister that Congressional Republicans will be a “check” on the Obama administration and that “the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States.” Imagine if a Democratic Congressional leader had promised a foreign prime minister to stand up for that country against the Bush administration if necessary.

When Congress reconvenes next week, members will consider budget bills for fiscal year 2011. Incredibly, the Senate seems poised to reduce funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), even though poverty rates are up because of the recession and high unemployment rate. Helping families pay their heating bills keeps people from freezing in the winter, or burning their house down by using unsafe portable heaters. It also is stimulative, because it cash that qualifying families don’t have to spend on utility bills is cash they will spend on goods and services. The LIHEAP Action Center calculates that if the Senate doesn’t approve the higher level of funding passed by the House, Iowa’s share of LIHEAP funding stands to drop from $75 million in fiscal year 2010 to $36.8 million in the coming year.

Speaking of unwise budget cuts, Governor-elect Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the state legislature want to eliminate public funding for family planning services. That will please the GOP base but doesn’t make fiscal sense:

The results of the study by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center show that publicly funded family planning services are cost-effective for women who would use Medicaid and other public assistance programs if they became pregnant and gave birth.

“With the prevention of an unintended pregnancy, a significant amount of future public funding expenditure can be avoided,” said lead researcher Belinda Udeh, assistant research scientist at the Public Policy Center.

The study focused on women being served by Iowa’s publicly funded family planning clinics in 2009. Study co-authors were Mary Losch of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and the Department of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa and Erica Spies, a UI graduate research assistant.

The study based on data collected in 2009 also concluded that publicly funded family planning is most cost-effective for women under the age of 30. When considering forecasting the avoided expenditures for just one year for this age group, over $3 could be saved for every $1 spent on family planning services, Udeh said. The probability of averting a pregnancy need only be 2 percent for this age category for family planning services to be considered cost effective, she added.

The study further reported an overall weighted average for all age categories.  For women already receiving assistance, $3.40 could be avoided in the first year for every $1 spent on family planning services, and $10.84 when the savings are forecast for five years. The savings are even greater for women who would be newly eligible for assistance with savings of $3.78 and $15.12 for every $1 spent on family planning in one-year and five-year forecasts, respectively.

Taxpayers get excellent value for money spent on family planning services. Can’t say the same for the absurd amount we spend on salaries for the head football coach and his assistants at the University of Iowa.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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Iowa Republicans in Congress co-hosting Gibbons event (corrected)

Jim Gibbons has emerged as the Republican insiders’ choice against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell in Iowa’s third district. Nine members of Congress are hosting a fundraiser for Gibbons in Washington on February 24, the Gibbons campaign announced today. The hosts are Senator Chuck Grassley, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA-07), and Representatives Jason Chaffetz (UT-03), Dean Heller (NV-02), Jim Jordan (OH-04), Steve King (IA-05), Tom Latham (IA-04), Kevin McCarthy (CA-22), and Peter Roskam (IA-06).

I cannot recall whether Grassley or Latham endorsed a candidate in the four-way GOP primary to represent IA-05 in 2002, which King won at a district convention. I also don’t remember Grassley, Latham or King getting involved in the three-way GOP primary in IA-01 in 2006, or the three-way primary in IA-02 in 2008. If any Bleeding Heartland reader remembers endorsements by members of Congress in those races, please post a comment here or e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT

CORRECTION: Not all of the co-hosts at this event are endorsing Gibbons in the Republican primary. Bleeding Heartland user mirage notes in the comments that Iowa Republicans in Congress also co-hosted an event for Dave Funk in Washington. Grassley’s spokeswoman e-mailed the following comment to me today: “Senator Grassley has not endorsed anybody in the 3rd District race. It is correct that Senator Grassley was also listed as a co-host of an event for Dave Funk.  If the other Republican candidates asked, he would do the same thing for them.”

Gibbons was recruited by key Iowa Republican donors, and has since been anointed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

State Senator Brad Zaun, probably the strongest rival to Gibbons in the five-way Republican primary, has the backing of several Republican state legislators, including Iowa Senate Minority leader Paul McKinley. An internal poll for Zaun showed he begins the campaign with more name recognition and support in the district. However, Gibbons raised far more money in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Tea Party favorite Dave Funk recently attacked Gibbons for supposedly saying in an interview, “It[‘]s fine for me where the Constitution says that the federal government should be in charge of education.” Today Gibbons advocate Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican blog declared Funk’s attack “sloppy and untrue.” After listening to a recording of the interview, Robinson concludes that Gibbons actually said, “Find for me where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government is in charge of education.”

Robinson transcribed part of the interview in question and posted it here. Gibbons doesn’t come across as someone who knows what he’s talking about. But that’s not surprising, given his ignorance about Congressional procedures and idiotic federal income tax holiday proposal.

What does surprise me is that according to Robinson, no one at the Gibbons campaign “set the record straight” after Funk issued his press release. Maybe it’s a strategy for Gibbons to not acknowledge his primary opponents, but I think his press shop needs to stay on top of what the other candidates are saying about him.

UPDATE: In this comment thread Funk stands by his press release about what Gibbons said, and several commenters write that they heard Gibbons’ remarks as Funk did.

LATE UPDATE: Latham assured moderate Republican Mark Rees that he will not be endorsing a candidate before the primary.

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