House leaders passed over anti-illegal immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for the chairmanship of an immigration panel on the Judiciary Committee Friday.
Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith appointed Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) instead, a member of the subcommittee but less senior than King, who was the panel’s top Republican in the last Congress.
King is known for his anti-illegal immigration stances. The tea party favorite introduced a measure on the first day of the new Congress that would limit birthright citizenship. He’s a close friend of longtime illegal-immigration foe Tom Tancredo.
King was upbeat about the decision, saying he’ll accomplish his immigration agenda even without the subcommittee gavel.
“I’m self confident enough to tell you I will build some new tools that are more effective than the ones I’ve had in the past,” he told POLITICO.
King has made incendiary comments that grab headlines, like threatening “deport a liberal” every time an illegal immigrant gets “amnesty.”
The rhetoric hasn’t endeared him to Smith, who’s taken a much more measured tone on the issue. Smith has said his top priority is passing the E-Verify program, which cracks down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, a program the Obama administration supports.
He said the snub will give him more flexibility to focus on issues that may not interest Smith or House leaders.
“It allows me to be more active and more aggressive and more flexible,” he said, rattling off priorities he’ll be able to pursue without clearing his message with others, like limiting birthright citizenship and cracking down on “sanctuary” cities that don’t arrest illegal immigrants.
King is considered a bit of a wild card by House GOP leaders, and he acknowledged that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) may not have wanted to give him a larger platform.
“I wouldn’t tell you the thought didn’t cross my mind,” he said.
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