Rep. Steve King (R-IA), arguably one of the most anti-amnesty lawmakers in the House of Representatives, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that he thinks Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s “cataclysmic” defeat at the hands of his primary challenger Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) is “the most shocking election results that I remember ever.”
“I can’t think of a bigger surprise,” King said, adding that he doesn’t think anyone “saw this coming.”
“I don’t even know if Eric Cantor saw this coming,” King said.
Cantor is expected to resign his position as majority leader by the end of July, several news outlets reported Wednesday, after Brat beat him by double digits on Tuesday night.
King said he thinks this is an “absolute rejection” of efforts by the GOP establishment to push immigration legislation.
“We all understand immigration was a pivotal issue there,” King said of him and other members of the House GOP conference. He continued:
Eric Cantor has gone so strong for immigration that they went so far as to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee for a bill that has not been introduced and still has not been introduced. That hearing was set up in such a way that it would be at least 90 minutes before anyone who opposed amnesty would even ask a question of the second panel of witnesses–the first panel was going to be gone before even someone with my seniority could even ask a question. That was part of what Eric Cantor was driving.
Cantor attacked him last year over his comments about DREAMers and valedictorians when King said, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” King told Breitbart News that “diminished some of my enthusiasm to be helpful to him, which it would with anybody.”
“It was a comment, started by the Speaker I believe, that was designed to marginalize me,” King said, adding:
Then that would help an amnesty agenda, the logic went, if they could marginalize me. The tactic, as I think people would understand, seems to have worked in reverse. I don’t think I’ve been marginalized by it. It seems to me that the positions I’ve taken are significantly stronger today than they were back then when those comments that were critical of me by my own leadership were made.
King said he thinks “this kind of earthshaking election result” could have monumental implications for the political class in Washington, D.C.
“Opening up the majority leader in June and converting him to, I’ll say at a minimum a lame duck majority leader between now and November, that is a huge thing,” King said. He continued:
We don’t know what kind of agenda might emerge now–it could change significantly. I know there are people who are concerned there might be a spiteful effort to bring amnesty to the floor of the House now. That would split the conference and a huge majority would come down on the rule of law side–it would pit Republicans against Republicans and would be a colossal mistake to do that before this election, and it would be an even greater mistake now.
But King quickly added he doesn’t think Cantor will try any funny business on his way out the door. “I doubt that will be Eric’s reaction,” King elaborated:
He’s a decent man and too good of a person to make a movement like that on the way out. The message is strong–that could be the thing that costs us the majority in November. If they brought immigration now, it isn’t just the high potential of losing the opportunity to get a majority in the Senate, but it could actually cost us the Republican majority in the House. This message is: shut down the immigration talk, shut down the amnesty talk, and return to rule of law talk. We’ve got a lawless president who violates his own oath consistently and he knows it and he breaks any law that gets in his way.
Moving forward, King said it’s “incredibly important” that the House members actually select who the next people in House GOP leadership are–not a select group of leadership officials picking the next leaders.
“If it’s strategically served to them from on high, you end up with what we have now: a top-down system,” King said.
I very strongly believe that a leader’s job, whether it’s a chairman of a committee, or whether it’s the speaker or majority leader or whatever–a leader’s job is to bring out the will of the group rather than to impose your will on the group. This is an opportunity to bring leadership forward that reflects the will of the people, rather than impose their will on the people they’re supposed to represent.
King wouldn’t name candidates whom he’d support at this time, but he did say, “we need to bring forward leaders who oppose amnesty.”
“I will only support leaders who oppose amnesty,” King emphasized.
While King said he does “feel bad for Eric and his family–and that’s the first reaction I had,” House Republicans must move forward now with a different agenda than Cantor’s.
“Now we have a job to do,” King said. “This will make the Tea Party stronger and it will make the border security people stronger.”