Gov. Kim Reynolds says Congress needs to act on immigration, yet largely ignores a top supporter who consistently stands in the way of reform and inflames national discussion. It’s a disingenuous balancing act.
A compromise bill considered by the U.S. House on Wednesday combined a solution for the dreamers, formerly protected from deportation by the Obama-era DACA program, with several conservative demands such as ending a visa lottery system, curbing family migration, reducing legal immigration and establishing more border protection. It failed miserably.
Congress must find a solution, Reynolds said during a recent appearance on “Iowa Press,” indicating the ongoing immigration problem “just isn’t something that President Trump has dealt with.” She noted the Obama and Bush administrations also grappled with the issue.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King is one of only two Iowans in Congress during the time frame Reynolds highlighted. And, to date, not one bill — immigration or otherwise — solely authored by King has become law. While injecting inflammatory rhetoric into the national debate, he has staunchly opposed reforms that include a fix for DACA, labeling them “amnesty.”
Still, last November, the Reynolds-Gregg gubernatorial campaign was “humbled” to receive King’s endorsement, naming him one of the campaign’s honorary state chairs.
“I look forward to him joining us in our effort to build a better Iowa,” Reynolds said in the announcement.
On “Iowa Press,” while responding to the most recent of King’s infamous and incendiary comments, Reynolds noted King “is not involved in policy or issues that we are working on.”
She added, “No two people are going to agree on everything. I don’t think some of the comments he has made are absolutely reflective of Iowans and who we are as a people.”
She points to his being one of several honorary state co-chairs of the campaign, as well as to the roughly 4,000 Iowans who endorsed the campaign and have been given the designation of honorary county chairs.
But Reynolds long has aligned herself with the congressman. He nominated her for lieutenant governor in a bid to ward off another candidate. Reynolds, in turn, endorsed King during a primary challenge in 2010. During the 2012 congressional election, when polling dipped, the Branstad-Reynolds campaign sent political operatives into the district to shore up support. In 2016, Reynolds endorsed King again, noting that she had supported his political career for 14 years.
Even more frequently, former Gov. Terry Branstad and Reynolds have been called to address King’s rhetoric. “Steve King is Steve King. We all know that,” Branstad famously said in one of many attempts to downplay negative or offensive comments. Such political cover appears to have emboldened King, who recently has begun to promote international white nationalists and parrot neo-Nazi language.
At a time when Reynolds is advocating federal immigration reform and says she would withhold the Iowa National Guard if their assistance was requested in family separations, King dismisses immigration proposals and says detention centers for separated children are playgrounds.
As the Reynolds-Gregg campaign markets itself as champions of girls with big dreams, King’s social media account was used to disparage a teenage girl who survived the Parkland, Fla., school shooting because she was outspoken on gun control.
Reynolds, standing at the top of the statewide ballot for the first time, is the face of the Iowa Republican Party. There’s no argument she can bestow the honor of campaign state co-chair on whomever she prefers, including those who consistently draw a negative international spotlight on Iowa.
She also would be wise to remember, despite flirting with the possibility, King has never appeared on a statewide ballot. For good reason.
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