ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- In front of another friendly audience Monday, U.S. Rep. Steve King urged his supporters to pray for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to restore King's committee assignments, saying the California Republican needs to "separate his ego from this issue and look at it objectively."
The Iowa 4th District congressman, long an opponent of illegal immigration, also offered strong backing for President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to finance a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"He was going to have to go that way if he was going to build the wall," King told about 45 people at a town hall meeting in Rock Rapids.
McCarthy stripped King of all his committee assignments for the next two years following a national uproar over King's quote in a New York Times story in which he asked, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?"
At Monday's town hall, King again took issue with the story, saying the reporter "at best" misquoted him, and "the sentence construction doesn't support The New York Times."
He spent the beginning of the meeting at the Forster Community Center sharing why the media, in general, hasn't given him a fair shake.
“The language police are out there day after day after day after day ..." King told the crowd. "They are searching the Internet for something to be offended by."
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Roger Oliver, of Rock Rapids, asked King what he was doing to get back on committees. The outspoken conservative congressman replied he needs to get a "critical mass" of the Republican House caucus to support him, adding some Republican lawmakers have privately told him they think he got a raw deal.
"Kevin McCarthy has been getting a lot of phone calls, and the more phone calls he gets and the more persistent that it is, the more he is gonna realize that it was a bad decision he made, based upon one comment misquoted in The New York Times, reported as fact," King told the audience.
Trump on Friday declared a national emergency at the southern border, a day after he signed a spending bill with $1.3 billion in border fence funding, far short of the $5.7 billion he wanted. His insistence on more funding led to a lengthy government shutdown.
Trump's emergency has drawn threats of legal challenges and sparked a foundational dispute over the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. The move triggered outrage from Democrats, unease among some Republicans and flew in the face of years of GOP complaints that President Barack Obama had over-reached in his use of executive authority.
At Monday's town hall, King was asked his opinion of Trump's move by Karen Larson, of Spirit Lake, Iowa. King said "this president had a mandate to build a wall" from his 2016 election victory. The congressman also cited the National Emergencies Act in 1976 as a guiding statute. Under the law, a president has discretion to issue an emergency declaration, provided he also specifies in the declaration which powers he intends to use.
"It is in the law that the president gets to decide," King said, adding that about 30 such emergency declarations remain outstanding.
The meeting in Rock Rapids, a city of 2,549 in Lyon County, is the second of 39 town halls that King has vowed to hold this year -- one in each 4th District county.
Like the first town hall in the O'Brien County seat of Primghar last month, no public dissension was aired at Monday's meeting.
Questions comprised the final half of the meeting after King finished his opening remarks. People who wanted to address King were asked to write their names, what town they live in and questions on a slip of paper, then a King staffer called on the five people to voice their queries in the meeting.
"I want to thank you for your conservative values ... You are carried in prayer and we cover our president in prayer," Carol Hill, of Rock Rapids told the congressman, who has already drawn at least three challenges for the 2020 GOP primary.
Right before the Primghar town hall, King tweeted that he expected a potentially contentious hourlong meeting. Instead, he got a standing ovation and several citizens voiced support for him.
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