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King Maps Out Immigration Agenda

King Maps Out Immigration Agenda

By Erin McPike - November 30, 2010

As the GOP prepares to take control of the House and map out an agenda for the next Congress, even immigration reform is returning to a focus on jobs.

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King has been ranking member of the Immigration Subcommittee in the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years and has served on the committee for eight years, so he likely will play a major role in leading the House GOP's charge on the issue next year.

King hedged on whether the issue will be as high on the agenda as it was in 2006 and 2007, when it dominated headlines for months and sparked massive rallies around the country. But he did warn that a push for comprehensive reform is unlikely.

In a recent interview, King began talking about the subject by saying, "We've got at least 8 million jobs in America that are occupied by illegals that could just as well be occupied by Americans or by legal immigrants. That does open up jobs."

King said he would prefer to "start with a hearing process and identify where jobs can be created for Americans by enforcing immigration law."

King also wants to streamline the use of resources set aside for border patrol, as he pointed out the waste in associated costs. He noted that current estimates show that the government is spending $6 million per mile on securing the southern border.

"If we're watching 90 percent of the illegal traffic pour through and not be interdicted by law enforcement, then you look at $12 billion for a 10 percent efficiency rate," he said.

King's tone has changed slightly as he prepares to lead on the issue; in the past, his rhetoric on immigration did not contain the same kind of jobs focus as it has now.

And for the congressman, how he handles the issue over the next two years could prove very important to his political career: On the horizon is a potential run for the Senate in 2014.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin ran successfully for re-election in 2008, when then-Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer of New York convinced him not to retire.

King considered a run at the time but said in the interview, "My instincts were telling me not to challenge Harkin last time."

As for the next time the seat is in cycle, "they look pretty good," he said of his prospects.

If Harkin does not seek re-election in 2014, a likely Democratic contender for the seat is Rep. Bruce Braley.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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