With much of the National Mall blocked off for public access, the National Park Service allowed a major illegal immigration rally to take place on those same grounds.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told WND it's a major double standard on the part of the Obama administration during this government shutdown and vowed to do everything possible to prevent the current immigration bill from getting through the House this year.
The National Park Service has become one of the most visible examples of the partial government shutdown. Workers have been called off furlough to barricade and guard open spaces and memorials on the National Mall. Some veterans have been allowed to see their memorials, but the general public has been locked out.
It's a different story for supporters of immigration reform. They have been green-lighted for today's rally on the National Mall, with the National Park Service saying the freedom of speech lives on even if the government is shut down.
"Isn't that bizarre, the essential service of providing a place for illegal aliens to demonstrate in our capital? We're going to throw a lot of park officers and security personnel of all kinds out there to keep order and pick up litter. In another world, ICE would be there instead," said King, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"By the way there will be a lot of litter to pick up down there along the Mall," he added. "We've seen it in the past. But when the tea parties show up, you can't find even a cigarette butt laying out there. They police the grounds. When they're finished, there may be some grass that's been walked on but there won't be any litter. I hope there'll be a little assimilation taking place as the protesters come here and run up the bill during the furlough of our park officers and security personnel."
Immigration legislation passed the U.S. Senate months ago in the form of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" bill. House Republicans have advanced four bills out of the Judiciary Committee. King admitted they are "pretty good," but he still opposes them because he cannot see an end game that doesn't involve the granting of "amnesty" to millions and millions of people in the country illegally.
"I have asked all Republicans on the committee, 'Tell me how these bills can get through the Senate and to the president's desk and signed into law without the Gang of Eight's amnesty being attached to it?' And the answer that I get is, 'Well, that's what you're supposed to help us with,'" King said. "I want to help them with that by resisting the idea that we should try to pass anything because it sets us up for a conference. If there's a conference committee formed, of course the Senate's Gang of Eight bill goes on the table and they start injecting thing from that rejected Gang of Eight immigration bill from the Senate.
"I don't think any good can come from immigration legislation coming to the floor this fall. I'm going to continue to make my point that it divides Republicans. It erodes the rule of law. It encourages illegal immigration. It's the wrong message to send, and, by the way, it's a political loser for Republicans. They should know that by now, even though it was the opposite assertion after the election."
House Republicans are publicly divided on immigration policy, and reports from earlier in the year suggest GOP leaders are largely supportive of the Senate's framework. King said if the House does move forward on this legislation, opponents won't know about until it's too late to rally public opposition.
"If they decide to push it, they will have already rounded up as many votes as they can kind of on the quiet," he said. "They will have whipped their votes and then those of us who oppose this will find out about it as late as possible. They're not going to say, 'Hey, we're going to plan to do this in three weeks so if you want to get your troops all ready, we'll line up against each other and go for it.' It's the other way. It's kind of a stealth maneuver."
Even if a bill is brought forward on short notice, King said the opposition from amnesty critics will be fierce.
"I know who the people are who stand for the rule of law and border security, and they understand that what happens if there's anything that passes the House, all John Boehner has to do is name a conference committee and we are very close to sunk," he said.
But King said that strategy is not set in stone. In fact, he believes leadership might adhere to a more conservative tack as a result of the current government funding shutdown.
"We've gotten stronger as a conference, and John Boehner's stronger today than he was a week ago. And I want him to be strong," King said. "We need to focus on this continuing resolution and this partial shutdown. We need to focus on the debt ceiling, and this idea that somehow there's something urgent about immigration is not true."
The congressman said the arguments against the Senate version of immigration reform remain clear.
"If you look at who benefits from illegal immigration or from passing what they call comprehensive immigration reform – and we all know that's a euphemism for amnesty – the people that benefit from that are employers of illegals, they benefit from cheap labor, and the power brokers for the Democratic Party and those people that are here illegally. Middle class America, the low-skilled or unskilled worker, the people who are entering into jobs at the lowest levels are the ones that are disadvantaged the most because they're being pushed out of jobs," King said.
"Young Americans growing up are missing their opportunity to learn a work ethic and build their skill level because there's somebody there who's in the United States illegally who will go in and work cheaper, and they're being cut out of their opportunities. The double-digit unemployment exists the highest in the lowest-skilled jobs. Now they're talking about bringing in hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers to fill a demand that doesn't exist in this economy."
In a second interview with WND's Greg Corombos, King also accused Obama of deliberately inflicting pain upon the American people during the partial government shutdown. He said the matter may end up in the legal system.
King also said Republicans are offering to fund the government over and over with no support from Democrats and claims that Obama would get his way if the House would vote simply isn't true.
King is one of the most visible GOP members to help World War II veterans gain access to their memorial on the National Mall in Washington. Just this week, he again demanded the National Park Service remove the barricades, not just for veterans but the public at large. The effort was successful until heavy rains forced everyone away. But King said Obama's actions during the shutdown are deplorable.
"I think it's the most spiteful act by a commander in chief in the history of this country," King said. "So what has happened is the president, I believe, ordered this out of the Oval Office because he wouldn't take this kind of embarrassment if some subordinate did it. So here's what happened. They borrow money from the Chinese to rent barricades brought in on forklifts and he called rangers off of furlough to put up barricades and to be there to guard the memorials.
"This government shutdown is defined by Congress and not the president. It says essential services shall stay open. Nonessential services shall not. There's never been a service there at the memorial for the purposes of blocking people out. The president has created a new function for the park service and that's to keep Americans out of the memorials. That's not what you do with essential services and he has no lawful authority to do that. That's why we're opening it up, and this time he can take us to court."
As for the shutdown standoff, King said it's hard to find common ground when the Democrats' offer is to hold negotiations after Republicans relent on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.
"It's so hard to take that seriously when they say, 'Well, give us what we demand and then we'll negotiate with you afterward.' Why would anybody take people seriously who take that position?" King asked. "He's almost in a ludicrous position to be asserting that he refuses to negotiate with the House and he refuses to negotiate on the continuing resolution and he refuses to negotiate on the debt ceiling."
"He'll negotiate with Syria and dictator Assad through Putin and using him as his intermediary. At the same time, he'll open up negotiations with Iran, who we haven't had diplomatic relations with since 1979. But there are no diplomatic relations between the White House and the Congress," he said.
King wasn't specific about what Republicans would find acceptable in bipartisan negotiations, but he did speculate on how the impasse might end.
"I think you have to let the pressure build a little bit and pass these individual pieces of legislation to fund the components of government individually and force them to vote on it, if they have to do that long enough they're going to start to feel the pressure and decide to get an agreement," he said.
King is also firing back at falsehoods that he says are passing for truth in most of the media. He says not only are there not enough votes in the House to pass the Democratic continuing resolution but previous votes show exactly what the House wants.
"They're trying to run the government by polling or by opinion. We actually have votes on the floor of the House of Representatives and the votes have said no funding for Obamacare over and over again," King said. "To repeal Obamacare fully, to cut off all funding for Obamacare fully, that's the votes that win the majority in the House of Representatives."
The congressman said House Republicans have voted to fund the government in every recent vote, with the exception of Obamacare and sometimes just a portion of Obamacare. He says the notion that Republicans shut down the government is dead wrong.
"It's an unbelievable, bald-face lie," King said. "There is no vote they can point their finger to that could be such a thing. We have always voted to fund it all except Obamacare. But they make it up as they go along and the Sunday shows let them get away with it. I was on one. There's so much misinformation out there, there was not time for me to correct it all."
Read today's related columns about the government shutdown: