As Rep. Steve King seeks to raise his national profile, the Iowa Republican is looking to Sen. Jim DeMint to help boost his influence in conservative circles.
King is no match in national name recognition or fundraising ability for his closest House ally, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). And the anti-immigration crusader was disappointed earlier this year when he wasn’t chosen to chair the Judiciary Committee subpanel that handles the issue. But King’s cross-Dome coordination with DeMint, another favorite among conservatives, has helped the Iowan lay the groundwork he hopes will make him more influential in his state’s caucuses next year.
“What Steve and I are trying to do is encourage people, as we look at our presidential candidates, not to just look at personalities or how well they speak, but decide really what they stand for,” the South Carolina Republican said in an interview. “Steve wants to be a part of that debate and I do too, and a good place to start is Iowa.”
King asked DeMint to deliver the keynote address at a daylong conference in Des Moines next month sponsored by his Conservative Principles political action committee. King, whose western Iowa district is a trove of GOP votes, launched the event as a way of “linking all early states in the nomination process” according to a flier publicizing the March 26 gathering. A handful of GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), are expected to attend.
The five-term lawmaker has also sought DeMint’s help on the legislative front this year. King asked DeMint to help rally support for his proposal to defund the health care reform law. Although King’s original proposal was rejected by the Rules Committee, he ultimately prevailed with two narrow amendments that, if passed in the Senate, would achieve the same goal of halting implementation of the health care overhaul.
King pursued his approach even as a similar measure was being offered by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), whose Appropriations subcommittee controls funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I think the point before the rules committee was the low point, and a lot of good work got done after that,” King said, adding that he worked with Rehberg on his amendment.
Before winning on the House floor, King had been hoping his developing alliance with DeMint would give him leverage.