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King, House GOP Conservatives Seek to Slow Momentum on Immigration Bills

House GOP conservatives don’t believe Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lost last year’s election because he failed to win over enough minority voters, as they look to tamp down growing GOP support for passing a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

“A number of us have sat back and watched with amazement how quickly some of our colleagues leaped to erroneous conclusions,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, at a pen and pad session with reporters.

Republicans and Democrats who support immigration reform believe that the Republican presidential primary — where Romney tacked to the right on immigration, calling for laws so inhospitable to illegal immigrants that they would “self deport” themselves — turned off minority voters who instead helped re-elect President Barack Obama with wins in crucial swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia.

King appeared with other House Republicans, including Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., and their comments put them at odds with other House conservatives. That includes Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who plans to speak on the issue in Chicago on April 22 with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has long supported reform.

“We are where we are with the momentum in the Republican Party,” King continued. “That momentum was started by people who wanted to make an excuse, I believe, for the election results that they had promised would be otherwise.”

His comments come as Republicans, including the Republican National Committee and libertarian stalwart Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have urged the party to embrace reform in order to remain competitive in future elections.

A bipartisan group of eight senators is drafting legislation that they will unveil as soon as this week, but more likely next, which is expected to include a path to citizenship — subject to confirmaing the border is secure and satisfying certain criteria — for those currently here illegally, streamline the existing immigration system, reduce the hiring of undocumented workers and create a guest worker program.

A bipartisan group in the House is also working on similar legislation.

With both groups seemingly close to producing legislation, King and the others believe it’s time for them to make their voices heard before the momentum becomes overwhelming.

“We’ve held our powder dry,” King said, but “decided its time to come forward now because we are seeing the inertia and we are concerned about having this wash over us and not have the opportunity for the constitutional conservatives in this country and in this Congress to have their voice heard.”

Besides King and Bachmann, the pen-and-pad was attended by Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.; and Mo Brooks, Ala.

All made the case that border security should be the main priority rather than providing a path to legalization or citizenship.

“Why aren’t we just introducing one bill that says we need to fully secure the borders?” asked Bachmann.

Rohrabacher said that “what the leadership would like to shove down our throats in terms of immigration reform is bad policy and bad politics.”

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