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Public Statements

Peter King: Still fighting

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He has picked battles with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over Hurricane Sandy aid, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) over fundraising in New York and Grover Norquist over the anti-tax pledge, and most recently, he literally fought with boxer "Irish" Josh Foley in an exhibition match.

"The last nine years I've been training as a boxer. It's a good cardiovascular workout," he said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. "And in this business we're in, you never know when you'll need it."

Since the start of the 113th Congress, the Republican congressman from New York has also fought to stay in the limelight. Because of term limits, he lost his post as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee -- a perch he relished and that drew regular headlines in no small part because of his controversial hearings on domestic Islamic extremism. He served as chairman or ranking member for seven-and-a-half years -- longer than the normal six -- and he had asked Boehner for a waiver to stay on but was denied.

"Obviously, I'd like to be chairman, but I'm not," he said. "I'm still very busy with homeland security. That's what I spend most of time on. … I still meet with Ray Kelly of the [New York Police Department] on a regular basis, with his deputies, the Nassau police, the Suffolk police. It's not the same as being chairman, but it's still what I do."

Term limits, he said, "were the rules."

But the notoriously loud-talking New York lawmaker hasn't exactly moved on either. When a terrorist is killed or captured, King is quickly ready to appear on TV to pontificate about it. When Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, was captured in Jordan, King was talking about it roughly six hours before the Justice Department unsealed the indictment.

"There were already media reports on it, and law enforcement mentioned it to me," he said. "If they had said, "Don't speak out,' I wouldn't have spoken out."

Now, King -- whose district was won by President Barack Obama in 2012 -- is a member of a dwindling band of moderate Republicans struggling to survive in blue states like New York. But it's guys like King who could be key in supporting any eventual deficit deal between the president and Congress -- if one is ever agreed upon.

The tough-talking, self-described "blue-collar Republican" has found himself increasingly isolated in a House majority of hard-line conservatives. He's ruffled more than a few feathers by unabashedly slamming his own party on television and in print -- clips the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is more than happy to use.

He's found himself on the side of Obama more than once on issues of national security: He describes his feelings about the president as "schizophrenic"; he's pro-union and pro-drone. He's troubled by his party's move away from defense hawkishness and openly rebuked Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist late last year.

"I'm not worried about myself being relevant; I'm worried about my ideas being relevant," he said.

King is still well-liked in his district, in part, because of his exhaustive support of unions and blue-collar workers. According to King, if Republicans want to win, they need to do a better job of reaching out to constituencies they might not be comfortable with.

"We have to show … that we know how to deal with blue-collar, middle-income people; knock off some of the anti-union rhetoric; [and] not be as judgmental," he said.

"I often find people from other parts of the country feel like [Republicans] are doing God's work. And man, if we knew what God's work was, life would be a lot easier. I think we come across as being too judgmental: A budget issue is not from God; a tax issue is not from God."

In the final moments of the 112th congress, as Boehner removed the Sandy aid package from the floor following the vote on the fiscal cliff package, King exploded both on the House floor and in nonstop television interviews. He called out the speaker by name and said no one in New York or New Jersey should donate a penny to House Republicans.

"The majority of the party is from the West and the South, who look at people from New York suspiciously," he said. "I had to go on the floor against the speaker; 75 percent of Republicans were against giving any aid to New York. [Boehner] represents the party, so it was difficult for him after the fiscal cliff vote -- I understood where he was coming from, but it didn't help me. I knew that I couldn't go into the next year without any commitment being made."

Eventually, a Sandy aid package did pass the House, but not with help from many Republicans. King is still critical of any Republican who voted against the aid but goes to New York to collect money for their campaign.

"I said things I had to say, and I did not enjoy saying them, but I had no choice," King said.

He said he will have Boehner's back, especially if the speaker negotiates any kind of "big deal" with Obama. But he also doesn't have a knee-jerk distrust of the man in the Oval Office, as many in his conference do.

"We have to listen to him. I mean, he's the president of the United States. Maybe I'm old school in that way," he said. "We can find some common ground; we should make use of it."

King has both praised and criticized Obama. He proudly notes that Obama offered him the U.S. ambassadorship to Ireland, and there are pictures of the two of men

in King's office. King has photos with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton adorning his walls, too.

In September, King slammed Obama over the terrorist attack in Benghazi as well as the administration's initial characterization of the attack as a result of a spontaneous demonstration.

"My belief is that the administration wanted this story out because if it were a terrorist attack, which it was, it would undermine the president's position that somehow

Al Qaeda had been decimated and implying that Al Qaeda was no longer a threat," he said on Fox News. "We did have a terrorist attack, and four Americans were killed, including the ambassador; then that would undermine a lot of the president's foreign policy in this campaign. So I think a lot of it was done for electoral politics to cover the president's failure."

In a statement after Ghaith was captured, King said he gave the Obama administration "credit" for getting "the top echelons of Al Qaeda."

"Al Qaeda is not defeated; it's just changed itself. The advantage of severely decimating core Al Qaeda is the terrorists are not as well-trained; they aren't as well-organized; and that's a real plus for us," he explained. "The downside is we don't know who they are, and there's no central command we should be monitoring.

We don't know where they are coming from. In that sense, [Obama's] wrong that Al Qaeda is dead."

As far as his long-term plans go, King says he doesn't have any. He'll plan to continue his work on homeland security and will go on speaking his mind. He said he has no plans to slow down, noting he doesn't take vacations or days off.

"I don't have a master plan. … I don't have trouble finding things to do. I'm not dead," he said.


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