Congressman, New York
Congressman Peter T. King is a Republican Congressman from Long Island, New York and represents New York’s 2nd Congressional districe. King has been in Congress for nearly 26 years and is serving his 13th term in the 114th Congress. He announced his interest to run for president in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in 20141.
King has established himself as one of the leading voices regarding the War on Terror and foreign affairs in general. He has been a consistent voice in favor of the invasion of Iraq and aggressive measures to combat terrorism. He is likely to gain the respect of defense hawks and potentially their support in a nomination battle.
As might be expected of a Republican representing Long Island, King is not going to be mistaken for a Tea Party ally anytime soon. He has publicly criticized the Tea Party and some of it leading voices, including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. His record on spending is out of step with most conservatives, and he has been a reliable ally for the interests of organized labor.
King’s record on other issues is much more in sync with limited-government views, however. He voted against Obamacare and has supported numerous free-market health care policies including health savings accounts, and he has opposed cap-and-trade and other regulations that would hinder economic growth. He favors construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
His fundraising has been adequate for a sitting member of Congress but it would likely be a challenge for him to gear up to raise the sort of money needed to run a national campaign, although he is from New York which may offer him a boost in fundraising.
King would be considered a longshot for the Republican nomination in 2016, as aside from defense and anti-terror hawks it’s difficult to see where his support might come from. The free-market and libertarian wings of the Republican party will find little to like, and nearly every other candidate is as appealing if not more appealing to social conservatives. But the same could have been said of John McCain in 2008.
King was born in Manhattan in 1944 and raised in the Manhattan borough of Queens. He is a graduate of St. Francis College in Brooklyn and the University of Notre Dame Law School2.
After graduating law school, King worked in private practice as the deputy attorney for Nassau County, New York and served in the New York National Guard from 1968 to 1973.3 King first ran for office in 1977 – winning a seat on the Hempstead, NY City Council. He then won election as Nassau County’s comptroller and served in that role until 1993. He was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 1986.
In 1992 King ran for an open seat for Congress and won, eking out a 3 percent win despite being overwhelmingly outspent. In later years he faced a series of either token or self-funded opponents, but routinely won re-election without much difficulty.
Congressman King and his wife, Rosemary, live in Seaford, New York and have two adult children and two grandchildren. He is a Roman Catholic and is a member of the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Phythias, AMVETs and the Fighting 69th Veterans Corps4. As of 2012, King has an estimated net worth of $325,0005.
The name “Pete King” and the word “renegade” have been considered synonymous6.
Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY 13) describes King this way, “Oh, Peter’s an old Irishman… If he was in our party, he would be doing the same thing – terribly independent and honest and sincere7.”
Congressman King has been known to buck some of the constituencies within the Republican Party, particularly with Tea Party leaders Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). His primary reason for a potential run in the 2016 Republican primary would be to challenge these two Senators, also referred to as the Tea Party Candidates. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Congressman King said, “I’m looking to do this because I see people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and, to me, I don’t want the Republican Party going in that direction8.” He was a very public critic and went so far as to tell Senator Cruz and his like-minded colleagues to “keep quiet9” when they began to meddle in lower Chamber’s affairs regarding the potential shutdown of the federal government in 2013.
King was one of the few Republicans to vote against the Senate Republicans’ plan to attach the defunding of Obamacare to the Continuing Resolution that was needed in order to avoid a federal government shut down in 201310. The plan failed and the government shut down from October 1 – 16, 201311.
King has ties with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) dating back to the 1970s. The IRA is a violent terrorist group based in Europe whose mission has been to secure the independence of Northern Ireland from Great Britain. King was banned from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for his pro-IRA views and for his failure to denounce IRA actions that resulted in the deaths of nine Northern Irish police officers, killed by one of their mortar bombs. However, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, King has distanced himself and his support for the IRA – namely for the increasing anti-American sentiment in Ireland following the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the increased “criminality” of their actions.
The Congressman from New York’s 2nd District received considerable criticism for his effort to hold congressional hearings on the potential radicalization of Muslim Americans and it was considered by some to be a witch-hunt12.
The name “Pete King” and the word “renegade” have been considered synonymous13. He has never been afraid to challenge party leaders, dating back to his time in Nassau County politics. He has also been a very vocal opponent of the Tea Party, especially of Tea Party leaders Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.14
King gets more than his fair share of national press – from the government shut down of 2013, when he was sharply critical of Ted Cruz, to the controversy over his call for hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims.
Despite the national name he has made for himself, his congressional fundraising seems to remain New York based, suggesting a thin national donor reach,15 and neither of his two political action committees, KingPAC and American Leadership Now, have raised more than $60,000.16,17
He is known for a cantankerous persona on television. Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY 13) describes King this way, “Oh, Peter’s an old Irishman… If he was in our party, he would be doing the same thing – terribly independent and honest and sincere.”18
Congressman King has served on the Homeland Security Committee and served as Chairman of that committee from 2005-2006 and again from 2011-2012. He is currently Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He also serves on the Financial Service Committee and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.19He is considered by his peers to be knowledgeable on Homeland Security and terrorism issues.20
Among his professional accomplishments, King lists helping secure $60 billion in emergency funding for the victims of Superstorm Sandy21 and authoring three books (Terrible Beauty, Deliver Us from Evil, and Vale of Tears).22
King also has a record of reaching across the aisle and has supported President Obama on a number of issues. These include supporting his nomination of Leon Panetta as the U.S. Secretary of Defense and General David Petraeus as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).23 According to his campaign website, he worked with President Clinton on issues involving “Bosnia and the Irish Peace Process.”24
Congressman King receives some very low ratings from fiscally conservative groups such as the Club for Growth (lifetime: 54%) and the National Taxpayers Union (2012: 63%). In 2012 as Congress debated how to avoid the “fiscal cliff” Congressman King tried to renege on the “No New Taxes Pledge” he signed in 1986 with Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and use tax increases as part of the compromise solution with House Democrats.25
Even though some of his recent actions like the fiscal cliff debate may give fiscal conservatives heartburn, he has been supportive of other tax-friendly proposals in the past. For instance, he has voted in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority to raise taxes,26 repeal of the medical device tax,27 the repeal of the marriage penalty,28 in favor of an income tax deduction for small businesses,29 in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts,30 and in favor of repealing the 3.8% capital gains surtax for Medicare31 imposed by Obamacare.
King’s regulatory record is somewhat slim but has a good vote record on a couple of key issues: he voted in favor of a bill that increased transparency on regulations drafted by federal agencies32 and supported placing restrictions on the designation of “critical habitats” for endangered species.33
King’s record diverges from many of his Republican colleagues on labor issues. His top source of campaign funding comes from unions, specifically building trade unions and transportation unions. He has voted in favor of legislation requiring states to allow collective bargaining for public safety officers,34 legislation that would eliminate the requirement of a vote to organize a union,35 and against a bill that would put restrictions on the National Labor Relations Board with regard to petitions to unionize.36
King has resisted the push for the federal regulation of fracking and instead has supported keeping the authority to regulate at the state and local level.37 He is a supporter of lifting the ban on offshore drilling38 and building the Keystone Pipeline,39 and has voted against legislation that put further restrictions on gas and oil drilling.40 He has supported placing restrictions on the designation of “critical habitats” for endangered species41 thus protecting private property and economic development.
In 2009, King voted against cap and trade legislation42 that would prohibit industries entities from emitting greenhouse gases in excess of the number of emissions allowed under the law. He also supported a bill that eliminates the EPA’s ability to regulate coal operations43 and a bill that would require congressional approval to establish a carbon tax,44 an attempt to pre-empt unilateral action by President Obama and the EPA. He has also supported economic development-friendly legislation such as the “Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2013” – a bill that would limit the amount of time an agency can take to complete an environmental review of a construction project.45 He has also opposed proposed restrictions on mineral mining practices.46
While Congressman King has supported a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget47, he also has a voting record suggesting a lack of fiscal discipline. In 2011, he voted to raise the debt ceiling and supported an increase in funding for the “Cash for Clunkers” program in 2009 – a program that provided federal tax incentives to U.S. residents to buy newer vehicles in exchange for older vehicles that were then destroyed. He also opposed banning earmarks.48
King supported the Wall Street bailout in 2008.
King supported the Ryan 2015 budget49 which included moving to private insurance for Medicare and included a trigger in the event of the unsustainability of Social Security.50 This trigger would alter current law and require that the President, along with the Social Security Board of Trustees, submit a plan to Congress (with a coinciding timeline for Congress to act) in order restore balance to the fund.51
King voted against Obamacare,52 supported its repeal,53 and voted in favor of the one-year delay of the individual and employer mandates.54 He has also supported other free-market, healthcare policies such as allowing small business associations to purchase health insurance55 and medical savings accounts.56
While Congressman King supported Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill in the 1990s57 and supported preserving the work requirement to receive welfare in 2013,58 he was among a handful of Republicans who did not support a bill that would allow states to create pilot programs to institute the federal work requirements for the food stamp program.59
King has maintained a generally pro-trade voting record, having supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)60, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)61 and free trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Oman, Peru, Panama and Columbia.62 He also supported fast track trade negotiation authority for the President.63 He did, however, favor a bill that denied an extension of China’s normal trade relations status in 2001.64
King’s record on immigration is consistent with many in the conservative movement. He has supported building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border65 and has voted against the DREAM Act,66 which would allow children of illegal immigrants who have been raised and educated in the United States to obtain temporary, legal status and eventually obtain full U.S. citizenship by going to college or joining the military and would remove the penalties on states who offer in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status.67
King’s position is somewhat unclear on the question of amnesty (often defined as awarding illegal immigrants legal residency and/or citizenship). His website states he is opposed to amnesty68 yet in a letter to Speaker Boehner in April 2014, he asks to “provide undocumented immigrants with the mechanism to pursue legal status and, ultimately obtain citizenship.69”
While Congressman King has voted to protect the U.S. sugar industry (despite his support of CAFTA – a trade agreement heavily opposed by the U.S. sugar industry) through his support of ongoing sugar subsidies, he has voted to repeal the subsidies to other agricultural industries such as peanuts70 and honey71 and voted against a ten-year, $167 billion farm price support bill.72
Congressman King has served as the Homeland Security Committee Chairman twice: 2005-2006 and again from 2011-2012. He currently is the Chairman of the Sub-committee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.73 He is considered by his peers to be knowledgeable on Homeland Security and terrorism issues.74
Overall, King is pro-defense, pro-military, pro-Israel75 and a supporter of the Patriot Act.76 In 2003 he voted in support of providing $78 billion in additional funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.77
He took an aggressive stance on Russia’s encroachment into the Ukraine in September 201478 and tied Russian President Vladimir Putin directly to the downed airline, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.79 He has also supported airstrikes in Syria to combat ISIS,80 supported President Obama sending military advisors to Iraq,81 and has advocated for sending combat troops into Iraq to fight ISIS.82 King supported the war in Iraq83 and supports stronger sanctions in Iran.84
Congressman King believes that the U.S. has “a real national defense role in the world.”85 Consistent with his position on trade with China, Congressman King believes the U.S. needs to get tougher with China.86
As a Congressman, King has not had the opportunity to vote on any president’s judicial nominations.
He does have a voting record on matters related to our criminal justice system. He’s voted against the repeal of the death penalty87 and voted against a bill that would provide funding for alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, but that also reduced funding for violent offender imprisonment by truth-in-sentencing programs88 that abolish or curb the parole system in favor of convicts serving the full period of their sentence.89
As the son of a police officer, he has been a longtime advocate for local law enforcement agencies and has supported federal grant programs that help local agencies “hire and train officers, purchase and deploy new crime-fighting technologies, and develop and test new and innovative policing strategies.”90
In 2014, Congressman King praised the Hobby Lobby decision91 exempting employers from being forced to supply birth control as part of their health benefits to employees if that provision violates their religious beliefs.
King voted in favor of protecting news reporters and restricting government access to a reporter’s files,92 thereby protecting their 1st Amendment rights. He also voted in favor of restricting the activities of independent grassroots organizations organized under IRS code 52793. The organizations, known as “527s,” are independent organizations formed to function independently from a candidate’s campaign committee but actively support or oppose a certain candidate.
In 2013, King introduced an amendment that would override state laws on food safety,94 something likely to be viewed with mixed feelings by conservatives. The amendment would have pre-empted onerous and costly regulations on many products being imposed or considered in states, but also runs contrary to the idea of federalism and the 10th Amendment.
King has supported the expansion of charter schools and expanding school choice.95,96 He followed Republican Party leadership when he voted in favor of President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act” in 200197 although some in the Party did not support the measure because it increased the federal government’s role in education – something many conservatives oppose.
In the case of Congressman Pete King, some of his greatest strengths could turn out to be some of his greatest liabilities. His independent, outspoken personality certainly wins him the attention of the cameras but could alienate those key constituencies needed to win the Republican nomination, particularly in the Tea Party and limited-government movements.
King also has an issue with his past support of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), one of Europe’s most violent terrorist groups. While he has distanced himself from the group and its mission since 9/11, it is a relationship that existed for nearly 30 years prior. Further, his call to hold hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in America is also a big vulnerability and has received widespread criticism, particularly on the hypocritical nature of this call given his past relationship with the IRA.
If King decides to make a serious run for the Republican nomination, he will also need to diversify and expand his fundraising reach and take it to a national level. His PACs have raised less than $60,000 and he will be up against potential candidates who have signfiicant fundraising abilities.
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