Boehner: 'Of course' King remarks make moving immigration reform more difficult

In case anyone didn’t get the message, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is not happy with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

A day after issuing a written statement critical of King’s comments about immigrant children, Boehner used the opening of his weekly Capitol press conference to call out the Iowa Republican once more, this time by name and with the cameras rolling.

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“I want to be clear: There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said. “Earlier this week, Rep. Steve King made comments that I think were deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party, and we all need to do our work in an open, constructive and respectful way. As I’ve said many times, we can disagree without being disagreeable.”

In an interview with Newsmax, King depicted as criminal drug runners the immigrant children that both Democrats and many Republicans want to legalize.

“For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said in a Newsmax interview. “These people would be legalized with the same act.”

He has since defended the comments in a round of follow-up interviews, and on Thursday asked to insert into the Congressional Record “just for clarity purposes” a 2012 Associated Press article headlined, “Mexico Children Used As ‘Mules’ By Drug Gangs.”

Boehner and other top Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), have rushed to denounce King out of a fear that his inflammatory remarks would damage the GOP’s already fraught relationship with Hispanic voters. The Speaker may also view the uproar as an opportunity to publicly distance himself from the most vocal opponents of immigration reform in his conference, of which King is a longtime leader.

Asked if King’s comments made passing immigration reform more difficult, Boehner replied, “Of course.”

Yet beyond publicly criticizing him, there appears little the party leadership can do to keep King quiet.

Asked if his comments might warrant King’s removal from the House Judiciary Committee, Boehner demurred. “I think I’ve made myself very clear when it comes to Mr. King,” he said.