When the House of Representatives resumes its business today, the top item on Speaker Boehner's agenda will once again be to repeal President Obama's health care reforms, picking up where the House left off after the tragedy in Tucson shook the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a leading proponent of repeal, says it was appropriate for Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to postpone the legislative calendar in the aftermath of the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, that left six people dead and 12 more wounded. But now, King says, the time has come to get back on track and overturn the health care reform law.
"We cannot, though, suspend the business of this government indefinitely because of a single deranged individual's actions, in Tucson, the tragedy in Tucson," King told ABC News in an interview. "We need to get back on pace, and I think that's what Gabby would want us to do, get back on pace. We have a duty to 308 million people, and so bringing up the repeal of Obama care is the right thing to do."
King, who introduced the repeal legislation immediately following health care reform's passage last spring, dismisses suggestions that health care repeal will fail in the Senate and says that a vote in the House will put pressure on wavering lawmakers to support repeal.
"The [Congressional GOP] leadership and the Republicans and a significant number of Democrats have come to this point where we understand that we have to pull Obama care out by the roots, that we can't get this country back on track, nor can we fix our health care problems in America with the obstruction of this bad bill that was ideologically unsound," King said.
"We will pass it and send it to the Senate. We'll work to try to get that up for a vote in the Senate where I predict that it'll pass if we can force a vote, then I expected the president to veto the repeal bill."
King, a five-term representative, admits that neither chamber of Congress is likely to have the necessary support to override a presidential veto. Therefore, according to King, the last step of implementing repeal is to vote President Obama out of the White House and elect a president who will sign a health care repeal in two years.
"The final way [to achieve repeal] is to elect a president in 2012 who will call on Congress to make sure that his first act as president will be to sign the repeal of Obama care," King said. "I want to see that happen at the podium on the West Portico of the Capitol, January 20, 2013, when we swear in the next president of the United States. This is the most important thing we can do, jobs and the economy have to follow through, but we can't fix this economy unless we first repeal Obama care."
Congress, Back to Business on Health Care
Who will end up challenging President Obama in 2012 is still far from decided. King, who is introducing possible presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, to prominent Iowan activists to later this week, said he does not believe a Republican frontrunner has surfaced quite yet.
"I think there's a dozen or so viable candidates. It may be that there isn't going to be another name emerge at this point, but there's much to be done between now and the time that a front runner emerges," King said. "As I look at this, each of these candidates will come through Iowa, and they are now and we're talking with some of them. I want to see that they have maximum access to the Iowa activists, that's a network that's been built through generations."
King says that if any candidate can run the table with wins in the first three contests - Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - they will be able to lock up the nomination. "No one can do that at this point that I can see," King said. "Let the games begin. I'm looking forward to an exciting presidential nomination season."
King, one of the most conservative members of the House, says he has not personally felt threatened while serving in Iowa, and says that in the aftermath of the shooting in Tucson, security cannot stop members from interacting with constituents.
"We'll pay a little more attention to security, but that doesn't mean I won't engage. This job is too important and serving Americans in Congress is too much of a privilege to back away and think that I'm going to live in a bubble. I'm going to continue to go out and engage with people," King said. "We have to engage with people, and pick up on their opinions, but also pick up on the intensity of those opinions. And that is, being out with real people, listening to their ideas, and doing it a lot, slowly you build a sense of what's going on out there in the country and you attach that to your internal convictions and that's how we serve Americans."
Congress, Back to Business on Health Care
King says that Sen. Mark Udall's proposal to ease the contentious political discourse by mixing the parties together during President Obama's State of the Union address Jan. 25 might be a symbolic attempt at bipartisanship, but "I don't think that's going to reduce the number of shootings in the United States of America."
King said he has not thought about where exactly he will sit during the Joint Session of Congress, or who he will sit next to, but said he intends to take a seat with a clear vantage point where he can watch the president's body posture and hear his language.
"I'm not one of those that goes in early and tries to puts on some bright clothing and stand by the aisle so I can be seen shaking hands with the president on the way in. I'm usually one that arrives a little later and tries to take an available seat," King said. "It'll be a very interesting speech, it'll be one that of course lays out his agenda for the next couple of years, and this will be the first State of the Union address since he returned from the shellacking, so how he intends to work with Republicans now in the majority of the House is going to be an interesting delivery. We've gotten some signals that the president is open to working on a more bipartisan fashion, we'll see if he proposes some specific agenda items that we can work with him on. I hope so."
King said he hopes that the White House will provide members of Congress with an advance copy of the president's speech, so members are able to follow along on blackberries and iPads because "it's really useful to be able to penetrate the thoughts that the president is delivering."
"I'll bring my iPad to the floor. Last time we had to get the information off of Blackberry, and I'll make the prediction that we'll see more iPads on the floor of the House of Representatives during the president's State of the Union address than at any time in the history of this country."