King: No answer yet

U.S. Rep. Steve King acknowledged Monday that Congress is bitterly divided between Democrats and Republicans, but he told a Fort Dodge audience that partisan bickering in the Capitol is better than fighting in the streets.

The Republican from Kiron also told members of the Fort Dodge Rotary Club that he has not yet decided if he will run for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated at the end of 2014 by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

”I don’t have an answer for you,” King said, before anyone asked if he was going to run.

He said he has had some statewide polling completed to help him make his decision.

King has vowed repeatedly to try to repeal the federal health care reform he usually calls ObamaCare. But on Monday, he broke from his usual habit and frequently called it the Affordable Care Act in what he said was an attempt to be bipartisan.

He predicted that the law will cause big health insurance premium increases starting in January. He added that he expects the public will demand repeal of the law because of those increases.

King said Americans can be forceful when expressing their displeasure over a law that directly affects them. He said senior citizens confronted former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., after he championed an unpopular Medicare change years ago.

”These senior ladies just beat the snot out of his car with their canes,” the congressman said.

”I don’t know what’s going to happen this time,” he said.

Asked if he has read the law, King replied ”I read it to the point of revulsion and stopped. I don’t think there’s anybody that understands it all.”

King spoke to the Rotarians during their weekly meeting at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites, 1518 Third Ave. N.W.

He said constituents often tell him they’re sick of the squabbling in Congress. King said there is a lot of partisan fighting, and added that it has gotten worse since he was elected in 2002.

He attributed the change to the departure of conservative Democrats called Blue Dog Democrats. He said those members of Congress lost their seats in a public backlash over the health care reform, financial reforms commonly called Dodd-Frank, and an effort to control global warming known as cap and trade that was approved in the House of Representatives but was stopped in the Senate.

Following the departure of the Blue Dog Democrats, the House was left with a Republican caucus that’s more conservative than it was and a liberal Democratic caucus. He said Democratic control of the White House and Senate compounds the situation.

”That whole scenario is set up for division, disagreement, for deadlock and gridlock,” he said.

Having major arguments in Congress isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the country, according to King.

”It is better that we have debate and division there than it is fighting in the streets of America,” he said.

”If you look out through history at different governments, different cultures, different civilizations, they’ve been at each other in the streets of their countries for generations,” he added. ”We don’t do that here. We don’t go out into the streets and fight each other.”