WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King said Thursday he's open to a run for president to force a debate on terrorism and national security in a Republican field that includes libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
King (R-Seaford) said he would consider a bid for the White House after the conservative online news site NewsMax Thursday floated the idea, calling it a long shot.
"As the national debate goes forward to 2016, I'm concerned about the lack of a coherent national security and homeland security and counterterrorism policy by the Republican Party," King said.
"I don't want our party to be defined as being concerned the CIA is going to carry out drone attacks in a Starbucks to kill American citizens," he said.
King said he was taking aim at Paul, who talked for 13 hours in a filibuster to get the Obama administration to say it won't kill a citizen on U.S. soil without due process.
"I saw that on the Senate floor that night going on for hours about drones and protecting American citizens, which is a total nonissue," King said.
Paul declined to comment.
King said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others encouraged him to run. Mukasey, who served under President George W. Bush, didn't return a call.
A run for president would give King a platform he hasn't had since stepping down as chairman of the House Homeland Security committee.
In that post, he won national attention, much of it critical, for holding hearings on American Muslims and terrorism.
Some strife has emerged in the Republican Party on national security, particularly over Paul's views.
But Republican pollster Whit Ayres said the GOP's image as the stronger party on national security hasn't slipped.
King said he was receptive to the idea of a run, but is nowhere near setting up an exploratory committee since the 2016 election is so far off.
"I'm saying yeah . . . I'm not ruling it out. We'll see where it goes," King said.
King complained that others deemed Republican presidential contenders are focused on domestic issues, an apparent reference to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who helped usher the comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate.
"If I can use this as an opportunity to force the debate, we'll see what happens," King said.
Some lawmakers joked about the idea of King occupying the White House.
Tongue in cheek, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said, "If Peter is elected president, I am willing to considering being his ambassador to Israel."