Rep. King breaks from GOP on shutdown

Rep. Peter King walks towards the House Chamber

Rep. Peter King walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Sept. 30, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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WASHINGTON -- Every day last week, Rep. Peter King appeared on TV and in the press blasting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as a "fraud" for leading Republicans into a dead end in the congressional stalemate over funding the government.

And it doesn't look as if King will stop his very public attacks any time soon, as the week-old partial government shutdown continues with no end in sight.

"To be effective you have to stay on offense. When you believe you're speaking for the majority, you have to give them a voice," King said, promising to keep going on the air.

King, the outspoken Republican congressman from Seaford, has made himself the focal point of his party's largely behind-the-scenes opposition to the Cruz-led House GOP strategy to refuse to fund the government until Democrats agree to defund the Affordable Care Act.

King said Congress should simply pass a temporary funding bill to reopen government -- that's the Democrats' position -- because Cruz has no end game that can win.

Despite a plea for House Republican unity Friday by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), King still voted against him. King claims he has plenty of support from all segments of his party, but says they are reluctant to buck Boehner and too fearful of primary challenges from the right to vote with King.

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"What they are saying -- this sounds egotistical, I hate doing it -- is that basically even though there are 229 people voting one way, and one voting another, I'm getting equal time on television," King said.

"These people who support behind the scenes what I am doing are saying it's making it better for them because I'm getting equal time with the Cruz people, and that's good for the party," King said.

Conservatives backing the showdown scoffed at King's assertion of broader GOP dissent.

"There's a difference between bark and bite," said Barney Keller of the conservative Club for Growth. "The musings of one moderate Republican does not a trend make."

Radio show host Rush Limbaugh recently joked about King's penchant for appearing on television news shows.

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"I thought he was a Fox News commentator. I didn't know he was a congressman from New York. When does he have time to be in Congress? He's always on Fox!" he said.

King will appear on Fox News Sunday today.

Last week, King clearly relished his high-profile role as he found himself surrounded by reporters in the hallways of the Capitol.

"I just call myself the Lone Ranger," he said with a laugh.

"I'm looking for a reasonable man, and I think I found him," joked Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a top Democrat, as he walked past the media scrum.

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At age 69, with two decades in the House and a district safe from serious challenges from the right or left, King appears to have nothing to lose.

He met in his office Wednesday with about 10 other GOP dissenters, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called him to ask what deal might appeal to Republicans.

King said he's gotten vicious phone calls from people who back Cruz, but little criticism from those he pillories.

Cruz declined to comment for this article through an aide. No other Republican backing Cruz mentioned King by name.

Former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato said that King, a protege, is just calling it as he sees it, setting him apart from most members of Congress.

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"When he says there are some in our party who are yahoos, who are extremists, he's right," D'Amato said.

King has never shied away from a fight -- and a trail of offended people on both sides of the aisle shows it.

King backed the IRA in Northern Ireland, blistered the Catholic Church for offering Central Americans sanctuary in the 1980s, voted against President Bill Clinton's impeachment, called Michael Jackson a child molester and held a hearing to castigate American Muslims for not doing more to stop terrorism.

Now he's in a waiting game on the government shutdown, and says he's growing impatient with fellow pragmatists.

When the showdown began last Monday, King said 20 to 25 Republicans had told him they wouldn't vote for a shutdown.

But only King and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) voted no.

About 20 House Republicans now have publicly said it's time to simply fund the government, but they aren't voting that way.

King said, "If the moderates are going to be serious, they've got to threaten to bring the House down. So I'm out there."

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