“There are times I don’t feel comfortable” among my Republican colleagues, King said in his disarmingly gruff, blue-collar New York accent. “Not so much on particular policies, as with the tone and the attitude.”
The Long Island lawmaker is something of an authority when it comes to tone and attitude. He has made his career as a tough-talking, brawling defender of his (increasingly Democratic) constituents, more than willing to pick a fight with his own party.
But even by King’s standards, 2013 is already a banner year.
On Tuesday evening, at the height of the “fiscal cliff” drama, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) unexpectedly canceled a vote that would have sent $60 billion to New York and New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy relief. The decision shocked King, as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and virtually every elected official on either side of the Hudson.
King immediately name-checked Boehner (and not in a good way) in a speech on the floor. His show of fury intensified when he later appeared on Fox News. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” he said. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”
Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) took notice and scheduled an afternoon meeting with King on Wednesday. That didn’t stop him. Shortly after noon, he arrived in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building for several TV hits. To a local New York station, he criticized the Republican leaders for breaking what he said were promises to help those devastated by Hurricane Sandy. “They very seldom say it to your face, they say it behind your back,” he said. He added: “We have to use tough hardball tactics. New York knows how to do it” and “I’m not taking anyone on their word anymore.”
He moved a few feet to his left, between a different set of marble columns, and said similar things to a national network. “The speaker is the one who pulled it,” he said. New Yorkers who would contribute to Republican members of Congress were “crazy — they’re out of their minds.”
As he stepped the exit, a TV reporter said she was simultaneously listening to a recorded interview with King as she watched him in person. “It’s magic,” she said.