Updated, 10:30 a.m.:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most outspoken GOP critics of the months-long push to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, launched what he said would be a six-hour press conference Wednesday morning to raise concerns about the pending legislation.
The Iowa lawmaker -- who earned the ire of the White House last week for a proposal that would require the deportation of the children of illegal immigrants -- began speaking around 9 a.m. in front of a crowd of about 300 on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
"I kind of like a microphone that has some volume to it," he shouted as he began.
King promised to host a respectful exchange of ideas and invited colleagues of both parties and on either side of the immigration debate to join him for what he hoped might become a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate.
Progress on immigration legislation in the Senate has "moved along a lot faster than I’m comfortable with," King said, faulting Democrats and Republicans for drawing conclusions on the legislation "that are not based on any empirical data or good judgment."
"Now that the die is cast in the Senate, I think it’s useful to let folks know what you think -- and maybe there’s a way to yet kill this thing in the Senate," he said later.
As the event began, King stood on a makeshift stage with Reps. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and Randy Weber (R-Tex.), all of whom were wearing red ties and dark suits. The group used the forum to not only to raise concerns about immigration policy, but also to needle the Obama administration regarding recent scandals involving the National Security Agency and Internal Revenue Service, at times quoting scripture to make their points.
"The Bible talks about there will come a time when right is wrong and wrong is right. There are some of us who have scratched our bald heads...wondering where are we going?" Gohmert said. "I think we have seen some answered prayer, because what has been in the dark is coming to light. We have seen with some of these government agencies -- including Homeland Security -- what they have wanted to keep in the dark has been coming to light."
Weber, who succeeded former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) in the House, noted that because of revelations about the NSA's surveillance programs, "We now have a president that listens to all Americans."
King is no fan of the legislation under consideration in the House and Senate to remake that nation's immigration system. He has gone so far as to label the bipartisan Senate proposal "far worse" than the 2010 so-called Obamacare health-care reform law.
He also earned the ire of the White House, congressional Democrats and immigrant advocates this month when a measure he sponsored requiring that the U.S. government to deport the children of illegal immigrants passed the GOP-controlled House on a party-line vote. Democrats on the House floor were so angry that they booed when King's provision was added to an annual spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
King's marathon press availability began around 9 a.m. and is scheduled to continue until noon, then resume again at 2 p.m. until 5 p.m., according to his office.
The crowd of hundreds on the Capitol lawn was decidedly older, including several military veterans and a large contingent from tea party groups based in Delaware. One woman from California held up a sign that read, "Rubio Lies, America Dies," a reference to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a lead negotiator on the Senate immigration bill.
Another older gentleman held up a sign that cited three immigration demands: First, "strong boarders," [sic] second "No Amnesty" and third, "No Voting Rights."
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