Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is stepping down as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee at the end of the year as term limits disqualify the no-nonsense congressman from continuing the job.
For the past seven years, King has either been ranking member or chairman of the committee, which was established a decade ago to address security and terrorism issues. The role has been the most “rewarding experience” of his public life, he told the Press.
House Republicans recently adopted a rule on GOP members that caps committee leaders’ terms at six years, King said. He approached House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about maintaining his position, but former Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was the only one offered a waiver to remain budget committee chairman.
“I understand,” Boehner’s decision, King said, adding it would’ve been difficult for the speaker to give him a pass when six other lead Republicans are also term limited.
“Being chairman was the most rewarding experience of my public life,” King told the Press. “I believe I achieved most of what I wanted to do: I wanted to focus the committee on terrorism–specifically Islamic terrorism because that is the main threat to the country. I wanted to hold hearings even if they were politically incorrect.”
Those hearings sparked fierce criticism from many in the Muslim community saying at the time that they felt disenfranchised by the congressman, labeling the hearings “un-American.” The issue may have been “controversial,” King said, but he believes they were appropriate.
“I believe I managed to change the public debate on that,” he said. “People can still agree or disagree on the issue, but its pretty much accepted now that it’s a legitimate issue. I made this a legitimate topic of debate in this country,” adding, we won’t see “hysterical” reactions in the future.
Long Island will lose it’s only representative that chairs a house committee when King officially steps down. He will remain on the committee and will still lead one of its subcommittees. He also has a seat on the intelligence committee.
His departure as chairman comes after the region was pummeled by Superstorm Sandy and is continuing to the defend itself against terrorism–issues that King’s role as chairman have helped in allocating funds to New York and Long Island.
He said convincing Congress to send homeland security money to New York is a “year-to-year” fight, but elected officials are more adept at fighting for funds than in the past, he said.
“I’ll still have a forum,” he said, “but it’s going to be tough, there’s no doubt about it.”