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Boehner: 'Hateful' remarks hurt immigration reform bid

US Rep. Steve King speaks during the DC March for Jobs on July 15, 2013 in Washington, DC
US Rep. Steve King speaks during the DC March for Jobs on July 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. King's recent remarks on immigration reform received a stinging rebuke from House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday.

US House Speaker John Boehner has a Steve King problem -- as does much of their Republican Party.

King, an Iowa congressman, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of immigration reform in the House of Representatives, arguing it would be heresy to put 11 million undocumented aliens on a pathway to citizenship without first completely securing the border with Mexico.

Following King's latest outburst, Boehner issued a rare, stinging rebuke Thursday.

He said King's rhetoric was impeding efforts by Republicans in the conservative House to pass immigration reform legislation in the wake of the Senate's historic comprehensive bill.

"Representative Steve King made comments that were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong," Boehner said at the top of his weekly briefing.

"There's no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials," he added.

"What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party."

King said last week that not all "DREAMers" -- immigrants brought as children to the United States illegally by their parents -- should be awarded citizenship, even as House Republicans are warming to that idea as a way to address the millions of people living in the shadows.

"For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds (59 kilograms) -- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," King said.

Boehner roundly criticized the remarks Tuesday, and other influential Republicans in the immigration debate followed suit, including Raul Labrador, who said King was "out of touch with the conference."

Republicans are smarting from their November election loss, when more than seven in 10 Hispanics voted to re-elect President Barack Obama.

Several Republican moderates like Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped craft the Senate bill, have warned that the party needs to do far better in making inroads with Latino voters.

Conservatives in the House have been vocal about opposing the Senate's comprehensive reform bill, which provides a 13-year pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, tightens border security, and overhauls visa policy.

King's rash comment, though, "does make it more difficult" to succeed in a step-by-step approach, acknowledged Boehner, who has said he wants a bill signed into law this year.

Despite the smack down, King remained defiant Thursday, speaking about the subject at length on the House floor and citing Jesus as someone who "asserted his right to be innocent until proven guilty."

Mexican cartels, he insisted, were sending drugs like cocaine into the United States, "strapped to the bodies... of young girls."