WASHINGTON – Republicans are dialing up the pressure on Rep. Steve King, with one GOP leader suggesting Tuesday that the nine-term Iowan leave Congress after the latest in a string of what she called his “racist” comments.
“I’d like to see him find another line of work,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-highest Republican in the House, told reporters.
It was the most explicit call from a senior Republican for King to leave and the latest GOP effort to inspire him to quit over his quote in The New York Times last week questioning how white nationalism and white supremacy became offensive terms.
Republicans looking to avoid worsening the party’s relationship with blacks and minorities quickly condemned King’s remarks as racist. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., wrote an op-ed saying that any GOP silence in the face of King’s remarks would be a blemish on the party and the nation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky condemned King. And tellingly, Republicans refused to say whether they support King’s re-election effort.
On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that King would not be given any committee assignments, the prized seats at the policy table where lawmakers represent their constituents. King served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees in the last Congress, and he chaired Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
King vowed to “continue to point out the truth and work with all the vigor that I have to represent 4th District Iowans for at least the next two years.”
House Democrats moved to formally punish King. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking House Democrat and the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, introduced a formal resolution of disapproval late Monday.
Addressing what he called “a tale of two kings,” Clyburn said the Iowa lawmaker’s remarks were offensive because they embraced evil concepts.
Invoking the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — whose 90th birthday is Tuesday — Clyburn called on colleagues from both parties “to join me in breaking the deafening silence and letting our resounding condemnation be heard.”
But other Democrats were pushing for a stronger punishment, censure. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said he will not vote for Clyburn’s resolution because it’s not strong enough. Rush said his own censure resolution would announce to the world that Congress has no home for “repugnant and racist behavior.”
“As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said Monday in a statement that also called on Republicans to strip King of his committee memberships until he apologizes.
A third Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, introduced a separate censure resolution against King.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we all have a responsibility to call out Rep. King’s hateful and racist comments,” Ryan said, noting that the white supremacy comments were not the first time King has made headlines for inappropriate language.
They all returned to a long string of King’s remarks that have drawn rebukes.
The text of Rush’s censure resolution lists more than a dozen examples of King’s remarks, beginning with comments in 2006 in which he compared immigrants to livestock and ending with his lamentation in the New York Times last week that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.
McConnell, in his statement, said he has “no tolerance” for the positions offered by King, and said “those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”
One Republican did not join the chorus of criticism. Asked about King’s remarks Monday, President Donald Trump said, “I haven’t been following it.”
King on Friday suggested he’s been misunderstood. He said on the House floor that the interview with the Times was in part a “discussion of other terms that have been used, almost always unjustly labeling otherwise innocent people. The word racist, the word Nazi, the word fascist, the phrase white nationalists, the phrase white supremacists.”
King said he was only wondering aloud: “How did that offensive language get injected into our political dialogue? Who does that, how does it get done, how do they get by with laying labels like this on people?”
King’s position in the GOP had been imperiled even before his remarks about white supremacy.
Shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, in which King was running, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, then the head of the GOP campaign committee, issued an extraordinary public denunciation of him.
King has already drawn a primary challenger for the 2020 election: Randy Feenstra, a GOP state senator. Feenstar said Monday, “Sadly, today, the voters and conservative values of our district have lost their seat at the table because of Congressman King’s caustic behavior.”