WASHINGTON – House Democrats have scheduled a Tuesday vote on a resolution of disapproval of Rep. Steve King over the Iowa Republican’s comments on white supremacy.
The decision to hold a vote came on the same night GOP leadership voted not to give committee assignments to King. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters the Republican steering committee voted unanimously not to assign King, who has been in Congress since 2003, to any positions on House committees.
“Steve’s remarks are beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America. His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity,” McCarthy said. “House Republicans are clear: We are all in this together, as fellow citizens equal before God and the law.”
King was previously on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees and served as chairman of the immigration and border security subcommittee.
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Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders are coalescing behind a vote of disapproval being considered by Rep. James Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat and African American, the aide said.
“I rise today to address what I will call a tale of two kings. One, a member of this body, who wondered out loud to the New York Times why the terms white nationalism and white supremacy are offensive,” Clyburn will say on the House floor according to an excerpt of his remarks. “I would say to my colleague that the terms are offensive because the concepts are evil.”
“I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in breaking the deafening silence and letting our resounding condemnation be heard.”
Earlier Monday, two House Democrats introduced resolutions to formally censure King, a stronger step than a vote of disapproval, although both are formal rebukes from the chamber.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, both proposed censure resolutions.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said in an interview with the New York Times last week. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King has sought to tamp down the controversy over his comments about white supremacy, saying: “I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define.”
In a statement on Monday, King vowed to stay in office, describing McCarthy’s decision as an assault on his freedom of speech.
“Ultimately, I told him ‘You have to do what you have to do and I will do what I have to do,'” King said. “I will 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.”
The resolution of disapproval is similar to the one passed in 2009 for Rep. Joe Wilson, also led by Clyburn. Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, had shouted “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a speech in front of Congress. The following week the Democratic-controlled House passed a resolution of disapproval, largely on party-lines.
Rush said King has “become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color.”
“As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said in a statement Monday. Rush’s censure resolution is “privileged” which means it must come to the floor either for a vote or be tabled by leadership.
Rush “firmly believes anything short of censure would be shallow,” a statement from his office said.
A censure resolution would require that King go to the well of the House and listen as a statement of disapproval is read, while the statement of disapproval would not.
Many of King’s colleagues, including Republicans, have criticized his comments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a scathing statement on Monday: “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.”
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah called King’s comments “reprehensible” and called on him to resign. King already faces Republican primary challengers, including a state senator.
“These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse,” Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the House GOP conference chair tweeted.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only black Republican in the Senate, wrote a Washington Post op-ed titled: “Why are Republicans accused of racism? Because we’re silent on things like this.”
King has made other comments that have stirred outrage. In 2013, King said Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, were involved in drug smuggling.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King told Newsmax in 2013.
He was abandoned by the House Republican campaign arm going into the 2018 election over alleged ties to white nationalist groups. He narrowly won his election in his deep red district.
On Monday morning, President Donald Trump said he was not familiar with comments from King.
“Who?” Trump asked after a reporter asked him about King’s recent comments. After the question was reiterated, Trump responded: “I haven’t been following.”
Contributing: Robin Opsahl and William Petroski in Des Moines, Iowa and Deborah Barfield Berry in Washington D.C.