WASHINGTON – The House nearly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday condemning Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, for questioning why phrases such as “white supremacist” are offensive.
King voted for the resolution himself. It passed 424 to 1.
Before the vote, King said he agreed with South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn’s resolution, titled “Rejecting White nationalism and White supremacy.” The resolution invoked King’s comments and condemned such words as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
“I regret that we are in this place,” King said, adding that he rejects such ideologies. “I agree with every word that you have put in this. It’s an honest and a direct resolution put together to address a subject that has been too long before the public dialogue in this country.
“I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution. I’m putting up a yes on the board here,” King said.
He said his “white supremacist” comments had not come across as he intended.
King sat alone on the GOP side of the chamber as Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, urged his colleagues to support the resolution. A handful of Republicans sat nearby. Many stood up to condemn racism.
On the other side of the aisle, about two dozen Democrats sat in rapt silence as Clyburn, a civil rights veteran, invoked the work of Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was Tuesday.
“Now is the time to do right,” Clyburn said before the vote. “This body must speak out against this evil.”
The sole “no” vote came from Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., an African-American, who said the measure did not go far enough.
Minimally, King should be censured, Rush said Tuesday, and if he continues making such remarks, he should be expelled from Congress.
“Steve King has made a career out of being a racist, and he needs to be called out as such,” he said.
The vote followed a series of condemnations from lawmakers in both parties. A handful of prominent Republicans said King should leave Congress, and top House Republicans voted Monday not to assign King any committees in the new Congress. King was on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business Committees. He had been the chairman of the immigration and border security subcommittee on the Judiciary Committee when Republicans controlled the House.
“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?”
“The House Republicans denounce his language. We do not believe in his language, and we’ve decided that he will not serve on any” committees, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday. He said it was up to King whether he should resign.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the No. 3 House Republican, went further, echoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: “I think that he should find another line of work,” she said. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also called on King to resign.
Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, 235-199, with the help of a coalition of women, African-Americans and Hispanics. They ushered in the most diverse class yet, breaking records for the number of women and minorities. The House GOP became less diverse, seeing a decline in the number of women and the loss of the sole African-American Republican woman in the House, Mia Love of Utah.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., applauded Republican leaders for their “strong” actions against King on Tuesday. “I think they did the right thing,’’ he said. “I think they’re very concerned about their party being perceived as a Steve King party.”
Hoyer said the party was discussing two measures that would censure King – one by Rush and a more narrow one from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio – acknowledging that such actions could open a Pandora’s box. “It is a big deal to be censured,” he said.
Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce, the first Republican to join Ryan’s censure resolution and a member of the steering committee that stripped King of his committees, told USA TODAY he tried to have a “man-to-man” conversation with King when he “made stupid comments” about immigrants in 2013.
“My point was that when you say stupid things, it splashes on all of us,” Joyce said. “He said, well, he gets good publicity out of it. I said, ‘Well you need to think about other people here because it’s not right.’ “
Contributing: Nicole Gaudiano, Deborah Berry
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