Steve King Removed from Committee Assignments over White Supremacy Remark

Trip Gabriel, Jonathan Martin, and Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, January 14, 2019

House Republican leaders removed Representative Steve King of Iowa from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees on Monday night as party officials scrambled to appear tough on racism and contain damage from comments Mr. King made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive.

The punishment came on a day when Mr. King was denounced by an array of Republican leaders, though not President Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggested Mr. King find “another line of work” and Senator Mitt Romney said he should quit. And the House Republicans, in an attempt to be proactive, stripped him of the committee seats in the face of multiple Democratic resolutions to censure Mr. King that are being introduced this week.


Mr. King, who has been an ally of President Trump on the border wall and other issues, has a long history of making racist remarks and insults about immigrants, but has not drawn rebukes from Republican leaders until recently. {snip}

But in an interview with The Times published last week, Mr. King said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

Speaking to reporters on Monday night after the House Republican leadership team acted, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said he was not ruling out supporting a censure or reprimand resolution against Mr. King. {snip}


The full Republican conference must still technically ratify the leader’s decision, but Mr. McCarthy presented the matter as closed.

Mr. King remained defiant after losing his committee seats, releasing a long statement insisting that his comments in the Times article had been misunderstood. He said he had been referring only to “western civilization” when he asked “how did that language become offensive,” not “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”


The condemnations of Mr. King stood in stark contrast to the lawmakers’ willingness to tolerate President Trump’s frequent offensive and insensitive remarks about migrants, black people, Native Americans and other minorities.


Congressional Republicans have continued to embrace the president and his hard-line immigration politics, averting their gaze from his inflammatory rhetoric out of fear their core voters will punish them if they stray from Mr. Trump.


Republicans are now trying to get ahead of a fast-moving political problem while the country is in the midst of a lengthy government shutdown over a border wall by President Trump, who in many ways patterned his immigration policies and rhetoric on those of Mr. King.

Mr. McCarthy called a special meeting of the Republican Steering Committee to remove Mr. King from Judiciary — which has jurisdiction over immigration, voting rights and impeachment — and Agriculture, which is a prized committee for Iowans. Mr. King also lost his seat on the Small Business Committee. The steering committee vote was unanimous.

While Republican officials quickly turned on Mr. King, the party also came in for criticism from the Senate’s lone black Republican, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He noted that the G.O.P. has long remained silent in the face of racist comments.

“Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” Mr. Scott wrote in a Washington Post opinion column.

It is not clear what, if any, additional steps congressional Republican leaders will take with Mr. King. The National Republican Congressional Committee indicated Monday that they were not ready to step away from him.


Democrats are moving to censure or reprimand the Iowa congressman, a stinging penalty. Among them were Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking African-American in Congress, who introduced a measure Monday night in the form of a resolution of disapproval of Mr. King’s comments and white nationalism.


In the interview with The Times, Mr. King also reflected on the record number of minorities and women in the new Democratic-controlled House. “You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men,” he said.


Also, Iowa’s two Republican senators, Mr. Grassley and Joni Ernst, along with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who had appointed Mr. King a co-chairman of his 2016 presidential campaign, all rebuked Mr. King in recent days.

All had eagerly embraced him in the past because of his standing with the state’s most conservative voters — keys to winning statewide elections in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest.

Mr. Grassley had endorsed Mr. King in November for re-election, even after the chairman of the House Republican election committee denounced Mr. King as a white supremacist.

“Iowa needs Steve King in Congress,” Mr. Grassley said in that endorsement. “I also need Steve King in Congress.”


Original Article