WASHINGTON — A Democratic measure rebuking Republican Rep. Steve King for his comments about white supremacy won easy approval Tuesday in the House.
In a twist, the nine-term Iowa congressman was among those supporting the measure of disapproval, which was adopted, 424-1.
King said he agreed with Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, the resolution’s sponsor, that white supremacy is an evil that cannot be ignored. King’s racist comments have been widely condemned by members of both parties in recent days.
The ideology of white supremacy “never shows up in my head,” King said in a speech from the House floor. “I do not know how it could possibly come out of my mouth.”
Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois was the sole lawmaker to oppose the measure, saying the House should take the more serious step of censuring King for his “repugnant and racist behavior.”
Any measure short of censure is “shallow,” Rush said. ”Steve King has made a career of making racist statements. That is the only thing he is known for and this pattern of rabid racism must be confronted head on by the House of Representatives.”
The vote came as Republicans dialed up the pressure on King, with one GOP leader suggesting Tuesday that the veteran lawmaker leave Congress.
“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 an article in The New York Times last week, where he was quoted saying: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
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. Clyburn, 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.
“As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said Monday as he introduced a censure resolution.
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,
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 said Tuesday he’s been misunderstood. He said of his colleagues, “I thought you knew me well.”
The Republican said he was advocating for Western civilization, not racism, in the Times interview. He said he rejects the ideology of white supremacy, adding that he comes from a family of abolitionists who “paid a price with their lives to make sure that all men and now all women are created equal.”
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. Feenstra 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.”
This story corrects the vote count supporting the measure of disapproval against King. It was 424-1.
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