Washington — Congressional Republicans issued a sharp rebuke to Iowa Rep. Steve King on Monday, barring the veteran lawmaker from serving on any House committees as punishment for comments he made defending white supremacy and white nationalism.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had pledged to take “action” against the Iowa lawmaker on “Face the Nation” Sunday, told reporters on Monday evening that the party’s steering committee had voted unanimously to deny King any committee posts in the current congressional session. King had served on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business Committees in the previous Congress.
“These are not the first time we have heard these comments,” McCarthy said. “That is not the party of Lincoln and it is definitely not America. All people are created equal in America and we want to take a very strong stance about that.”
The move came after days of bipartisan criticism of King for suggesting in an interview with the New York Times on Thursday that white nationalism and white supremacism were not offensive terms.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King reacted to McCarthy’s move by calling it a “political decision that ignores the truth.” In a statement, he said his comments had been mischaracterized by the Times.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday that King “should find another line of work” if he didn’t understand why white supremacy was offensive. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, was more blunt, and called on King to resign.
“Steve King’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in polite society. And certainly no place in the Republican party,” Romney told reporters Monday evening. “And they should have no place in the United States Congress. He ought to resign and move on and let someone else who represents American values take his seat.”
Before Romney and McConnell’s rebukes of King, House Democrats introduced several measures addressing the controversy. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, introduced a motion to censure the veteran Republican congressman for his racist remarks. A senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rush also called on Republican leadership to oust King from all committee assignments.
“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color,” Rush said in a statement before McCarthy’s announcement. “As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated.”
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, also introduced a similar, albeit narrower, resolution. And Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, said he intends to issue a resolution expressing his disapproval of King’s comments, but that he did not believe censure was appropriate because King’s most recent comments were made to a reporter and not on the House floor.
President Trump was asked several times by reporters to comment on King’s remarks on Monday. Mr. Trump replied, “I haven’t been following it. I really haven’t been following it.”