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By Benjy Sarlin
WASHINGTON — The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday disapproving of racist remarks by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, amid a wave of bipartisan denunciation.
The resolution, introduced by Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., says that “the House of Representatives once again rejects White nationalism and White supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The measure was supported by all Republicans and every Democrat except for one who favored a formal censure, which is a harsher punishment.
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The symbolic and rare reprimand came the day after House Republican leaders effectively disavowed King in response to a recent New York Times interview in which he asked: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments earlier this week — an unusual move that dramatically reduces his role in Congress — as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP lawmakers sharply criticized him. They were joined by Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley as well as the Des Moines Register, whose editorial board called on King to resign on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump, who has frequently drawn criticism for his own attacks on immigrants and Muslims, has not weighed in.
King, who had claimed his remarks to The Times were taken out of context, supported passage of the resolution, which did not directly condemn his behavior, but mentioned his comments alongside murderous hate crimes like the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue attack and the 2015 Charleston church shooting.
“I’m putting up a ‘yes’ on the board here because what you state here is right and it’s true and it’s just,” he said in a floor speech ahead of the vote.
As many Republicans noted in their condemnations of King, however, The Times interview was only the latest in a long series of incidents in which the congressman aligned himself with white nationalist and anti-Semitic figures and parroted their racist rhetoric.
Far from a gadfly in the party, King was until recently an influential figure on the right, especially on immigration policy.
His power was magnified by his role as a valued endorsement in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses. He served as a chairman on Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential run as well as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ 2018 re-election campaign. Cruz condemned his remarks this week and Reynolds announced she will not endorse him in 2020 against a primary challenger.
But as King’s extremism became more overt, members of his party began to distance themselves in the months leading up to Tuesday’s vote.
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In October, Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, then-chair of the House GOP’s campaign wing, denounced King just ahead of the midterm elections and called on Republicans to “stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.” King narrowly survived his race in a deep red district.