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Ohio U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Picked To Be Trump's Running Mate

House GOP Leaders Move To Strip Rep. Steve King Of Committee Assignments

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is under fire again for making controversial remarks.
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is under fire again for making controversial remarks.

Updated at 2:11 a.m. ET Tuesday

House Republican leaders moved Monday to remove Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, from two committees as a punishment for his recent comments in a New York Times interview where he was quoted questioning why the terms "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" are considered offensive.

"We will not be seating Steve King on any committees in the 116th Congress," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after House Republicans who handle committee assignments met Monday night and voted to strip King of his positions. He was a member of the Judiciary and Agriculture panels.

"Leader McCarthy's decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth," King said in reaction to the decision — a response that seemed to invoke his remarks on the House floor Friday where he denied being a racist. "Under any fair political definition, I am simply an American nationalist," King had said Friday.

Monday, top House and Senate GOP leaders also condemned King's comments, which were the latest is a string of racially charged remarks he has made during his 16 years in Congress.

Separately, House Democratic leaders are planning on a vote of disapproval of King's comments as early as Tuesday on the House floor. Some Democrats are seeking to censure King, a move that would be a stronger public admonition.

McCarthy had promised "action will be taken" against King shortly after his latest offering in a well-documented history of making racially charged or racially insensitive remarks. "I'm having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party," McCarthy told CBS's Face the NationSunday. "I will not stand back as a leader of this party, believing in this nation that all are created equal, that that stands or continues to stand and have any role with us," McCarthy added.

At least three House Democrats — Bobby Rush of Illinois, Tim Ryan of Ohio and House Majority Whip James Clyburn — announced Monday they plan to introduce resolutions to censure or reprimand King.

Rush's resolution includes a list of 14 controversial comments King has made going back to 2006. A censure resolution is a way for the House to issue a public rebuke of a lawmaker's words or action, but does not carry with it any additional punishment if it is approved.

In a statement, Rush chastised King's GOP colleagues for tolerating King's series of controversial comments. "Republicans, in the interest of political expediency, sought his endorsement, ignored his racist remarks, and continued to elevate him to positions of influence," Rush said, "Only now that his behavior is well known to those outside the beltway and tainted him politically, do they vigorously denounce him."

Clyburn's resolution disapproves of King's recent comments but does not call for him to be censured. The resolution makes a number of "whereas statements" but only refers to King once.

In 2009, Clyburn sponsored a disapproval resolution condemning South Carolina GOP Rep. Joe Wilson for yelling, "You lie!" at President Obama during an address before a joint session of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who rarely weighs in on House GOP members' actions, released a written statement Monday condemning King.

"There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind," McConnell said, adding, "I have no tolerance for such positions and 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."

President Trump sidestepped a question about King in remarks to reporters ahead of a trip to New Orleans on Monday. "I haven't been following," Trump said.

King has a well-established history of controversial rhetoric, and the latest incident comes as many within the GOP are already seeking to distance themselves politically — or defeat him in 2020. Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would not support King in his next primary after he narrowly won re-election against a Democrat in a safe Republican seat in 2018. She said she told the congressman: "You need to decide whether you want to represent the values of the Fourth District or to do something else." King is already facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Randy Feenstra.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a rising star in the party and one of two African-American Republicans in Congress, wrote a Washington Post opinion column in which he chastised the party for not doing more to improve relations with minority communities. "Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said," he wrote, "Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people."

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also denounced King. "Republicans should make clear Mr. King is no longer welcomed in their party or Congress," CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., said in a statement, "Anything less than these substantive actions is another tacit acceptance of racism from the Republican Party."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.