House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King

The number of Republicans calling for embattled Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Democrats need someone in ‘the Ojeda lane’ Pence on push to remove Omar from committee: Steve King saw ‘consequences’ MORE (R-Iowa) to resign grew on Wednesday as the House approved a resolution condemning white supremacy.

The third-ranking House Republican, House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Liz Cheney calls for House vote on Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Liz Cheney mocks Booker over factory farming comments: 'I support PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals' MORE (Wyo.), said at a press conference that “I think he should find another line of work,” echoing a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress Juan Williams: America needs radical solutions MORE (R-Ky.) a day earlier. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love MORE (R-Utah) and Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' GOP lawmaker calls Trump emergency declaration 'a mistake' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (R-Utah) also called for King's resignation.

ADVERTISEMENT

It all came after House GOP leaders moved Monday night to strip King of any committee assignments for the new Congress. King had served on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees. He had also served as chairman of a Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice in the last Congress.

The resolution from House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), drew near-unanimous support. But some lawmakers wanted to go further, and a fellow CBC member, Rep. Bobby RushBobby Lee RushDem behind impeachment push to boycott State of the Union Democrats seek to take on Trump at State of the Union Dem leaders avert censure vote against Steve King MORE (D-Ill.), voted against it because he favored a tougher response to King.

The resolution, approved in a 424-1 vote, doesn’t directly rebuke King.

Instead, it states that the House “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 only direct reference to King in the resolution is a recap of his comments to The New York Times when he asked: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Rush and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanTim Ryan ‘seriously considering’ 2020 bid Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 House Democrat warns ethics committee about Steve King promoting white nationalism website MORE (D-Ohio) could each force votes under House rules on their respective resolutions to censure King as soon as Wednesday. 

Rush said the resolution approved Tuesday was too soft on King and said he could even push to expel the Iowa Republican if there is another incident.

“The Republicans took a more definitive action than the Democrats, and it really makes me wonder what’s really going on here,” he said. “It’s a denial and … disregard for the pain and the problems that black people face in this country. They kind of want to paste over it, rather than deal with it.” 

Clyburn acknowledged that his own resolution, which the House adopted Tuesday, “doesn't go far enough for me,” adding that he would support a censure of King. He said he opted for the language rejecting white supremacy to accommodate lawmakers who didn't want to go as far.

“I try, when I can, not to make people uncomfortable. When I can, I try to accommodate people's feelings and positions. And we have a few people who are uncomfortable with censure, but very comfortable with disapproval,” Clyburn told reporters after Tuesday’s vote.

Other CBC members said more action should be taken against King.

“I think the resolution today was fine. But I think that the Republican Caucus needs to take over the situation. They went part of the way yesterday. They need to go the rest of the way today, which is to expel him from their caucus,” CBC Chairwoman Karen BassKaren Ruth BassWhitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers Congressional Black Caucus leaders call on Northam to resign Congressional Black Caucus faces tough decision on Harris, Booker MORE (D-Calif.) said.

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), a Muslim and CBC member, wished the resolution had “stronger language, but we're gonna work with what we have.”

“It's been watered-down, pasteurized, homogenized, but the point is clear: We have to denounce the vicious toxicity of white supremacy in any form, by any member who purports to be a supporter of it and its tenants,” Carson said.

King himself voted for the resolution in an effort to demonstrate that he does not support white supremacy. 

“I want to compliment the gentleman from South Carolina for bringing this resolution. And I've carefully studied every word in this resolution and even though I'd add some more that are stronger language, I agree with the language in it,” King said during House floor debate, directly facing Clyburn.

“What you state here is right and it's true and it's just,” he said.

It’s hardly the first time King has ignited a firestorm for making inflammatory comments about immigration and race. But it is the first time GOP leaders have taken concrete, official action to punish King.

In 2013, King said in an interview with Newsmax that for every undocumented immigrant who becomes a valedictorian, “there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

Then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word Left flexes muscle in immigration talks MORE (R-Ohio) at the time called King's comments “deeply offensive and wrong.”

In 2017, King tweeted support of an anti-Muslim nationalist Dutch politician and wrote, “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” Then-Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) told Fox News at the time that “I disagree with that statement.”

King also publicly supported a white nationalist candidate for Toronto mayor last year, retweeted a Nazi sympathizer and told an Austrian publication, “What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have?” That led to then-National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversRep. Steve King pushes GOP to reinstate his committee assignments GOP lawmakers offer several locations for Trump address House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (Ohio) publicly condemning him days before the November election.

King narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger last fall, which has subsequently led to primary challengers announcing bids against him in recent days. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.) declined to say if King should resign, saying, “I think that's up to Steve King.”

Asked why punitive action hadn't been taken against King until now, McCarthy said that he is a “brand new leader” and had reviewed King's past comments.

“There is no room for white supremacy,” McCarthy said. 

But King could get booted from the other remaining groups he's been a member of on Capitol Hill, like the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC). 

Asked if King should be forced out of the RSC, the new RSC chairman, Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonHouse panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales Lawmakers push crackdown on foreign lobbyists House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-La.), replied: “It's very difficult to defend comments like that. It's not my decision. Under our bylaws, the membership makes that so I'm sure there will be a very difficult discussion about that.”

But he said that King's ability to serve would be hamstrung without committee assignments. 

“I don't know what Steve's gonna do. When you get stripped of your committee assignments, it's very difficult to be an effective member of Congress. He's already drawn a challenger back home and he has to make that personal decision. It would be very difficult to continue having taken that hit to his credibility and not having committee assignments,” Johnson said.

Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.