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GOP leader says he never told Steve King he'd back reinstating him on panels

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy urges networks not to call presidential race until 'every polling center has closed' House Republicans slated to hold leadership election on Nov. 17 Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire MORE (R-Calif.) said Friday he did not tell Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingDemocrats lead in 3 of 4 Iowa House races: poll Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE he would reinstate him on committees he was removed from last year after the Iowa Republican's controversial comments about white supremacy and Western civilization.

McCarthy also said doesn’t believe there is an easy path for King to return to his committee posts.

“Congressman King's comments cannot be exonerated. I never said that. Committee assignments are decided by the Steering Committee, he'll have the opportunity to make his case. I think members on the Steering Committee, I think he'd get the same answer that he got before,” he said at a press conference Friday. 

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McCarthy also said he did not plan to take a position with or against King in his primary fight against state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa). 

“I have not taken a position on his race, no," McCarthy said. "If he wins reelection he has the right to go to the Steering Committee and the Steering Committee would take up the committee assignments just like every Congress, just like every single member." 

“And that's the discussion that we had," McCarthy added. "Just I said he has the right to go to the Steering Committee in Congress. Constituents decide to put him in Congress, he is in Congress, committees are decided by the Steering Committee by the conference, just as every other member inside Congress on the Republican side.” 

King had claimed he had reached a deal with McCarthy and that the majority leader would advocate for him to be placed back in his committee positions.

“On April 20, Kevin McCarthy and I reached an agreement that he would advocate to the steering committee to put all of my committees back, all of my seniority," King said during a forum, the Sioux City Journal first reported. 

“When Congress comes back into session, when the steering committee can (inaudible) together, I have Kevin McCarthy’s word that that will be my time for exoneration,” King said. 

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But McCarthy said he made no such promise, telling reporters he only agreed to allow the embattled Iowa Republican to make his case before the Steering Committee, which is tasked with choosing which members sit on committees.

A number of members on the Steering Committee have voiced their opposition to King being placed back on committees. 

“Someone forwarded me an article where Rep. Steve King claims he will get his committees back next year,” Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Business groups back pandemic insurance bill modeled on post-9/11 law National Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus MORE (R-Ohio) said in an Instagram post earlier this week. 

“I am a member of the Republican Steering Committee and former NRCC Chairman, and as long as I am a member of the Steering Committee, I will not allow that type of person or that type of ideology to influence the legislation passed by Congress. He will not be serving on any committee. Steve King does more to hurt Republican and conservative causes than help,” he said. 

In a January 2019 interview with The New York Times, King said "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King has argued his remarks were taken out of context.

They were just the latest public remarks by the Republican that have sparked controversy while irritating many of his colleagues.