Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingYoung Turks reporter tricks Steve King into tweeting about 'A Few Good Men' villain Holocaust survivor who offered to tour Auschwitz with Ocasio-Cortez calls for her to 'be removed from Congress' Liz Cheney hits back at Ocasio-Cortez over concentration camp comments: 'This isn't model Congress' MORE is facing a new political storm over his latest inflammatory comments about immigration and race ­— remarks in which he questioned why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were offensive.

Talk of censuring the Iowa Republican is picking up as he takes heavy criticism from his own party. There are also questions about whether he could lose the distinction of being a subcommittee ranking member in the current Congress.

A Friday floor speech in which he expressed regret for “heartburn” felt in Congress and in his district and the country over his remarks did not appear to quell the growing storm.

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Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Fox personalities blast Trump's remarks MORE (R-S.C.), the Senate's only black Republican, penned a Washington Post op-ed on Friday warning that King reflects poorly on the rest of the GOP.

“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” he wrote.

Scott compared King to Louis Farrakhan, describing both as “lonely voices in the wilderness.”

“King’s comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible,” Scott wrote.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.) said Friday that the House will take some punitive action against King.

“We’ll see what we do about Steve King but nonetheless, nothing is shocking anymore, right? The new normal around here is to praise white supremacists and nationalism as something that shouldn’t be shunned,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. 

But she declined to say what specific action the House might take.

“I’m not prepared to make any announcement about that right now,” Pelosi said. “But needless to say, there’s interest in doing something.” 

One House Democrat, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist 3 reasons billionaire activist Tom Steyer is running for president ProPublica to fund reporter to cover Youngstown, Ohio, after newspaper folds MORE (Ohio), called for King to be formally censured by the House for what he called “racist remarks.” A spokesman confirmed that Ryan's staff is drafting a censure resolution while the lawmaker further discusses the idea with colleagues.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) suggested earlier Friday that a repudiation from House GOP leaders would have more impact.

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“I think the most powerful statement should come from the Republican leadership. That doesn't mean that censure is inappropriate. I'm just saying I think when we speak out about our own side, it's much more powerful,” said Cleaver, who is African-American.

House GOP leaders, however, have not moved to take concrete action against King beyond issuing statements disapproving of his comments. 

In the previous Congress, King chaired the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice and could stand to remain its top Republican in the minority.

King said Friday that he hasn't heard anything from House GOP leaders threatening his committee assignments or his role on the Judiciary subcommittee. 

“I've heard nothing like that,” King told reporters. “But the more you guys write about that stuff, you know, then it becomes an issue.”

GOP leaders have not yet had the opportunity to finalize committee assignments for rank-and-file members at the start of the new Congress. A spokeswoman for Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Trump praises GOP unity in opposing resolution condemning tweets House votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments' MORE (Ga.), the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, didn't return a request for comment.

Iowa state Sen. Randy Feenstra announced a primary challenge against King this week, saying that “we don’t need any more sideshows or distractions.” A second Republican, Bret Richards, also told the Des Moines Register that he plans to run against King.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said this week that she would not endorse King in his next campaign, telling a local TV station that the last election “was a wake-up call for it to be that close.”

But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats frustrated by Hope Hicks's silence GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Republicans raise concerns over House campaign arm leadership MORE (R-Minn.) said it likely won't get involved in a primary in King's district.

And other House Republicans who criticized King for his comments were nonetheless wary of unequivocally punishing King.

Rep. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHouse votes to condemn Trump for 'racist comments' Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban MORE (R-Fla.), who called King's remarks “regrettable,” suggested it could be a slippery slope for comments that weren't made on the House floor.

“If you start censuring people for what they say outside, on their own, in an interview, we're going to need to open up and stay here for a long time,” Diaz-Balart said. “There's no monopoly from one member or from one party saying things are regrettable and offensive.”

Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellHouse GOP presses members to oppose resolution condemning Trump remarks as racist The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump creates new firestorm with 'go back' remarks Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Mich.) said that he would “probably vote in favor” of censuring King if there was also an opportunity to censure fellow Michigander and freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers House expected to vote Wednesday on Green's impeachment effort MORE for calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE a “motherf---er” last week.

“If you're going to do that, then let's talk about it in terms of standards for all members of Congress, which is we ought to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects well upon our nation and our constituencies. And I don't believe that either of them have. And that's embarrassing,” Mitchell said. 

King’s remarks to The New York Times about the terms white nationalist and white supremacist are far from the first time his comments have led to criticism from fellow Republicans.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he was quoted as telling the Times in a story published on Thursday.

“Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

King, who has served in Congress since 2003, has repeatedly drawn attention for inflammatory comments about immigration.

King tweeted in 2017 that “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.”

Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversOvernight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker House approves amendment to reverse transgender military ban Fed chief: Facebook crypto project poses 'serious concerns' for economy, consumers MORE (R-Ohio), then the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, rebuked King a week before Election Day last year for publicly supporting a white nationalist candidate in Toronto and saying to an Austrian publication: “What does this diversity bring that we don't already have?”

King sought to distance himself from white nationalism and white supremacy in both a written statement and his House floor speech. 

“I reject that ideology. I defend American civilization, which is an essential component of western civilization,” King said, adding that “I regret the heartburn that has poured forth upon this Congress and this country and especially in my state and in my congressional district.”

“I've never been anti-immigrant. I have been anti-illegal immigrant and I remain that way,” he said.