Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Overnight Energy — Presented by Job Creators Network — House Republican tries to force Green New Deal vote | 'Awkward' hearing to vet Interior nominee and watchdog | House panel approves bill to stop drilling in Arctic refuge Steve King: One 'good side' of climate change could be shrinking deserts 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 ScottT.I., Charlamagne Tha God advocate for opportunity zones on Capitol Hill Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips Spicer defends Trump's White House correspondents dinner boycott 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' 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 RyanCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC GOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally in support of abortion rights 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 CollinsConservative filmmakers organizing stage play based on Strzok-Page texts: report The Go-Go's rock the stage at annual 'We Write the Songs' DC concert The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment 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 EmmerRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats 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-BalartHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill 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 MitchellLawmakers say improving transparency in higher education offers chance for bipartisanship Dem lawmaker calls bipartisan College Transparency Act a 'game changer' for higher education The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers split over Mueller findings: 'case closed' vs. 'cover-up' 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 TlaibTlaib urges Mnuchin to seek personal legal advice Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump MORE for calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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 StiversThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill House bill seeks to bolster security for synagogues, mosques in wake of attacks Congress can open financial institutions to legal cannabis industry with SAFE Banking Act 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.