Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy

Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Steve King unveils 'Diamond and Silk Act' named for conservative YouTubers 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 ScottOn The Money: Trump weighs emergency declaration for Mexico tariffs | GOP senators look to rein in Trump on trade | Powell says Fed may cut rates if trade war hurts economy On The Money: Trump weighs emergency declaration for Mexico tariffs | GOP senators look to rein in Trump on trade | Powell says Fed may cut rates if trade war hurts economy Trump floats new emergency declaration to impose Mexico tariffs 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 PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments 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 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' 2020 Democrat: Harriet Tubman will be on 'within the first year of my presidency' Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement 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 CollinsTensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day Tensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day Nadler reaches deal with Justice on Mueller documents on eve of contempt vote 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 EmmerDCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women DCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection 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 passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' Here are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act 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 TlaibHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens MORE for calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' 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 StiversLawmakers battle over HUD protections for homeless transgender people Lawmakers battle over HUD protections for homeless transgender people Lawmakers say major changes needed to expand access to affordable housing 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.