GOP leaders step up pressure on Steve King

Republican leaders are stepping up their pressure on Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King after he made comments defending white supremacy and white nationalism, with the number three House Republican leader saying he should not be in Congress.

“I think he should find another line of work,” Rep. Liz Cheney, the GOP Conference Chairwoman, told reporters,  echoing comments made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Monday. McConnell said in a statement, “”There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind. I have no tolerance for such positions and those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”

Congressional Republicans issued a sharp rebuke to King on Monday, barring the veteran lawmaker from serving on any House committees as punishment for comments he made defending white supremacy and white nationalism.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had pledged to take “action” against the Iowa lawmaker on “Face the Nation” Sunday, told reporters on Monday evening that the party’s steering committee had voted unanimously to deny King any committee posts in the current congressional session. King had served on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business Committees in the previous Congress.

Cheney called the removal of King from committee assignments a  “very significant and serious step.” “We have been very clear,” she said, calling his views “absolutely abhorrent.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, was more blunt, and called on King to resign. “Steve King’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in polite society. And certainly no place in the Republican party,” Romney told reporters Monday evening. “And they should have no place in the United States Congress. He ought to resign and move on and let someone else who represents American values take his seat.”

The most recent firestorm against King’s views began on Thursday, when the  New York Times published an interview in which he said white nationalism and white supremacism were not offensive terms. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

King, in a statement, said his comments had been mischaracterized by the Times. He reacted to McCarthy’s move by calling it a “political decision that ignores the truth.” 

Alan He, Rebecca Kaplan and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.

Sen. Tim Scott, who wrote an opinion piece for the Times soon afterward criticizing Republicans for their silence on King’s comments, did not demand he leave the House. “I have clearly not called on him to resign and I’m not going to call on him to resign,” the Senate’s only black senator told reporters Tuesday. He added that he doubted King would resign. 

Some Republican leaders were noncommittal on whether King should leave Congress. Asked by reporters whether King should resign, McCarthy said Tuesday that “I think that’s up to Steve King,” noting that “it’s still early” to know whether he is even planning on running for re-election. King is facing a primary challenge in 2020 from state Sen. Randy Feenstra. In 2018, King fended off a challenge from Democrat J.D. Scholten, although he won by a narrower margin than he has in the past.

McCarthy also was asked if President Trump shares his views on King. “Which view is that? That we need border security?  Yes, he does,” McCarthy said, avoiding the question. When asked about King on Monday,  Mr. Trump said “I haven’t been following it. I really haven’t been following it.”

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