Updated at 2:34 p.m. ET
‘House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promises “action will be taken” against Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King for his latest offering in a well-documented history of making racially charged or racially insensitive remarks.
“I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party,” McCarthy told CBS’s Face the Nation. The two lawmakers are expected to meet privately on Monday. “I will not stand back as a leader of this party, believing in this nation that all are created equal, that that stands or continues to stand and have any role with us.”
There are few options for punishment in the House: stripping King’s committee assignments, censuring him on the House floor and expulsion.
One Democrat, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, announced Monday he will introduce a resolution to formally censure King. In a statement, he chastised Republicans for tolerating King’s series of controversial comments. “Republicans, in the interest of political expediency, sought his endorsement, ignored his racist remarks, and continued to elevate him to positions of influence,” Rush said, “Only now that his behavior is well known to those outside the beltway and tainted him politically, do they vigorously denounce him.”
President Trump side-stepped a question about King in remarks to reporters ahead of a trip to New Orleans on Monday. “I haven’t been following,” Trump said.
King has represented a northwestern Iowa district for 16 years, during which time he has carved out a vocal role as a hard-liner on immigration and a self-described nationalist with a record of making controversial remarks. The latest confrontation surrounds comments he made in an interview last week with the New York Times in which he was quoted questioning why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” have become offensive.
There was an immediate push-back on and off Capitol Hill, and on Friday King took to the House floor to say he regretted talking to the Times and denied he was a racist. “I want to make one thing abundantly clear, I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define,” he said. “Under any fair political definition, I am simply an American nationalist.”
King has a well-established history of controversial rhetoric, and the latest incident comes as many within the GOP are already seeking to distance themselves politically — or defeat him in 2020. Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would not support King in his next primary after he narrowly won re-election against a Democrat in a safe Republican seat in 2018. She said she told the congressman: “You need to decide whether you want to represent the values of the fourth district or to do something else.” King is already facing a primary challenge from state Sen. Randy Feenstra.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., a rising star in the party and one of two African-American Republican in Congress, wrote a Washington Post editorial in which he chastised the party for not doing more to improve relations with minority communities. “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said,” he wrote, “Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people.”
Democratic leaders and members of the Congressional Black Caucus denounced King, as they have done in the past. In a statement, the CBC called or Republicans to revoke King’s committee assignments, which includes a perch on the House Judiciary Committee. “Republicans should make clear Mr. King is no longer welcomed in their party or Congress,” CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., said in a statement, “Anything less than these substantive actions is another tacit acceptance of racism from the Republican Party.”