House Votes to Disapprove Steve King's White Supremacy Comments

(Bloomberg) -- The House passed a resolution of disapproval stemming from Representative Steve King’s comments on white supremacy, and the Iowa Republican himself backed the measure saying he agreed with "every word that you’re putting in this."

The House voted 424-1 for the measure Tuesday, a day after King’s fellow Republicans stripped him of his committee assignments. The resolution, introduced by third-ranking House Democrat Jim Clyburn, said the House "rejects white nationalism and white supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance."

"White supremacy and white nationalism are evils," Clyburn of South Carolina said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "We have reached a tipping point," he said. "This body must speak out against this evil."

The resolution cited last week’s New York Times interview in which King is quoted as saying, "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" But the measure didn’t specifically rebuke King.

Shortly before the vote, King didn’t dispute the quote but said it was taken out of context. He said on the House floor there was "no tape" of the Times interview, and that he agrees with the resolution in rejecting white nationalism and white supremacy.

"I understand and recognize the gravity" of the issue, King said. "I thought you all knew me well."

The Des Moines Register, the biggest newspaper in his home state, called on King to resign in an editorial that cited his "warped views of cultural purity and immigration" and cited GOP leaders’ decision to strip his membership on the Agriculture Committee.

Censure Possible

Democrats may also move to censure King, which would be more serious than a disapproval resolution. Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Bobby Rush of Illinois introduced censure resolutions on Monday. Rush said he wouldn’t support Clyburn’s resolution and will force a vote on his resolution as soon as Wednesday.

“I believe the House of Representatives should go one step further and issue a resolution of censure of Steve King,” Ryan said.

Other Democrats said Clyburn’s resolution, H. Res. 41, would have an easier time gaining bipartisan support. “We want a strong vote on the Clyburn resolution," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries said Tuesday.

House Republicans took action against King Monday night when their steering committee voted to strip him of his committee assignments following a meeting between King and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. King was a member of the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business committees.

Several high-ranking Republicans also spoke out against King on Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said King’s comments are “unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position,” and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah called on King to resign.

After the Times interview was published King defended himself on the House floor by calling himself an "American nationalist," not a white nationalist or white supremacist.

King, 69, has served in the House since 2003 and has a long history of making racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments, as well as tying himself to foreign and domestic far-right, nationalist figures. Republicans and donors distanced themselves from King prior to the November 2018 midterm elections, when he narrowly won re-election.

Iowa state Senator Randy Feenstra recently announced he would challenge King in the Republican primary in 2020.

McCarthy declined to say Tuesday if King should leave office. “I think that’s up to Steve King," he said at a leadership press conference Tuesday. "The voters have elected him, the House Republicans denounce his language.” Asked if President Donald Trump agreed with Republicans’ decision, McCarthy declined to answer.

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