Iowa Rep. Steve King is facing an increasingly hostile Congress Monday, with Democrats rushing to formally punish him and at least one Republican Senator saying he should resign over controversial remarks he made last week that seemingly embraced racist terms, including “white supremacy.”
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) announced he would be filing a censure motion on Monday to hold the Iowa Republican accountable for “his pattern of racist and xenophobic statements” going back to 2006. Shortly afterward, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) unveiled his own censure resolution, which specifically targets comments King made to The New York Times last week. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has said he will sign on as a cosponsor.
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“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color,” Rush, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. “As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated.”
Added Ryan: “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we all have a responsibility to call out Rep. King’s hateful and racist comments. It’s far past time that Congress holds him accountable.”
Separately, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Monday that King should “absolutely” resign.
“He doesn’t have a place in our party, he doesn’t have a place in polite company and certainly should not have a place in Congress,” Romney said. “I’d back him getting out of Congress and getting out of our party, as well as a challenge politically.”
King currently serves on the Judiciary, Agriculture and Small Business panels.
The move comes as both Democratic leaders have condemned King’s comments to The New York Times and Republicans have taken great pains to distance themselves from the remarks.
In the interview, King questioned aloud when terms like “white nationalist, white supremacist and western civilization” became “offensive.”
King later issued a statement saying he “rejects” the labels “white nationalism and white supremacy.” But his remarks are just the latest in a years-long pattern of using offensive and crude language to describe people of color.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest ranking African American in Congress, is also planning to introduce a resolution of disapproval in response to King, although it wouldn’t go as far as censure.
Clyburn’s resolution is expected to condemn white supremacy more broadly, according to a Democratic aide, and comes the same week as Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday.
But Clyburn said a censure motion against King would be an overreach in his opinion.
“I don’t think we in the House should be censuring somebody for what he said to a reporter,” Clyburn said Monday afternoon. “If it was something he said on the House floor, yeah maybe.”
Leadership decided to move ahead with a Clyburn resolution disapproving of Rep. King’s comments, with a vote likely Tuesday. Clyburn did a “disapproval” resolution of Rep. Joe Wilson’s 2009 comments directed at former President Barack Obama.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said there is “interest” in action being taken against King but wouldn’t commit to anything at the time. Her office did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.
Democrats are expected to discuss what to do next at their weekly leadership meeting Monday night.
A censure motion would be a severe rebuke and one that is used in the House only in the most extreme cases. The House has not voted to formally censure a member since 2010, when former Rep. Charles Rangel was found guilty of multiple ethics violations.
King is also set to meet Monday afternoon with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the first time since his comments to The New York Times, a GOP leadership aide confirmed.
McCarthy told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “action would be taken” though he has not said how King will be formally reprimanded for his remarks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also released a statement criticizing King’s remarks on Monday, saying he has “no tolerance for such positions.”
“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,” McConnell wrote in a statement.
House GOP leaders have not yet announced whether King will be permitted to keep his coveted slot on the House Judiciary Committee, where he led the subcommittee on the constitution and civil justice.
King would be in line to become ranking member on that subcommittee, though Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the full Judiciary panel, has also blasted King’s comments.
“There’s no room in American values for the language that Steve King used,” Collins said in a statement last week. “Racism and white supremacy are wicked. They’re incompatible with what we know to be true, that every person is made with untold dignity and value.”
James Arkin and Laura Barrón–López contributed.