Two Democratic lawmakers are offering measures to censure Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after his recent racist comments questioning why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are considered offensive.
The resolutions from Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio would serve as a formal reprimand of King, one step below expulsion.
Ryan said King’s comments on white nationalism in a New York Times story attempt to “legitimize white supremacy and white nationalism as acceptable in today’s society.”
“Enough is enough,” Ryan told HuffPost on Monday as he introduced his resolution. He said it’s “important for Congress to speak out very forcefully in a bipartisan way” that King’s remarks are “not acceptable.”
Michael Zetts, a Ryan spokesman, told HuffPost that his boss has discussed his resolution with both the House’s Democratic leadership and House Republicans.
“I’m hopeful that Republicans are going to be supportive,” Zetts said.
Ryan’s push for King’s censure came soon after Rush released a draft of a similar resolution. Ryan Johnson, a spokesman for Rush, told HuffPost that the lawmaker’s resolution will likely be introduced later this week.
“As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said in a statement. “His rabid racism continues to stain and embarrass this body and the years of deliberate silence from Republicans have only emboldened his ignorant and immoral behavior and empowered those who emulate him.”
Rush’s draft resolution includes a list of incidents illustrating King’s racism, including a 2006 remark on the House floor comparing immigrants to livestock and a 2016 Washington Post interview where he denounced the idea of multiculturalism.
“There is no home for this behavior, especially the floor of the United States House of Representatives,” Rush said in his statement. “Anything short of censure would be shallow.”
The two Democrats apparently were not aware of the other’s censure resolutions, their respective spokespeople told HuffPost.
Such a resolution requires only a simple majority in the House to pass. If approved, King would be required to stand in the House well while his colleagues formally reprimand him.
The last of 23 House members to be censured was former Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) in 2010, who faced the sanction over business dealings and campaign fundraising that violated the chamber’s ethics rules.
King, re-elected to a ninth term in November, has long spouted white nationalist rhetoric with little political consequence from his fellow Republicans. Over the past year, King has repeatedly promoted white nationalists and neo-Nazis on Twitter, and even endorsed a white supremacist candidate for mayor of Toronto. HuffPost also unearthed an interview he gave to an Austrian publication with ties to Europe’s neo-fascist “identitarian” movement.
In October, he defended the label “white nationalist,” telling an Iowa TV host that although it is “a derogatory term today, I wouldn’t have thought so maybe a year, or two or three ago.”
Last week’s New York Times story finally spurred Republicans to start to abandon King in droves. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King, 69, told the newspaper. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
In the wake of the After the Times’ story, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a longtime ally of the congressman, denounced him, as did House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
On Sunday, McCarthy said he would be meeting with GOP leadership to discuss ways to punish King. Possible punishments included stripping King of his congressional committee assignments.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky became the highest-ranking Republican to denounce King, saying he has “no tolerance” for the Iowan’s rhetoric.
“Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position,” McConnell told The Washington Post. “If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”