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Disapproval resolution on Steve King passes, but will not likely be the last word

Iowa Republican disputes racist remarks, but urges chamber to disavow them anyway

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, looks for his ride after the final votes of the week on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, looks for his ride after the final votes of the week on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Steve King voted “yes” on a resolution meant to rebuke him for making racist comments, a strange turn of events as the House voted, 424-1 to disapprove of the Iowa Republican.

“I’m putting up a ‘yes’ on the board here because what you say is true, is right and is just,” King said on the House floor before the vote.

The resolution stated that the body rejects white nationalism and white supremacy as “hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”

The measure, sponsored by Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, was taken up under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that requires two-thirds support.

Watch: Steve King— ‘I want to ask my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution’

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On Jan. 10, King was quoted in the New York Times as asking, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King did not apologize while speaking on the floor Tuesday. Instead, he said the quote in the Times misrepresented his views. 

“There’s no way to go back and listen, but I can tell you this: That ideology never shows up in my head. I don’t know how it could possibly come out of my mouth,” said King on the floor.

Still, King said he has “carefully studied every word” in the resolution of disapproval and agrees with the substance. “I want to ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution,” he said.

Clyburn’s resolution names King just once, and only to mention his quote in the Times. It does not address King’s longstanding reputation for insulting immigrants and minority groups, including on the floor of the House. The measure broadly expresses rejection for white nationalism and white supremacy, without painting King with the same brush.

The disapproval vote is not the first, and perhaps not the final, move meant to reprimand the congressman.

King was punished by his own party Monday night, when the Republican Steering Committee unanimously decided not to seat him on any committees for the 116th Congress.

And there are two measures to censure King pending in the House, offered by Democratic Reps. Bobby L. Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio. Censure, which amounts to a vote and a public shaming, is the chamber’s most stringent form of punishment, short of expulsion.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has until Wednesday afternoon to decide when to take up those measures.

Rush did not vote for the disapproval measure, which he called “shallow.” “This resolution just restates the obvious. It does not address Steve King’s violent, vitriolic, and rabid racism,” Rush said.

He urged the House to move forward with censure, a move that is directed at an individual member.

Steve King has made a career of making racist statements. That is the only thing he is known for and this pattern of rabid racism must be confronted head on by the House of Representatives,” Rush said.

A decision has not yet been made about how to handle the pending censure resolutions, according to Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer. “I personally have no problem voting for the censure, and we’re going to be talking about it,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Hoyer suggested that the seriousness of censure is what the caucus is weighing as it decides how to proceed with those resolutions.

He drew a comparison between King’s actions and words to the last House member who faced a censure, Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel. The House censured Rangel in 2010 after he was found to have misused federal resources, failed to pay taxes on a rental property and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms. King’s behavior “far exceeds” that, Hoyer said.

“What King is doing and what others have done is to encourage the undermining of the basic principles of our country,” Hoyer said. “In my opinion that is a more dangerous phenomena than anything Charlie Rangel did.”

If it comes to censure, Rep. Gregory W. Meeks hopes that the effort would be led by House Republicans.

“I’m saying that they should do it themselves. They should do it. They should be the ones to say ‘we can’t tolerate this within our party. This will eat up at us like a cancer,’” the New York Democrat said Tuesday.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report. 

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