Rep. Steve King has already faced two reprimands this week from his colleagues for his racist comments, but there could be tougher punishment ahead. Some Democrats are calling for an official censure, and a few fellow Republicans are calling for King’s resignation.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will rule Wednesday on whether the proposals can move forward. A number of House Democrats have already said they are ready to take the step to make King the 24th lawmaker in history to be censured by the House.
On Monday, the Republican Steering Committee voted not to seat him on any committees, and on Tuesday — coincidentally the 90th birthday of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. — the House voted overwhelmingly for a resolution of “disapproval” of white supremacy that mentioned King in the text.
King ended up voting for the resolution himself, saying he agreed with its condemnations, which did not specifically single him out.
Watch — Steve King: ‘I want to ask my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, let’s vote for this resolution’
Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said bolder options are still on the table.
“I personally have no problem voting for the censure, and we’re going to be talking about that,” the Maryland Democrat said Tuesday.
“The things that have already happened have been significant. The Republicans saying he has no committee assignments, that means ‘we don’t want you in our caucus’ — that would almost be enough for other people to leave,” said Cleaver.
Censure is a formal, majority vote in the House on a resolution disapproving of a member’s conduct. It usually requires that the member stand in the well of the chamber and receive a verbal rebuke and reading of the full resolution by the speaker.
“I would vote for any measure that makes sure that the message is sent that no member of Congress or elected official should ever have these kinds of attitudes toward people in this country,” said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Rush’s resolution doesn’t mince words. It lays out direct quotes by King over the course of 12 years that question former President Barack Obama’s citizenship, comparing immigrants to dogs and livestock and referring to “anchor babies.”
The proposal is much more pointed than the resolution the House approved Tuesday, which mentioned King only once and broadly expressed rejection for white nationalism and white supremacy, without painting King with the same brush.
Rush was the lone vote against that disapproval measure, which he called “shallow.”
“This resolution just restates the obvious. It does not address Steve King’s violent, vitriolic, and rabid racism,” said Rush.
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.
It’s not yet clear which censure resolution would move forward if Pelosi decides to go ahead with the effort. Discussions are ongoing among Ryan, Rush and House leaders, including Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, who sponsored the disapproval measure approved Tuesday.
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, a New York Democrat, said he thinks the disapproval resolution “is just the beginning.”
“I don’t think there is any place for him or those comments in the United States Congress. … We’ve got to get rid of the climate and to show all the citizens of the United States that that’s not who we are as a country.”
Meeks said Republicans should take the lead on censuring King.
“They should do it,” he said. “They should be the ones to say, ‘We can’t tolerate this within our party — that this will eat us up like a cancer.’”
His own party
While no Republicans have offered censure resolutions in the House, some are going even further.
Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, called for King to “find another line of work,” just a day after King was stripped of his committee assignments.
“I agree with Leader McConnell actually. I think he should find another line of work,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney said Tuesday morning.
That was a reference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Monday said if King did not know what was wrong with white supremacy and white nationalism, as he said in a recent New York Times article, he should get out of politics.
“I think you’ve seen now repeated — this wasn’t the first time — but his language questioning whether or not the notion of white supremacy is offensive is absolutely abhorrent. It’s racist. We do not support it or agree with it,” Cheney said.
Mitt Romney, Utah’s brand-new Republican senator, called for King to resign on Tuesday.
He said King “ought to resign and move on and let someone else who represents American values take his seat,” adding that “he should find a different line of work.”
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.