House Republican leaders stripped Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his committee assignments Monday night, the latest fallout for the once-powerful conservative hardliner following his most recent racially charged remarks.
The House GOP’s steering committee voted unanimously to remove King from his committees, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced Monday night. McCarthy supported the punishment.
King had been the ranking Republican on a subcommittee of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, and has for years been an outspoken anti-immigration voice with a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric. He had also had a spot on the Agriculture Committee.
The move is by far the most significant action House Republicans have taken against King, who for more than a decade has drawn attention for comments about Muslims and immigrants that many have viewed as racist.
For years, King appeared untouchable by Republican leaders. He remained immensely popular and powerful with the base back at home, a GOP kingmaker in the nation’s most important caucus state. His 2015 event in Des Moines was attended by nearly every GOP presidential aspirant.
But his grip on power has been slipping even in the Trump era, as King barely won reelection in his heavily conservative district last fall. His latest remarks — made to the New York Times in a recent story about how he paved the way for President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric — proved to be a bridge too far.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King told the Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
After that article created a firestorm King sought to clarify those comments — but never fully walked away from them.
That triggered a wave of denouncements of King — including home-state former allies like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who rarely weigh in on others’ scandals. House Democrats, meanwhile, have prepared bills to officially censure the lawmaker.
The dam finally burst on Monday, as McCarthy met privately with King for an hour before the steering committee meeting where he pushed to strip the longtime firebrand of his committee powers.
King derided the move as “a political decision that ignores the truth” in a statement, while suggesting he still might run for another term in Congress.