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Grassley Stands By House GOP Discipline Of King

Clay Masters/IPR file
U.S. House lawmakers are rebuking Rep. Steve King (R-IA) for his comments on white supremacy as some of his congressional colleagues call on him to resign.

Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator says he’s not surprised lawmakers are disciplining his congressional colleague Steve King. R-Iowa. The U.S. House roundly rebuked Representative Steve King Tuesday afternoon, voting overwhelmingly to pass a resolution denouncing white nationalism and white supremacy. The measure passed on a 424 to 1 vote, with the dissenting lawmaker, Representative Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, saying the measure didn't go far enough. That's after House GOP leaders stripped the Republican representative of his committee assignments Monday evening amidst renewed scutiny over King's comments on white supremacy.

Fourth District Rep. King has a history of comments that disparage minorities and immigrants, dating back to his time in the Iowa Statehouse. King has said he sees immigration and cultural diversity as a threat to American society.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, King is quoted questioning how white supremacy became offensive.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King is quoted in the paper. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Now the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, the number three Republican in the House, have said King "should find another line of work."

King's Democratic colleague in the House, Rep. Dave Loebsack, has also called for King to resign.

“Iowans deserve a Congressman who is able to fight on their behalf and now that Steve’s committee assignments have been taken away, he is unable to truly be a representative for the people. Iowans deserve someone who can serve without distraction, and advocate for the people of their district," Loebsack said in a written statement. "It is clear that Steve is no longer able to serve in that capacity and should, for the good of Iowa, resign and pass the important responsibilities of this office to another.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn’t go that far, but said Tuesday morning he would stand by a House decision to formally censure King.

“I’ll have to accept their judgement on it. I don’t disagree with the judgement and I’m not surprised that House Republicans took this step. It’s happened in the past as I’ve indicated when I was a member of the House, because a particular member dishonors the chamber," Grassley said. "Under our constitution I have to respect their decision. And I strongly disagree with any comments supporting white supremacy. It’s offensive. And it’s not a view that I hold.”

Grassley, along with Sen. Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds, have campaigned with King and endorsed his past candidacies, but say they do not condone his statements. 

"I condemn Rep. Steve King's comments on white supremacy; they are offensive and racist - and not representative of our state of Iowa," Ernst posted to her Twitter page.

Following the 2018 election cycle, Reynolds indicated she had lost patience with King's statements. 

“I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that," she said in mid November, according to the Des Moines Register.

King's recent comments to the Times are not new to many Iowans who have followed his career and noted his previous statements denigrating immigrants and racial minorities. 

In September 2016, King tweeted a photograph of himself with far-right politicians Frauke Petry of Germany and Geert Wilders of The Netherlands, both known for their anti-Islam views. King captioned the photo with the message "Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end."

In March 2017, American neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer celebrated King's support of Wilders, calling King a "Hero" and saying "Steve King is basically an open white nationalist at this point."

While King's statements in past years brought no formal discipline from his congressional colleagues, he now faces a slew of criticisms, the loss of his committee assignments, the possibility of a formal censure by the U.S. House, and a competitive primary in 2020. This all follows his narrow three point win during his closely-watched 2018 re-election campaign. King eked out a narrow victory over political newcomer J.D. Scholten, but saw his recent past vote margin of 23 points evaporate.

While the state's leading Republicans have stood by King in past campaigns, Reynolds and Grassley have said they won’t take sides in the Republican primary for the seat in 2020. Two GOP challengers have said they’ll run against the nine-term congressman.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter