House Republican leaders removed Representative Steve King of Iowa from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees on Monday night as party officials scrambled to appear tough on racism and contain damage from comments Mr. King made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive.
The punishment came on a day when Mr. King was denounced by an array of Republican leaders, though not President Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggested Mr. King find “another line of work” and Senator Mitt Romney said he should quit. And the House Republicans, in an attempt to be proactive, stripped him of the committee seats in the face of multiple Democratic resolutions to censure Mr. King that are being introduced this week.
Those measures would force Republicans to take a stand on the House Democratic majority’s attempt to publicly reprimand one of their own.
Mr. King, who has been an ally of President Trump on the border wall and other issues, has a long history of making racist remarks and insults about immigrants, but has not drawn rebukes from Republican leaders until recently. In November, top Iowa Republicans like Senator Charles E. Grassley endorsed Mr. King for re-election even after one House Republican official came out and denounced him as a white supremacist.
But in an interview with The Times published last week, Mr. King said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Speaking to reporters on Monday night after the House Republican leadership team acted, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, said he was not ruling out supporting a censure or reprimand resolution against Mr. King. He said the Republicans are not removing Mr. King from the G.O.P. House conference itself, so he can still attend its party meetings, and it was up to Iowans whether Mr. King should stay in office.
“This is not the first time we’ve heard these comments,” Mr. McCarthy said of Mr. King, an acknowledgment of the racist language the congressman has used before. “That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.”
Mr. McCarthy, who conferred privately with Mr. King for an hour before the vote, did not say why the most recent comments were a breaking point given Mr. King’s long public record of similar remarks. “Maybe I did not see those, but I disagree with these.”
The full Republican conference must still technically ratify the leader’s decision, but Mr. McCarthy presented the matter as closed.
Mr. King remained defiant after losing his committee seats, releasing a long statement insisting that his comments in the Times article had been misunderstood. He said he had been referring only to “western civilization” when he asked “how did that language become offensive,” not “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Trip Gabriel, Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos