House to vote this week on reprimanding Steve King for racist comments

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House to vote this week on reprimanding Steve King for racist comments





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By Lindsey McPherson and Katherine Tully-McManus

CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The House will vote this week to condemn Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King for comments he has made that they view as racist, according to Majority Whip James E. Clyburn.

Clyburn, speaking to Roll Call after a Democratic leadership meeting Monday, said the exact format of the vote has not yet been decided. The South Carolina Democrat said he personally plans to introduce a resolution of disapproval against King.

Democratic leaders decided to hold a vote on Clyburn’s resolution disapproving of King’s comments, according to a leadership aide, who said the vote will likely be held Tuesday.

That would be different from censure resolutions two Democrats, Bobby Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio, have introduced against King.

Censure, which amounts to a vote and a public shaming, is the chamber’s most stringent form of punishment for its own, short of expulsion.

Rush, a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Monday that Congress “cannot be a platform for Steve King and those of his ilk” and compared him to a rabid animal.

King has faced backlash in recent days for questioning, in a New York Times interview, why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” had become “offensive.”

“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color. As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated,” Rush said in a statement.

Ryan announced his intention to censure King last week, after the Times article came out.

“The dangerous ideology of white supremacy has no place in America — let alone Congress. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, we all have a responsibility to call out Rep. King’s hateful and racist comments,” Ryan said in a statement Monday.

Clyburn’s resolution to reprimand King won’t go as far as a censure.

“I don’t think we in the House should be censuring somebody for what he said to a reporter,” he said.

A reprimand in the House is a lesser punishment than a censure, but also includes a formal vote by the entire House.

Options for punishing members of Congress are loosely outlined in Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution, which states that “each House (of Congress) may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”

A censure is a formal, majority vote in the House on a resolution disapproving of a member’s conduct, generally with the additional requirement that the member stand in the well of the chamber and receive a verbal rebuke and reading of the resolution by the speaker.

Censures are considered “privileged resolutions” and must be noticed on the floor before being introduced, which means that Rush, Ryan, and Clyburn will each have to announce on the floor that they intend to offer their measures. Next, the text of the resolution would be read. After that, the speaker has up to two legislative days to set a day and time for consideration of the measure.

At the appointed time, the sponsor would call up the censure resolution for immediate consideration of the floor. No matter what else is pending on the floor, the censure resolution would take precedence. The House could proceed to immediate debate on the measure, or it could be tabled. If it is tabled, the House would have to vote on an appeal by the sponsor.

Debate on the censure resolution would be a full hour, with 30 minutes controlled by the sponsor of the censure and the rest controlled by an opponent. Following debate, the resolution would be voted on by the House.

Throughout history, 23 House members have been censured for a range of misconduct, from using insulting language on the floor to assaulting other lawmakers. In more recent history, censures have stemmed from behavior such as payroll fraud, sexual misconduct and financial improprieties.

Technically, there are no express consequences in the House rules after a member has been censured.

The most recent lawmaker to face censure was New York Democrat Charles B. Rangel in 2010. The House Ethics Committee recommended the action after Rangel was found to have misused federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, used a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failed to pay taxes on a rental property in the Dominican Republic, and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.

More than 100 Democrats and a handful of Republicans voted to reduce Rangel’s punishment from censure to reprimand, but that motion was defeated. In the final vote on Dec. 2, 2010, that followed on censure, the House approved the penalty on a vote of 333-79. Earlier that year, he had taken a leave of absence as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. After censure, he officially handed over the gavel.

Although he asked for mercy from the censure, Rangel did make remarks in the well that day that emphasized the public nature of the punishment. “I stand to say that I have made serious mistakes. I do believe rules are made to be enforced. I do believe we in the Congress have a higher responsibility than most people. I do believe that senior members should act in a way as a model for new and less experienced members,” he said on the floor that day.

Criticism of King has been building.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said over the weekend on CBS’ “Face The Nation” that there is no place for King’s language.

“Action will be taken. I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party,” McCarthy told host Margaret Brennan. On Monday, the minority leader met with King, but neither released details of their meeting.

McCarthy last week denounced King’s language as “reckless” and “wrong,” saying in a statement: “Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation.”

Rush called for McCarthy to remove King from his committee assignments “until he apologizes for his racism.” The rest of the Congressional Black Caucus made a similar call over the weekend.

“Anything less than these substantive actions is another tacit acceptance of racism from the Republican Party,” CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass, D-Calif., said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that punitive action will be taken against King, but didn’t specify if it would be censure.

“We’ll see what we do about Steve King but nonetheless, nothing is shocking anymore, right? The new normal around here is to praise white supremacists and nationalism as something that shouldn’t be shunned,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

Perhaps in a sign of how toxic the Iowa Republican has become, GOP lawmakers in the Senate are also speaking out against King, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate.

“There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind. I have no tolerance for such positions and those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell said. “Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.”

South Carolina’s Scott wrote an op-ed Friday in The Washington Post, joining a chorus of Republicans in Congress condemning King’s remarks.

“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott wrote.

King has been making inflammatory comments about race and immigration for years. In 2013 he spoke out against putting “Dreamers,” young undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents, a path to legal status.

“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said.

While members of GOP leadership at that time criticized King’s words and characterization of immigrants, no action was taken against King. In fact, he doubled down later that week during a radio appearance.

“This is real. We have people that are … drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months,” King said.


(Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)


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