‘It was a political lynch mob’: Steve King pledges to fight GOP over his exile

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Rep. Steve King

GOP leaders have made it crystal clear that they have no intention of reassigning Iowa Rep. Steve King to his committees. | J. Scott Applewhite,/AP File Photo

Congress

The Iowa Republican is accusing Republican leaders of trying to kick him out of Congress.

Rep. Steve King, hellbent on making a congressional comeback, is vowing to look at all procedural options to force his way back onto the committees from which he was exiled.

But the Iowa Republican is finding little support from his colleagues for the doomed mission, which comes nearly six months after King was kicked off the panels for making racist remarks.

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“It was a political lynch mob. I had to let the blood cool,” King said in a rare interview Tuesday. “And the blood has now cooled, and now they don’t want to be faced with the reality of what they’ve done.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) briefly stood up during a Republican conference meeting on Tuesday morning to urge his colleagues to reinstate King on the House Agriculture and Judiciary committees. But not a single lawmaker clapped, cheered or remarked on the request, according to several sources in the room, and lawmakers quickly moved on to the next issue.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, have made crystal clear that they have no intention of reassigning King to his committees after he defended white supremacy and white nationalism during an interview with The New York Times earlier this year.

Still, King remained defiant, even after he ignited controversy last week by suggesting that not all cultures contribute equally to society.

“They think if they can keep the subject tamped down, that eventually it goes away. But each day that goes by, my patience gets thinner and thinner. And that means, then, that I have to turn this up,” King said.

“I don’t want this to be the only thing I do in this Congress,” he added, “but it is something I will not let go of.”

A handful of hard-line conservatives has been struggling to round up signatures for a petition aimed at winning back King’s committee seats. They would need to secure the backing of 25 lawmakers to force the GOP Steering Committee to consider the issue and 50 members to force the entire caucus to take a closed-ballot vote on the resolution.

King says he has been in contact with the conservatives about the long-shot effort, which has included some of his closest allies in Congress. In addition to Norman, GOP Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Brian Babin of Texas are also involved in the effort to reinstate King on the committees.

The hard-liners argue that King has been treated unfairly, saying his comments to the Times were misinterpreted. “It was unfair the way it was quoted,” Gohmert said. King came under fire for saying: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

King, however, has taken the criticism even further, accusing GOP leaders of deliberately using the episode — and stripping him of his committee assignments — to knock him out of Congress. King has a long history of controversial rhetoric that has consistently created headaches for leadership, but it wasn’t until his interview with the Times that party leaders decided to take disciplinary action.

King, who has already drawn multiple GOP primary challenges, has struggled to fundraise since the controversy unfolded this year. In the first three months of 2019, he raised just $61,666 — an ominous sign for the nine-term incumbent as he seeks to hang on to his congressional seat.

While King has been largely ostracized in the GOP there is at least one party leader who he feels hasn’t abandoned him: President Donald Trump.

Trump, who has swatted down accusations of racism himself, dodged questions about King earlier this year, saying he didn’t follow the controversy.

King, however, said he was “satisfied” with the president’s response, and pointed out that he was invited to an immigration event at the White House just a few weeks ago.

“The president and I are okay,” King said. “If you notice, he’s not been part of this.”

King will have another opportunity to appear alongside Trump next week, when he attends an Iowa GOP fundraiser in the Hawkeye state where the president will also be in attendance. But King declined to say whether he plans to ask Trump, who is close with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to intervene on his committee assignments.

“I’ll have to decide,” he said. “On some of these things, if you plan them too far in advance, it doesn’t work out so well.”



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