Steve King just keeps saying crazy stuff. So…
At what point is enough enough? And why hasn’t Steve King done enough to get him kicked out of Congress?
That’s the question all moderately reasonable people — of all political persuasions — have to be asking themselves in the wake of the Iowa Republican congressman’s latest controversial comments.
“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said in Urbandale, Iowa, according to video posted online by the Des Moines Register, which was first to report on the remarks Wednesday.
King appears to be suggesting that without rape and incest, none of us would be here. I think?
That’s obviously a totally inaccurate and indefensible position. And it’s just the latest of those that King has seen fit to share with the world over his time in office representing western Iowa. Among his other greatest misses:
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” (March 2017)
“They chose to have a Congressional Black Caucus. They chose to have an abortion. I would give you even money that a vast majority of mothers who say they can’t afford an abortion have an iPhone, which costs more.” (September 2016)
There’s more — lots and lots more — and the Register and The New York Times have comprehensive lists of all the dumb, insensitive, intolerant, xenophobic and racist things King has said over the years. But let me sum it up for you: We know who Steve King is. We’ve known for a while now. So why is he still in Congress?
After King’s questioning of when the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” became offensive, he was condemned by House Republican leaders and stripped of his committee assignments. That episode also spurred several Republicans to announce their plans to primary King in 2020. More recently, JD Scholten, a Democrat who lost to King in 2018, announced his plans to run again.
One of King’s 2020 primary opponents, Republican Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra, responded to his latest comments Wednesday by saying: “I am 100% pro-life, but Congressman King’s bizarre comments and behavior diminish our message and damage our cause. We can’t afford to hand the 4th District to Nancy Pelosi and her allies in Congress. President Trump needs defenders in Congress, not distractions.”
The question House Republican leaders (likely in consultation with the White House) will have to ask themselves in the wake of these new inflammatory comments by King is whether they can wait until next year’s primary to deal with King. (King has made clear on any number of occasions he has no plans to resign or retire.)
In the past, House Republicans have resisted more extreme measures to deal with King, noting that he won reelection in 2018 despite that race revolving around his intolerant and impolitic comments. So, who are they to overturn the will of the voters of his district? Perhaps their hope was that King would get beat in the Republican primary and be forced to simply go away. But is that plan operable now?
To be clear: There is a simple way that King could be removed from his seat. It’s right there in the Constitution — Article I, Section 5, clause 2. The House can expel one of its own if two-thirds of the members agree to a formal expulsion resolution.
To say it doesn’t happen all that much would be a gross understatement. Only five times in the history of the republic has the House voted to expel a member — three times during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union and two times (Michael Myers and Jim Traficant) when members had been convicted of bribery and other crimes.
So the only times a member has been expelled is when that member sided with the Confederacy or had been convicted of a federal crime. King doesn’t fit either of those categories, which would make an effort to expel him groundbreaking and, because of the cautious nature of Congress, not terribly likely. And Congress likely also doesn’t want to set a precedent of ejecting members for making comments their colleagues disagree with — when voters get to have a say every two years anyway.
There are lesser ways the House could impose its disapproval of King — most notably censure (more serious) and reprimand (less serious). As recently as 2010, the House has reprimanded one of its own — then-New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel — although the “penalty” for censure is to stand in the well of the House while the censure is read aloud. Not great, but not exactly expulsion.
The newness of these latest revelations about King means that House Republicans almost certainly haven’t decided what they should do about King. The Democratic majority, if they so chose, could force Republicans’ hands by putting a censure (or expulsion) resolution on the floor and making House GOPers go on the record as to King’s long history of comments.
No matter what happens next, Republicans are going to have to find a good answer for this question on King: How much is too much?