We may soon learn what the future holds for Iowa Congressman Steve King in the wake of his bizarre comments to the New York Times where he wondered how white supremacy got such a bad rap. There was an instant surge of talk about “doing something” about King, but nobody seemed to know exactly what that “something” might be. I’ve already gone on record saying that officially censuring King (or any other member) over words they have said would be a risky strategy.
Of course, nobody listens to me. (And why would they?) Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out this weekend and promised that there would be some sort of “action” in this matter, but once again failed to provide any specifics. And now the long knives are coming out in King’s own party. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has scheduled a meeting with King for today, also promising that some “action” is coming soon. (NY Post)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday said he and his fellow Republicans are ready to take action against Rep. Steve King for questioning why terms like “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” are considered offensive.
“Action will be taken,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
He added, “I’m having a serious conversation with Congressman Steve King on his future and role in this Republican Party.”
McCarthy said that he will meet with the Iowa Republican on Monday.
So what can McCarthy and the House GOP caucus do about Steve King? If they plan on going the official route, they could choose to attempt to either expel, censure or reprimand him. The first seems preposterous. The House has only ever expelled five people, and three of them were for joining the Confederacy. Two others (Michael Myers and James Traficant) were both convicted of very serious federal charges.
I’ve already made my thoughts clear about censuring King, so the last option would be a reprimand. The same situation applies here. Reprimands have been used less frequently than censures, and it was almost always for violations of the law or House rules of order. The two people who have been reprimanded for “saying something” were Bob Dornan and Joe Wilson. The former was reprimanded for comments about Bill Clinton’s actions during the Vietnam War and the latter for yelling “you lie” at Barack Obama during a speech.
Those last two reprimands weren’t exactly our finest hour. Rudeness and hyperbole aren’t desirable in congressional conduct, but they are hardly crimes, either.
There are other options on the table, however, which don’t send a signal threatening free speech. King holds seats on committees for Agriculture, Small Business and the Judiciary. The last one, in particular, gives him considerable power. The GOP leadership could boot him from any or all of those committee positions and the Democrats would clearly be all to happy to go along with the plan.
King is also a member of several caucuses including the Republican Study Committee, the Tea Party and the Congressional Constitution Caucus. Any of those groups could also show him the door, with or without the support of the House leadership. These actions would not remove King from his office or take away his vote, but they would be significant political embarrassments. And none would place an offical stamp of approval from Congress on the idea of punishing people for saying words.
If I had to make a prediction right now I’d say that the meeting between McCarthy and King will result in some sort of joint statement where King “voluntarily” resigns from some of the positions I listed above. That allows the House GOP to look like they took “action” and still spares King the ignominy of being formally rebuked.