I’ve previously written about how it might be preferable to simply remove Iowa Congressman Steve King’s committee and caucus memberships rather than reprimanding or censuring him. Turns out that Congress decided to go with the “All of the Above” strategy. As John already discussed, King will not be seated on any committees in the current Congress. That seemed a fairly rigorous punishment, perhaps suitable in response to someone voicing support for white supremacy, but virtually all of the members felt they needed to take the extra step of a formal reprimand.
The only truly surprising vote came from King himself. After railing against the idea of his right to free speech being impinged, the congressman decided to vote in favor of his own reprimand. (NBC News)
The lawmaker, who has a history of offensive remarks about immigrants, himself supported passage of the measure, saying that it was “true” and “just.”
The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Tuesday disapproving of racist remarks by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, amid a wave of bipartisan denunciation.
H. Res 41, introduced by Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., says that “the House of Representatives once again rejects White nationalism and White supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
So in the end, King was officially reprimanded for words he said to a reporter. Granted, they were some pretty bad words, but it remains a disquieting pattern in Congress.
The other question I’ve seen popping up is whether this was actually a formal “Reprimand” or a more general rebuke. (“Rebuke” is the word I’ve seen popping up in most media coverage.) Before the vote, Roll Call published an explainer on the difference between a Censure and a Reprimand, but it doesn’t go into much detail. While some of the wording used in the House resolution may lead to confusion, this was still an official reprimand. The full text of the resolution may be found here.
King’s name only appears once, in the first paragraph, as part of a reference to what he said to the reporter. The bulk of the document is then taken up by “Whereas…” references to quotes from various sources across history dealing with white supremacy, white nationalism and racism. They run the gamut from Lincoln to Reagan, also including references to hate crimes committed by white supremacists. The final “resolved” statement doesn’t mention King, but instead states that “the House of Representatives once again rejects White nationalism and White supremacy.” The word “reprimand” does not appear in the document.
But that’s fairly typical. When Joe Wilson was reprimanded for shouting “you lie” at President Obama during a speech, the text of his reprimand, while much shorter, followed the same pattern. The resolution at the end simply states “That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress…”
So disapproval is a reprimand for these purposes. Assuming King’s tongue doesn’t get the better of him, that should be the end of that. But the House resolution has no other impact on him. He’s still free to continue serving and voting. The real damage to his power in Washington will be his removal from the Judiciary Committee. Beyond that, however, his fate remains in the hands of the voters. Keep in mind that after Charlie Rangel was censured in 2010 (the harsher version of this punishment), he went on to continue serving in Congress until 2017.