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Conservatives push to reinstate Steve King on committees despite racist remarks

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Steve King

Rep. Steve King was booted from his committee assignments after making racist comments earlier this year. | Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

A small group of House Republicans is leading a long-shot bid to get embattled Rep. Steve King back on his committee assignments after the Iowa Republican was booted for making racists remarks earlier this year.

The cadre of hard-line conservatives, spearheaded by Reps. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), among others, has been trying to round up signatures for a draft petition that would force the GOP to consider reinstating King. The effort, however, has failed to garner enough support in the caucus. The letter needed the backing of 25 lawmakers to raise the issue with the Republican Steering Committee and 50 members to force a closed-ballot vote in the wider GOP conference.

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Republican leaders have made clear that they have no plans to reverse course after stripping King of his committee assignments for defending white supremacy and white nationalism in an interview with The New York Times in January. The House also overwhelmingly voted to condemn King, who maintains that his comments were misinterpreted.

“Steve King’s rhetoric has been a thorn in everyone’s side for years and I don’t think anyone is eager to return to the incessant headaches that lending him credibility brings,” said a GOP aide. “While there may be a very small faction of his friends that want to help him out, the vast majority of Republicans know that his offensive views haven’t changed, and that those views have no place in our party.”

While King has been ostracized in the House, the lawmaker was recently invited to attend an Iowa GOP fundraising event later this month, where President Donald Trump will be in attendance, according to the Des Moines Register.

The push to rally around King comes as Republicans have been furious over how Democratic leadership handled the firestorm surrounding Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who made comments widely seen as anti-Semitic. The House ended up voting twice to condemn anti-Semitism and all forms of hate speech, but did not call out Omar by name and allowed the freshman lawmaker to keep her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

King, however, has a long history of making inflammatory and controversial remarks — and has shown no sign that he is toning down his rhetoric. Just last week, the lawmaker told a constituent at a town hall that all cultures do not contribute equally to society.

“If we presume that every culture is equal and has an equal amount to contribute to our civilization, then we’re devaluing the contributions of the people that laid the foundation for America and that’s our founding fathers,” King said, according to the Des Moines Register. “It is not about race, it’s never been about race. It is about culture.”

King also told constituents that he is making progress toward getting his committee seats back. King and his office did not return multiple requests for comment asking whether he has been in touch with his colleagues about their effort to help him win back his committee seats.

King has been openly campaigning for a comeback. In February, he tweeted out a letter from 200 “pro-family leaders” calling on GOP leadership to reinstate King on all of his committees.

“I’ve been Mr. Nice Guy about this all along and let the cooler heads take over and now … pretty soon I’m going to start pushing,” King said last week.

King, who has already drawn multiple GOP primary challengers, has become somewhat of an outcast on Capitol Hill since being stripped of his committee assignments.

His controversial comments — and ejection from committees — could be a serious issue for him during his reelection campaign. King once held a House Judiciary subcommittee gavel and also served on the House Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over a range of issues important to his rural Iowa district.

King, however, has previously downplayed getting kicked off the two panels, telling his constituents that being on a committee means less now that the GOP is in the minority. He also predicted that Republicans would miss his presence on the Judiciary Committee, which has become the main battleground for the ongoing oversight war between Trump and congressional Democrats.

But King has struggled to raise funds since the controversy unfolded earlier this year. The Iowa Republican raised just $61,666 in the first quarter of 2019 — an ominous sign for the nine-term incumbent as he seeks to hang on to his seat.

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