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The case to expel white supremacist Steve King from Congress

This is long overdue, but the racist Iowa Republican really deserves it.

Steve King exits the U.S. Capitol on April 4, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Steve King exits the U.S. Capitol on April 4, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) should be expelled from Congress.

The noted white supremacist, who also happens to be a Republican congressman, makes no effort to hide his racism.

In addition to his very long history of offensive conduct, King follows Twitter accounts “belonging to unabashed white supremacists, including Blair Cottrell, a violent Australian activist who’s called for hanging a picture of Adolf Hitler in every classroom; Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian alt-right vlogger who thinks whites are more intelligent than blacks; and an anonymous Twitter user (with only 334 followers) using the handle @DiezNewAge, who regularly tweets out anti-Semitic and anti-black messages,” according to HuffPost.

With President Donald Trump sitting in the White House, King’s re-election to a ninth term in Congress last week was further proof that most Republicans don’t draw the line at racism, which has become a feature of the party rather than a bug.

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Democrats, with their new House majority, could remove arguably the most vile American politician while giving the GOP an opportunity to save some dignity by starting proceedings to expel King from Congress.

Will last week’s “pure repudiation” of Trump and Republicans at the polls finally force conservatives to face the ugly reality within their party?

Kicking King out of Congress would be a small, but meaningful, step.

How to expel a lawmaker from Congress

Steve King displays a Confederate flag at his desk in an interview with KCAU that aired on July 8, 2016. (Screengrab/SteveKingIA/YouTube)
Steve King displays a Confederate flag at his desk in an interview with KCAU that aired on July 8, 2016. (Screengrab/SteveKingIA/YouTube)

Throughout U.S. history, 20 members of Congress have been ousted from their positions. Expulsion from the Senate has historically been more common, as only five of the 20 were booted from the House.

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The overwhelming majority of expulsions were of treasonous lawmakers who supported the Confederacy at the outbreak of the Civil War in the 1860s — but there is also some more recent precedent.

Rep. Michael Myers (D-PA) was kicked out of Congress in 1980 after being convicted of taking bribes as part of the Abscam scandal.

Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH) was removed from the House in 2002 following his conviction on charges of bribery and racketeering.

Expulsion from the House necessitates the support of two-thirds of representatives. Though ballots are still being counted in around 10 races from last week’s midterm elections, the new Democratic House majority is expected to number around 240. Reaching the 290 votes for King’s dismissal would require roughly a quarter of King’s Republican colleagues to back his ouster.

That might seem unlikely since the white supremacist still enjoys the support of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — but there are signs that tolerance for King is waning in some sectors of the party. National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) recently denounced King, saying, “We must stand up against white supremacy.”

Congress’ code of official conduct states that “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.” There’s a compelling argument to be made that King’s blatant white supremacy does not “reflect creditably on the House.”

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Of course, King hasn’t been charged with a crime, which conservatives will undoubtedly point out if any move is made to boot the Iowa congressman. But if there is an honest desire to tone down political rhetoric, serious discipline of King would send a clear message that white supremacists won’t be accepted in Congress.

Whether the required two-thirds of the House of Representatives has the political will to kick their racist colleague out of Washington, D.C. remains to be seen.

Steve King’s disqualifying history of racism

Steve King with President George W. Bush and Chuck Grassley at a rally in Le Mars, Iowa on November 3, 2006. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Steve King with President George W. Bush and Chuck Grassley at a rally in Le Mars, Iowa on November 3, 2006. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Though King has gained national notoriety for being a white supremacist in recent years, his history of racism extends well beyond his time in Congress.

In his 1996 campaign for a state senate seat, the Republican candidate’s signature issue was making English the “official language” of Iowa — a racist tactic to discriminate against non-native speakers. King cruised to victories in the GOP primary and general election. Legislation making English the official language of Iowa was later signed into law by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2002.

The Republican was in the Hawkeye State senate for six years until he ran for an open U.S. House seat in the 5th congressional district. King was sent to Congress by Iowa voters for the first time with a 24-point win over Democrat Paul Shomshor in November 2002.

Although the newly-elected Iowa congressman stayed relatively quiet for his first couple of years in D.C., he started to show his true colors in 2004.

After the torture of detainees by U.S. military members at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was revealed — an incident that was later cited as a major recruitment tool by numerous extremist groups — the Republican congressman insisted the internationally-condemned incident was just “hazing.”

King was re-elected by an even wider margin in November 2004, defeating Democrat Joyce Schulte by 27 points.

2006 was when King’s white supremacy really started to show. Nearly a decade before Trump was talking about building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Republican congressman was displaying his proposal for a border wall with an electric current “that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it” on the House floor.

King also advocated for the elimination of bilingual ballots during the summer of 2006, “arguing that naturalized citizens should have had to prove English proficiency as part of their citizenship test.” The Republican congressman later defended President George W. Bush’s Iraq War by falsely claiming that his wife was “at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq.”

Amid heavy Republican losses that resulted in Democrats capturing the House and Senate, King was re-elected to a third term in Congress in November 2006, defeating Democrat Joyce Shulte by 23 points.

The Iowa congressman made headlines in 2007 for using the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to fearmonger about immigrants. During a speech in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and the still-rebuilding New York City skyline, King cited 9/11 to warn that “criminal aliens are coming to the U.S. in record numbers,” even though all 19 of the September 11th hijackers entered the country legally. Then King opposed providing a path to legal citizenship for undocumented relatives of 9/11 victims because “he lacked information about the immigrants and did not want to give legal status to terrorists or criminals.”

Despite a nationwide Republican wipeout during the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, which included the Democrat taking Iowa by nearly 10 points over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), King secured a fourth congressional term by winning each county in his district for the first time in a 22-point win over challenger Rob Hubler (D).

King, clearly agitated by the first Black president in U.S. history, was the only vote against a 2009 resolution to recognize slave labor’s contribution to the construction of the U.S. Capitol because he felt the bill didn’t have a “balanced depiction of history.” He also referred to the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses as “separatist groups” in a speech on the House floor.

Later that year, King defended the Confederate flag, described immigration as a “slow-motion Holocaust,” claimed voting against disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina was his proudest moment in Congress, and predicted a state supreme court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage would make Iowa “the gay marriage Mecca.”

King also called racial profiling “common sense” and implied that Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D) was a traitor whose heavily-Hispanic Arizona district had been “ceded” to Mexico.

After declaring his Democratic challenger wasn’t worthy of debating him, King cruised to re-election in November 2010, defeating Matt Campbell by over 33 points.

Seven years before Trump’s unconstitutional push to end birthright citizenship, the Iowa Republican introduced a bill to repeal it in 2011, claiming it was a “misapplication” of the 14th Amendment.

Though Obamacare was the primary focus of his 2011, King still made time for white supremacy. The GOP congressman claimed he would not change slavery or anything else about U.S. history, complained that white men were being discriminated against and questioned whether racial profiling should be illegal, interrogated a U.S. veteran about his immigration status, threatened to hold anti-immigrant hearings just to “publicly humiliate” Obama’s administration, and urged the House to investigate whether “drunken ‘Uncle Omar'” — a reference to the then-president’s uncle Onyango Obama who was charged with drunken driving — received special treatment during deportation hearings.

In 2012, King took his English-only push national, as he introduced the English Language Unity Act, a bill that would have made English the “official language” of the U.S. It failed, but the Iowa Republican advocated for it on a panel at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference that featured three other white nationalists, including Peter Brimelow, who founded the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate website VDARE. King reportedly told Brimelow, “I’ve read all your books!”

The Republican congressman also embraced the baseless birther conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya, and falsely claimed that Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was “deeply entrenched” in a Muslim group with ties to terrorism.

In 2012, King compared immigrants to dogs and claimed it was a compliment, defended Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s abuse of detainees, criticized multicultural groups as “people that feel sorry for themselves,” and told victims of discrimination to stop making excuses and “take individual responsibility.”

King faced the first real re-election challenge of his career in 2012 due to redistricting that eliminated one of the Hawkeye State’s congressional seats. He eventually secured a sixth term in Congress with an eight-point win over Christie Vilsack, the wife of the former Iowa governor and then-Agriculture Secretary.

Entering his second decade in Congress — and emboldened by his win over the wife of an Obama cabinet member as the president carried Iowa by nearly six points in the presidential election — King ratcheted up his white supremacy in 2013. The Republican congressman criticized DREAMers by claiming he had personally caught undocumented immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes” who were smuggling drugs.

After he was denounced by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and former vice presidential nominee and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his racist remarks, King compared himself to Jesus and insisted that many Republicans actually agreed with him in private.

Elsewhere in 2013, King used the Boston Marathon bombing to fearmonger about immigrants, said Latinx immigrants were from a “violent civilization” and would bring “more violence” to the U.S., compared immigrants to bank robbers, tried to outlaw Spanish and other non-English languages from being used in federal documents, again insisted that his comparison of immigrants to dogs was a compliment, falsely claimed undocumented immigrants had killed more people than the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and blamed Obama for George Zimmerman having to stand trial in Florida over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

In 2014, there was some speculation that King could challenge Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who eventually decided to retire, for a Senate seat — but King instead opted to focus on more anti-immigrant fear-mongering. The Iowa Republican told a DACA recipient “I’m really sorry that you come from a lawless country” and “please do not erode the rule of law in America,” said undocumented immigrants who wanted to join the U.S. military were “defrauding” the government, advocated for federal surveillance of mosques, and told another DREAMer they were “very good at English” in a cringeworthy exchange.

King was a shoo-in to secure a seventh term in Congress in 2014. In October of that year, the bromance between Trump and the Iowa Republican started to blossom, as the future president joined him at a fundraiser in West Des Moines. The GOP congressman introduced the businessman who was still several months away from declaring his presidential candidacy by claiming everything Trump had touched “turned into something good for America.”

King defeated his Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer by over 23 points in November 2014.

In 2015, the Iowa Republican was rated as the least effective member of Congress due to his history of “sponsoring (his) own legislation and not getting it passed through committee.” When he wasn’t busy claiming same-sex marriage made it legal to marry lawnmowers or ranting about Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, King was asking Islamophobic questions at a Congressional hearing about immigrants that were deemed too offensive to answer.

Later that month, King claimed Muslims need to “reject Sharia Law” before they can be accepted into American society. The Republican congressman returned to MSNBC the following month to amplify an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that he got from Infowars.

It was also revealed in 2015 that a white supremacist leader who reportedly inspired the massacre of nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina had made donations to King’s campaign.

Many Americans first became aware of the Republican white supremacist in Congress during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was a banner year for King’s bigotry, as he supported a GOP candidate who shared many of his racist views en route to Trump capturing the presidency despite receiving nearly three million fewer votes than his opponent.

In a July 2016 appearance on MSNBC, King advocated for white supremacy by claiming white people had contributed more to civilization than “any other subgroup of people.

The Iowa Republican also opposed a movement to replace noted racist and former President Andrew Jackson with Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, claiming the “racist” and “sexist” proposal was “liberal activism on the part of the president that’s trying to identify people by categories, and he’s divided us on the lines of groups.” The move to expel Jackson in favor of Tubman was backed by 56 percent of respondents in polling.

Later in 2016, King was shown displaying a Confederate flag at his desk during a television interview. Though the Confederate flag is obviously a symbol of white supremacy, the Republican congressman’s decision was made even more curious by the fact that Iowa was not part of the Confederacy.

The white supremacist also promoted a far-right Dutch politician who wants to ban Muslims in a tweet that read, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”

As the race between Trump and Clinton dominated news coverage during that summer and fall, King added to his long history of bigotry by claiming NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protests of police brutality were inspired by his “Islamic girlfriend” and it was “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.” The GOP congressman also urged political candidates to support “the natural family,” which he defined as “a man and woman joined together hopefully in holy matrimony blessed by God with children.”

As the world burned in November 2016, King easily secured an eighth congressional term, defeating Democratic challenger Kim Weaver by 23 points.

The Iowa white supremacist ramped up his white supremacy on Twitter as the Trump era began in 2017. In a racist March tweet that was praised by fellow white supremacists like former KKK leader David Duke, King stated, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

After being condemned by GOP colleagues (but not Trump’s White House), King went on CNN and insisted, “I meant exactly what I said.”

The Iowa Republican then tripled-down, telling Breitbart that “Western civilization is a superior civilization, it is the first world.” Western civilization is a phrase used by white nationalists to advocate for white supremacy in a more “politically correct” way.

Following the murder of Heather Heyer by a white nationalist at a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, King defended the Confederate flag and Trump’s infamous remarks about people on “both sides” being to blame for the disturbing weekend that resulted in the convictions of numerous white supremacists.

The Iowa Republican celebrated Trump’s decision to end DACA, claiming it provided DREAMers with a valuable “opportunity to live in the shadows.” King also suggested children who were brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrants should turn in their parents, promoted Turkey’s far-right authoritarian leader while using a phrase that is popular among white nationalists, and endorsed a far-right French politician.

Kim Weaver, who lost to King in 2016, announced midway through 2017 that she would not be challenging him again in the next midterm elections due to death threats.

Thus far in 2018, the Republican white supremacist has unapologetically retweeted a neo-Nazi and then claimed Ryan’s vague condemnation wasn’t directed at him since he wasn’t mentioned by name, retweeted a Holocaust-denying white supremacist while comparing the left to Nazis, endorsed a far-right Canadian mayoral candidate who promoted a book calling for the “elimination” of Jewish people, retweeted an image of detained Latinx migrants to claim they were “prime MS-13 gang material,” baselessly claimed Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D-TX) “took Spanish lessons to qualify as retroactive Hispanics,” mocked 18-year-old mass shooting survivor Emma González over her Cuban heritage, promoted false crime statistics to smear immigrants, claimed he didn’t want Muslim immigrants working in his district, warned of a potential Civil War, and referred to immigrants as “dirt.”

In October, King was asked about a far-right Austrian political party with ties to literal Nazis that he has visited numerous times in recent years, including during a recent trip to Europe that was funded by a Holocaust memorial group. “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” admitted King of the far-right party whose leader “was active in neo-Nazi circles.”

A week before the midterms, the GOP congressman had a temper tantrum after being asked about his history of racist rhetoric following the massacre of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The alleged suspect is an anti-Semite who, like the Iowa Republican, promoted baseless anti-immigrant conspiracy theories.

Though King’s seat in Iowa’s 4th district was viewed as safe despite the expected “blue wave” of opposition to Trump’s unpopular policies, his Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten closed in fast in polling after the Republican’s white supremacy made national headlines.

Scholten ultimately gave King the toughest re-election challenge of his career, coming within around three points of unseating the white supremacist, but the Iowa Republican will begin his ninth term in Congress come January.

Expelling Steve King is a smart political move

Steve King speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on January 9, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Steve King speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on January 9, 2015. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Expelling King from Congress would create a special election to fill his seat in Iowa’s 4th district. Though the white supremacist was narrowly re-elected last week, his district is rated as reliably conservative and any Republican would be a heavy favorite over a Democrat, even in this political climate.

At a time when the GOP is roundly criticized for tolerating or embracing racism — including fear-mongering about a migrant caravan as a closing argument before the midterms, unconstitutionally trying to repeal birthright citizenship, promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that reportedly inspired violence, and nominating an openly racist Senate candidate in Virginia, among a very long list — expelling King would be the highest-profile example of conservatives taking a stand against the insidious pattern within their party.

Though the move would obviously be long overdue, Republicans around the country could point to the Iowa congressman’s ouster to defend their party against accusations of racism. It’s a smart political move in addition to generally being the right thing to do.

King is losing corporate sponsors and the patience of long-time supporters, like Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA), who said, “I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that” on Tuesday.

There is nothing to lose by expelling King from Congress. Just the support of his fellow white supremacists.