Iowa Rep. Steve King, who represents one of the most agriculturally intensive districts in the nation, is being stripped of his House committee assignments, including a senior position on the Agriculture and Judiciary panels, as punishment for racially insensitive comments.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced the decision Monday to remove King from his committees, saying his recent comments in The New York Times were "beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America. His comments call into question whether he will treat all Americans equally, without regard for race and ethnicity,."
In response, King said that McCarthy’s decision was “a political decision that ignores the truth.”
Earlier Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Washington Post that King’s recent statements to The New York Times “are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.” Both Iowa senators also condemned King’s remarks.
In The New York Times story last week, King was quoted as saying, ““White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
After the article appeared, King called himself a “nationalist” and said he does not support white supremacy. He said in a response to McCarthy’s decision that the context of the quote showed he was only referring to “Western civilization” as becoming offensive.
But King's history of comments on race and immigration have been a constant distraction for House Republicans and have put his agricultural backers in an uncomfortable position as well.
Despite the importance of immigrant labor to the livestock and poultry sectors in his district and across the country, King has been a fierce opponent of efforts to increase some form of legal immigration, an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of Judiciary. He opposed an ag labor bill in the last Congress pushed by then-Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to replace the H-2A visa program.
King has used his Agriculture seat to push legislation that stop states from regulating how livestock and poultry farms operate in other states, and he’s got a powerful co-sponsor this time.
King’s Protect Interstate Commerce Act was included in the House version of the farm bill last spring but was dropped from the final legislation in negotiations from the Senate. He introduced the bill last week with House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., as a cosponsor.
Iowa’s 4th congressional district ranks second in the value of its agricultural production behind only Nebraska’s vastly larger 1st district, according to the most recent agricultural census.
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