Fourth District Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King should act in the best interest of his western Iowa constituents and resign his seat in the U.S. House.
The largest newspaper in his district, the Sioux City Journal, has urged King to go in the wake of his latest offensive outburst. So have U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, a former GOP presidential nominee, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, and other lawmakers. King has been stripped of his committee assignments by House leaders, including his seat on the Agriculture Committee, leaving the panel with no Iowa member for the first time in more than a century.
Our call is unlikely to sway King, which is why top Iowa Republicans must step up and demand he do the right thing for his constituents and for Iowa. So far, our U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, Gov. Kim Reynolds and others have condemned King’s statements while pledging to remain neutral in a potential primary challenge to King in 2020. But that’s not enough. Leadership is doing what is right when you recognize something is going wrong, not after others condemn and you weigh the political costs.
King’s long history of incendiary, racist rhetoric has outraged and embarrassed Iowans for years, far beyond the borders of his district. Many wondered whether there was anything he could do or say to derail a political career spent representing one of the nation’s safest Republican districts. Last fall, even after publicly allying himself with hard-right, white nationalist politicians in Europe and Canada, he narrowly won re-election, with the support of top Iowa Republicans.
Then, last week, King dropped one more jaw-dropper in the New York Times.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King asked in an article chronicling his anti-immigrant politics. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King’s words swiftly were dubbed offensive, abhorrent and disgusting by fellow members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. Whatever roles King might have played shaping debate or crafting legislation in the new Congress have gone up in smoke. Although King is known more for saying outlandish things than for delivering actual legislative accomplishments benefiting the people of his district, his role now is even more diminished.
There’s no good reason for King to stay, and his desire to loudly defy the “establishment” isn’t good enough. He should step aside and allow his district’s voters to pick a new representative in a special election scheduled by the governor. Western Iowans deserve better, more effective representation as soon as possible. And Iowans deserve a congressional delegation that’s no longer tainted by the hateful scourge of white supremacy.
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