House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday called on GOP leaders to remove Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as chairman of a subpanel within the House Judiciary Committee as punishment for his controversial comments in support of a nationalist Dutch politician.
King has doubled down on his original Sunday tweet praising Dutch politician Geert Wilders, saying, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Speaker Paul RyanPaul Ryan3 reasons Devin Nunes must step away from the Trump probe Wounded Ryan faces new battle Can Trump rebound after failure on healthcare bill? MORE's (R-Wis.) office said Monday that he “clearly disagrees and believes America’s long history of inclusiveness is one of its great strengths.”
“Steve King’s racist statements must be called out as unacceptable, and the tepid, brush-off response from the Speaker and the GOP leadership is disgraceful,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“Where are Speaker Ryan and the GOP leadership? Does their silence mean Congressman Steve King’s vile racism is acceptable? House Republicans think they can keep quiet, but their contempt for the great diversity of our nation is being heard loud and clear.”
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong dismissed Pelosi's suggestion. She pointed to Pelosi ducking questions earlier this month about Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond's (D-La.) joke about White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, which many on the right found crude and in poor taste.
"We’ll get back to you on this just as soon as Nancy Pelosi responds to the grotesque sexual comment a member of her caucus made about a senior female White House aide. The hypocrisy is striking," Strong said.
Richmond later apologized for those remarks.
A handful of fellow House Republicans have condemned King’s remarks, including Cuban-American Reps. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashObamaCare gets new lease on life Top Republican: The healthcare bill is dead House GOP abandons ObamaCare repeal effort in stunning defeat MORE (R-Mich.), whose parents are Palestinian and Syrian, asked King on Twitter, “Am I ‘somebody else’s’ baby because my parents are immigrants?”
Ryan added later Monday during an interview with Fox News's Bret Baier that "we're a melting pot."
“I disagree with that statement. I haven't seen the context, but I disagree,” Ryan said. “I haven't spoken to Steve about this. I'd like to think that he misspoke and it wasn't really meant the way that that sounds and hopefully he's clarified that.”
King, however, doubled down on his comments during later interviews with CNN and Fox News, saying, "I meant exactly what I said."
There's at least one recent instance of House GOP leaders taking away a committee chairmanship as punishment for unruly members. In 2015, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) — now the chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus — lost his gavel for an Oversight subcommittee after opposing a procedural vote on trade legislation.
Meadows ultimately got the gavel back a week later.
This story was updated at 3:06 p.m.