Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said Monday that Mr. King’s language has no place in the Republican Party and the decision by GOP leaders was unanimous.
Mr. King said his words were taken out of context in a newspaper interview, and argued that he was defending western civilization and not white supremacy or nationalism.
“Leader McCarthy’s decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth,” Mr. King said in a statement.
In an article published last week, the New York Times reported Mr. King said in an interview that he supports legal immigrants who fully assimilate to “ ‘the culture of America’ based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.”
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said in the newspaper interview. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Two resolutions introduced separately by Democratic Reps. Bobby Rush of Illinois and Tim Ryan of Ohio would censure the lawmaker for the comments he made in the recent interview questioning why “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” are considered offensive. Mr. Rush’s resolution would censure Mr. King for previous comments as well.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Democratic leadership decided Monday night to move forward with a resolution by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.) that would formally disapprove of Mr. King’s comments, but at a lower level than censure. The vote is likely Tuesday, a Democratic leadership aide said.
If one of the censure resolutions is passed by a simple majority, Mr. King would be forced to present himself at the front of the House Chamber for the pronouncement of the censure, which would be read out loud by Mrs. Pelosi.
Mr. King has a long history of criticizing immigrants and supporting white supremacists. His latest comments come as the new Democratic majority is focused on President Trump’s comments about immigrants.
“It’s perpetuating this division in the country that we don’t need,” said Mr. Ryan. “We need to start healing our country. He’s done it enough times, in enough places, that I feel like it rises to the level of the House having to address it.”
President Trump on Monday evening ignored questions about whether he thinks Mr. King should resign, according to a White House pool report. Earlier, he said he hadn’t been following the story.
Ohio Republican Rep. Dave Joyce signed on to Mr. Ryan’s censure.
Mr. King had previously faced little pushback from his fellow Republican lawmakers and leadership. GOP presidential candidates often seek his endorsement and Mr. Trump invited Mr. King to the Oval Office early in his presidency.
Mr. King was re-elected in November to a ninth term in his toughest fight in his stronghold Republican district, after top donors dropped him and Democrats put up a formidable opponent. He has already drawn a 2020 primary challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, who cited Mr. King’s “caustic nature” as a reason for his run.
Twenty-three members of the House have been censured for various forms of misconduct, including for using insulting language on the floor, assaulting other members and financial improprieties. No lawmaker has been censured for comments made to a newspaper.
Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com
Appeared in the January 15, 2019, print edition as ‘Rep. King Taken Off Panels Over Comments.’