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Rep. King's Future Should Be Up To His Iowa Constituents, Rep. Curtis Says


Iowa Congressman Steve King is facing more pressure to quit. The Republican has been under fire for questioning why terms like white nationalist and white supremacist are offensive. In his own state, the editorial board of The Des Moines Register now says King can no longer effectively represent his constituents. We have one of King's colleagues with us this morning. It's Utah Republican John Curtis.

Welcome to the program, Congressman.

JOHN CURTIS: Thank you, David.

GREENE: Should Steve King quit his job?

CURTIS: Well, before I even go into that, let me just say - first of all, under no circumstances are these comments appropriate, nor should they be tolerated. And I think, then, that begs the question of - how do we make sure that happens? I'm very pleased in the actions of Kevin McCarthy, particularly his committee assignments. I think that has wide support in the Republican Congress. It's a very powerful move. And I think it shows that Republicans want to police themselves and that we, ourselves, see this behavior is not appropriate.

GREENE: OK. But should he leave his - should he quit?

CURTIS: Well, you see, this is interesting because he was only elected by Iowa just several months ago. And in my opinion, those are the people who need to hold him accountable and that he should be responsive to their wishes. And I think you mentioned that the Iowa paper was calling for his resignation. And to me, he was elected by those people. He represents those people. He needs to respond to what they're asking him to do.

GREENE: Although you said it's important to police yourself as fellow members of Congress...

CURTIS: Right.

GREENE: And I mean, you have your Utah colleague Chris Stewart, a fellow Republican, Senator Mitt Romney from your state both saying he should quit. Why are you - I mean, are you less offended by what King said than they are?

CURTIS: No. No, not at all. Not at all. If you want a straight up-and-down answer, I would ask him to resign. What I'm telling you is far more important than what I think is what Iowa thinks.

GREENE: You're saying you would ask him to resign. So you, yourself, as John Curtis are calling for him to resign but saying that it's up to voters to actually make that happen. Is that fair?

CURTIS: So David, I see what you're trying to do, and you're baiting me. And I'm not trying to dodge you nor dodge the debate. In my opinion, it would be great. It would be appropriate for him to resign. I don't think my opinion matters. I think Iowa's opinion matters. They're the ones who just sent him there. They're the ones he represents.

GREENE: OK. I'll obviously let our listeners parse what you're saying. But it - I do want to move on to another topic, and that is the government shutdown. Many of your fellow Republican House members were invited to the White House yesterday. Democrats did not show up at that meeting. Have you heard if there was any progress made at all on this shutdown in those conversations with the president?

CURTIS: I have not heard. But I can tell you this. What happened there represents why we're where we are. Democrats are unwilling to even talk. They're unwilling to discuss something they have previously supported. I hear lots of room for movement on the president's side. That's what needs to happen on both sides. This shutdown is not good in any way, shape or form. It's a terrible tool that we use as a government. I don't like it a bit.

GREENE: What movement are you hearing from the president? I mean, he's been so firm in saying he wants money for that border wall, period. I mean, what movement...

CURTIS: He's...

GREENE: ...Is he offering?

CURTIS: ...Offered all sorts of movement. He's willing to change the type of barrier it is. He's willing to add in things like humanitarian assistance, immigration judges, better facilities at the border. He's really given the Democrats everything they've asked for. They just haven't hardly asked for anything. And so my point is they need to step up and ask for something, and then that moves the pressure to the president. But at this point, they're not asking for anything.

GREENE: Republican Congressman John Curtis from Utah joining us this morning.

We appreciate your time, Congressman. Thanks.

CURTIS: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.