House Republican leaders removed Representative Steve King of Iowa from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees on Monday night as the party officials scrambled to appear tough on racism and contain damage from comments Mr. King made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive.
The punishment came on a day when Mr. King’s own party leadership moved against him, with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggesting Mr. King find “another line of work” and Senator Mitt Romney saying he should quit. In an attempt to be proactive, the House Republicans stripped him of his committee seats in the face of multiple Democratic resolutions to censure Mr. King that are being introduced this week.
Those measures will force Republicans to take a stand on whether to go along with the House Democratic majority’s attempt to publicly reprimand one of their own.
Speaking to reporters on Monday night after the congressional Republicans acted, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the party leader in the House, said he was not ruling out supporting a censure or reprimand resolution against Mr. King. He said the Republicans are not removing Mr. King from the G.O.P. House conference itself so he can still attend its party meetings.
“I think voters have that decision to make. But I think we spoke loud and clear that we will not tolerate this in the Republican Party,” said Mr. McCarthy, who conferred privately with Mr. King for an hour on Monday afternoon.
Mr. McCarthy called a special meeting of the Republican Steering Committee to consider removing Mr. King from Judiciary — which has jurisdiction over immigration, voting rights and impeachment — and Agriculture, which is a prized committee for Iowans. Mr. King also lost his seat on the Small Business Committee. The steering committee vote was unanimous.
Mr. King, who has been an ally of President Trump on the border wall and other issues, has a long history of making racist remarks and demeaning comments about immigrants, but rarely drew rebukes from Republican leaders in Washington and Iowa. In November, top Iowa Republicans like Senator Charles E. Grassley endorsed Mr. King for re-election even after a House Republican denounced him as a white supremacist.
But in an interview with The Times published on Thursday, Mr. King said: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
Republican officials quickly turned on him, but the party also came in for criticism from the Senate’s lone black Republican, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He noted that the G.O.P. has long remained silent in the face of racist comments.