Steve Watkins becomes 4th GOP congressman to lose committee assignments in 2 years

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The Kansas Republican stepped down from three committees on Friday.

Rep. Steve Watkins (R-KS) announced on Friday that he will step down from his committee posts, just days after being charged with multiple felonies related to voter fraud.

"I've chosen to temporarily and voluntarily step aside from my committees, allow the committees to continue their critical work and fight these bogus charges," Watkins said in a statement, according to the Kansas City Star.

Prosecutors alleged on Tuesday that Watkins registered to vote using the address of a UPS store, not his home address. Watkins claimed he was innocent, saying he mistakenly used his campaign’s mailing address rather than his home address on the voter registration form.

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Up until this week, Watkins had served on the Foreign Affairs, Veterans' Affairs, and Education and Labor committees.

With his announcement, Watkins becomes the fourth House Republican in less than two years to lose committee posts, joining former Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, and Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Collins was stripped of his committee assignments in August 2018 following charges of insider trading. A year later, in September 2019, he resigned from Congress and pleaded guilty to the charges.

Hunter also lost his committee assignments in August 2018 after he was charged with felonies related to improper spending from his campaign accounts. Hunter pleaded guilty to one charge of misusing campaign funds in December 2019 and resigned from Congress in January 2020.

King, for his part, was never charged with any crimes, but was stripped of his committee assignments in January 2019 after he made racist comments during an interview with the New York Times.

"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" King asked during the interview.

King, who has a long history of making racist comments, ultimately lost his June primary to state Sen. Randy Feenstra.

In January 2019, House Republicans adopted new rules requiring any member of their party indicted for felonies that carry a prison sentence of two or more years to resign from committee posts.

Watkins initially said he would not step down from his assignments on Thursday before reversing course on Friday.

Watkins, who defeated Democrat Paul Davis by less than 1% in 2018, is still running for reelection in his home district, and faces two opponents in a Republican primary.

The Cook Political Report currently lists the seat as "Lean Republican."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.