House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 18, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

GOP leaders defend Scalise’s leadership position as majority whip

The new GOP-controlled Congress may face its first test this week with one of their own: Rep. Steve Scalise, the third top-ranking Republican.

Looking to move on beyond the scandal and reinvigorate the conservative agenda, more Republicans joined Speaker Boehner in rallying behind embattled House Majority Whip.

Rep-elect Mia Love, the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, stood by Scalise and his leadership role after he apologized for giving a speech at a white supremacist conference in 2002.

Related: Two big questions Steve Scalise needs to answer

“My first thought was this was 12 years ago. It’s interesting that it’s coming up now,” Love said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “These groups are awful.”

“I can say, as far as I’m concerned, with Rep. Scalise, he has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He’s been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues,” Love said.

“I believe he should remain in leadership,” Love added.

Two senators on NBC’s “Meet The Press“ Sunday criticized his actions, but stopped short of calling for a full-blown resignation.

Republican Sen. John Barrasso described the speech as a “grave mistake,” but ultimately backed Scalise. “I think Cedric Richmond makes the point … He’s a Democrat, African-American. He said Steve Scalise doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the GOP should respond with “actions, not just words.”

“I think it’s something the Republican leadership is going to have to decide and live with the consequences. It was clearly an inappropriate place to be,” Klobuchar told NBC’s Chuck Todd.