The House of Representatives today took an hour to condemn rep. Joe Wilson for yelling “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during his address of the Joint Session last week on health care reform. Wilson’s apology was accepted by Obama’s chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel but he refused to apologize a second time to his House colleagues for his rudeness.
Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breech of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the House disapproves of the behavior if the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on Sept, 9, 2009.
The vote was 240 to 179 with 12 Dems voting nay and five voting present. Seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against Wilson. Although the GOP trotted out more than half a dozen members to declare their support for Wilson – though, really, this has already proven to be a fundraising boon for the guy and he’s probably delighted – only Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and No. 3 House Democrat Jim Clyburn spoke for the Democrats. Clyburn’s district borders that of Wilson, who was previously best known for championing the confederate flag flying atop the South Carolina capitol. The two have a long history of animosity. Clyburn hinted to Maureen Dowd (though several members of the Congressional Black Caucus were more blunt in their accusations) that Wilson was racially motivated, telling her, “A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president.”
The vote nearly didn’t happen as even Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed doubt at the point of such a resolution. “As far as I’m concerned, the episode was unfortunate. Mr. Wilson has apologized. It’s time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference last Thursday.
Likewise the White House kept the resolution at arm’s length. “Congressman Wilson called the White House to apologize,” deputy White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One en route to the president’s fundraiser for Senator Arlen Specter in Philadelphia. “The President accepted his apology. And this is something that the House is doing.”
Republicans, for once, seemed to agree with Pelosi. “I think this is a sad day for the House of Representatives aimed at diverting our attention from the real issue that people want to talk about and that’s about health care,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner.
And, of course, they didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to slam the President’s record. “Hooziers today were shocked to hear Eli Lilly announcing 5,500 lay offs,” said Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican. “More than two million jobs have been lost since the so-called stimulus bill has been passed and yet here we are taking time in the House to demand an apology for a man who has already apologized.”
Clyburn railed back that if the rules are not respected, nothing gets done. “Silence gives consent,” he said in his closing remarks. “We do not give silence on this side because we do not consent to Mr. Wilson’s conduct.” Of course, Wilson could’ve made the same argument for his outburst.