Wilson faces possible House resolution

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, shouts
The House will vote Tuesday on a resolution of disapproval of Rep. Joe Wilson, the South Carolina Republican who yelled “you lie” during President Barack Obama’s health-care speech to a joint session of Congress last week.

The House Democratic leadership met Monday evening and agreed to move forward with a resolution of disapproval, according to two Democratic leadership aides. The resolution “goes directly to the issue of his conduct on the House floor,” said Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. Discussion at Monday evening’s leadership meeting was about “how this speaks to the breach of decorum alone, and not addressing the issue sets a precedent for bad behavior,” Greco said. “We’re not the British Parliament for a reason,” she added. Watch how Wilson compares with combative politicians in other countries The House Democratic caucus will discuss the resolution at a meeting scheduled for noon Tuesday, so the measure is not expected to reach the floor until the afternoon. Under House rules each side will get 30 minutes to debate the resolution. Leaders have not determined who will offer it on behalf of the Democrats, and the text has not been released.

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Earlier Monday, House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said he would vote against any resolution admonishing Wilson for his outburst. “Rep. Wilson has apologized to the president, and the president accepted his apology. Last Thursday, Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi said that she believed it was time to move on and discuss health care. I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why I plan to vote ‘no’ on this resolution,” Boehner said in a written statement. “Instead of pursuing this type of petty partisanship, we should be working together to lower costs and expand access to affordable, high-quality health coverage on behalf of the American people.” Although most Republicans have agreed it was in appropriate for Wilson to shout “You lie” at the president, several GOP aides told CNN they expect Republicans to oppose the resolution. Wilson on Sunday described his loud retort to Obama’s statement that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the Democrats’ health-care bill as “a town hall moment.” But he made it clear he would not apologize on the House floor. “I called immediately, I did apologize, but I believe one apology is sufficient,” he said. Wilson returned to the floor Monday during the time allotted to members to give one-minute speeches on the topic of their choice. But Wilson spoke about his town hall meetings on health care over the congressional recess and made no mention of his comments last Wednesday night or any apology. Last week Pelosi called the episode “unfortunate” and told reporters at her weekly news conference, “It’s time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson.” But when Pelosi met with Democratic leaders later that day her colleagues argued that unless Wilson apologized on his own they would want a formal vote on a resolution of disapproval, according to several Democratic sources. “The issue at hand is one of conduct, not speech,” one Democratic leadership aide said. “Congressman Wilson’s outburst during the joint session was a breach of decorum and brought discredit to the House. It is common for members to address such breaches themselves rather than force action by the full House. Failure to respond would mean consent for that kind of conduct. In the absence of an apology, the House must act to admonish his behavior. These are the standards members are held to when they take the oath of office,” the aide said. Republican House member Steve King of Iowa began circulating a letter this weekend among House Republicans urging Wilson not to apologize on the House floor. The letter states, “We urge that you hold your ground against those who seek partisan advantage and reject all demands for additional redress. When the president of the United States accepts an apology, no observer has an additional claim.”

Republican aides said the reaction over Wilson’s outburst has given them an opportunity to elevate their concerns about the issue of illegal immigration in the health-care debate. Looking ahead to Tuesday, one Republican leadership aide predicted, “If there is a debate, you’re going to see Republicans talk about policy and not Joe Wilson.”