Wilson Resolution Likely in House

Posted September 11, 2009 at 1:31pm

Updated: 6:05 p.m.House Democratic leaders are preparing a resolution of disapproval against Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) for shouting “You lie!— at President Barack Obama during his health care address to Congress — unless the Congressman agrees to apologize on the House floor.“The thinking is that this was a violation of House rules and he should apologize on the House floor, and if he doesn’t there would likely be a resolution of disapproval,— said Drew Hammill, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But Hammill stopped short of saying a resolution would definitely happen. “We need to see what he’s going to do first,— he said.While such a resolution is essentially a slap on the wrist — falling short of a censure or the ultimate sanction, expulsion — it would be a rare public rebuke of a Member. House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) is taking the lead in drafting the measure. Leaders in both parties urged Wilson to apologize on the floor Thursday, but he refused, instead filming a YouTube video in which he said he would not be “muzzled— and asked supporters for campaign cash.Clyburn, appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball— on Friday afternoon, said a resolution of disapproval is a “much lesser punishment— than Democratic leaders could have sought. “A lot of people in our Caucus are pushing for censure, which is even beyond a reprimand. I think this is a compromise,— Clyburn said.Democrats have been divided over what to do; Pelosi had earlier brushed off the idea of moving forward with a censure. Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he opposed any formal action and would vote present if one were brought up. But on Thursday, Clyburn had called for the motion of disapproval unless Wilson apologized on the floor, and others, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), have called for the House to take formal action whether Wilson apologizes or not.Wilson already apologized to Obama, who publicly accepted his apology. But many Democrats feel that Wilson still owes Members an apology for abusing the rules, according to one senior House Democratic aide. “This is a matter for the House of Representatives,— the aide said.The last time the House took action to reprimand a Member was in October 2007, when Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed a censure resolution against Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) for saying, during a floor debate, that President George W. Bush found “amusement— in U.S. soldiers having “their heads blown off— in Iraq. The resolution was tabled by a 223-189 vote.A GOP leadership aide reiterated Friday that Wilson already apologized to Obama and said it is time for Democrats to move on. “In terms of the American people’s perception, he was rude to the president and he apologized to the president,— the aide said.Additionally, the aide said keeping attention on Wilson’s outburst is politically damaging for Democrats since it has led to “a renewed focus on the issue of illegal immigration in this bill.— Obama’s claim that his health care plan would not provide coverage to illegal immigrants is what prompted Wilson’s accusation.But the South Carolina Republican created plenty of political consequences for himself: His Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, has raised more than $800,000 since Wednesday night. Wilson has ratcheted up his own fundraising, and by Friday afternoon, his campaign had raised at least $700,000 since the outburst.Asked whether GOP leaders are concerned that Wilson’s refusal to apologize on the House floor is calling more attention to an incident that could prove damaging to his party, the aide said, “Not really.—