By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 12, 2009
House Democratic leaders plan to vote early next week on whether to formally admonish Rep. Joe Wilson unless the South Carolina Republican apologizes on the House floor for interrupting President Obama's address to Congress by yelling "You lie!"
Wilson apologized to the White House shortly after Obama's speech on health-care reform Wednesday night, and the president accepted his apology Thursday. But the lawmaker ignored a request from his party's leaders to say he was sorry directly to House colleagues.
Absent such an apology, Democratic leaders will move forward with a resolution of disapproval or reprimand against Wilson, senior Democratic aides said Friday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) initially said she was not inclined to pursue formal punishment for the outburst, telling reporters Thursday morning: "It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson."
But Pelosi and other Democratic leaders decided later Thursday to pursue a resolution, aides said.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that he "would like to see Mr. Wilson come to the floor and apologize to the House."
"He's put the House in a very bad position," Hoyer continued.
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose district borders Wilson's, said in an interview Thursday that he asked Wilson three times to apologize on the House floor and was rebuffed.
"I said, 'Joe, I'm being pressed to count votes on a resolution to reprimand you. I don't want to do that. I think if you go down to the well of the House and apologize for the poor decorum that you exhibited last evening it will be the end of it,' " Clyburn said in the interview.
"He said, 'I apologized to Rahm Emanuel, and I think that's enough,' " Clyburn added, referring to the White House chief of staff. "I said, 'Rahm Emanuel is not a member of the House of Representatives, and I am.' "
Wilson's outburst violated rules of decorum, according to House leaders. But the congressman has said he considers his apology to Emanuel sufficient.
In a video he released on his campaign Web site Thursday night, Wilson said he "let my emotions get the best of me on the critical issue of health care. It was wrong."
But, in asking his supporters for donations, he added: "On these issues, I will not be muzzled. I will speak up, and speak loudly, against this risky plan."
Donors have responded: Wilson has raised almost $750,000 in campaign contributions since his outburst, Republican officials said Friday.
By early next week, Republicans expect, Wilson should equal the total amount of money he raised in the entire two-year election cycle of 2008, when he brought in a little more than $1.1 million. He is scheduled to appear on the morning talk show "Fox News Sunday."
Democratic officials report that Wilson's likely opponent for next year's election, former Marine Rob Miller, has brought in more than $1 million since Wednesday's speech. That is more than double Miller's total donations from the 2008 election cycle, when he raised just $390,000 and lent himself $235,000.
Wilson beat Miller by nearly eight percentage points in that race.
Staff writers Paul Kane and Ben Pershing contributed to this report.