Democratic Leaders Threaten to Admonish Wilson

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 11, 2009; 1:34 PM

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, and the president accepted his apology Thursday. But the Republican lawmaker turned a deaf ear to a request from his party's leaders to apologize directly to House colleagues.

Absent such a apology, Democratic leaders will move forward with a resolution of disapproval or reprimand against Wilson's behavior, senior Democratic aides said Friday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) initially said she was not inclined to pursue formal punishment for Wilson's outburst, telling reporters Thursday morning: "It's time for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson."

"Let's not spend time on that," she added.

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. "We invite the president of the United States to come and address a joint session of the Congress, and a member of the House -- it's one thing for public outcries -- but a member of the House does something that in the 29 years that I've been here I haven't seen. I think that's something that needs to be done."

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose district borders Wilson's, said in an interview Thursday that he personally 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 recalled in the interview.

"He said, 'I apologized to Rahm [Emanuel, White House chief of staff], and I think that's enough,' " Clyburn added. "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 to be 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, 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."

His declared opponent for next year's election, Rob Miller (D), has raised more than $400,000 in campaign contributions since Wilson's outburst, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Staff writer Paul Kane and Ben Pershing contributed to this report.

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