Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina became the first Republican lawmaker Tuesday to make a public appeal to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson to apologize to his House colleagues for yelling “you lie!” at President Barack Obama as he addressed Congress.
Inglis, who represents the conservative Upstate section of South Carolina, said Wilson’s apology to Obama immediately after his speech last week isn’t enough.
“Joe also broke House rules,” Inglis said. “That problem could easily be fixed by an apology to the House. In the absence of an apology, the House could choose to police itself through a resolution of disapproval.”
Inglis took his hard stand shortly before the U.S. House was scheduled to take up a “resolution of disapproval” reprimanding Wilson under rules governing conduct of the chamber’s 435 members.
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Before the House took up the controversial measure, Obama aides declined to comment on it.
“That's House business,” said Bill Burton, a White House spokesman. “… Congressman Wilson called the White House to apologize. The president accepted his apology. And this is something that the House is doing.”
The vote promises to be contentious and highly partisan, as most Republicans are likely to back Wilson, who said his apology to the president is sufficient. Democratic House leadership, including U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn of Columbia, backs a resolution to formally say the House disapproves of Wilson.
Wilson, according to the Associated Press, delivered a short speech at the opening of today's session, but did not refer to his confrontation with Obama. He spoke of the large town meetings he held over the August recess full of "honest patriots" who "want us to work together for health insurance reform but not a government takeover."
The House has wide latitude in disciplining its members for their behavior. While not a formal reprimand or censure, the planned resolution would put the House on record as condemning Wilson's outburst.
Democrats — particularly some black leaders who see race as a factor in how Obama was treated by Wilson and by protesters at recent town hall meetings — say allowing Wilson's insult to stand without action would set a bad precedent.
The Office of the House Historian said the resolution, if it passes, would mark the first time since 1789, when the House first met, that a member would be admonished for speaking out while the president is giving an address before a joint session of Congress. -- The Associated Press contributed to this report