Unlike fellow South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford, Rep. Joe Wilson isn't turning to an "apology tour" to do damage control.
Wilson, whose "You Lie!" outburst during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform last Wednesday drew widespread criticism (and some praise), was directed by Republican leadership to apologize to the president shortly after the speech, and he did so. Over the weekend, he said that had been sufficient.
"I am not going to apologize again," Wilson said on "Fox News Sunday." "I believe the American people know I'm a civil person. I respect the institution of the House. I have apologized to the president. I believe that should be enough."
House Democrats do not, however, and they have demanded that Wilson apologize for the outburst to his colleagues on the House floor. If he does not – and it certainly appears that he won't – House leaders are threatening to introduce a "resolution of disapproval" today or tomorrow.
Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, cited rules prohibiting members from impugning the integrity of the president while they are speaking in committee meetings or on the House floor in explaining the reasoning behind the possible resolution.
"There was a violation of the rules of the House," he said, according to The Hill. "It needs to be resolved by an apology or a resolution."
But the politics of such a resolution – which would be less than a formal censure, as the Hill notes – are less clear cut than Democrats might hope. Those who back such an action want to use Wilson's outburst to help convince skeptical voters (particularly independents) that Republicans have no real interest in a civil conversation about health care reform. From their perspective, keeping Wilson in the headlines is a net positive.
But there are others who fear that Wilson could be elevated into a hero among the sorts of Republicans who showed their anger at the August town hall meetings and the Glenn Beck-backed Sept. 12 protests in Washington. And while some Democrats may dismiss such critics, others fear inflaming a vocal contingent who were little help to the president's efforts at health care reform over the summer.
The White House is steering clear of the debate: After discussing what he called the "coarsening of our political dialogue" in reference to the speech, President Obama was asked on "60 Minutes" last night if he thinks the House should pass a resolution criticizing Wilson. (Watch the "60 Minutes" interview.)
"But see, this is part of what happens," he responded with a chuckle. "I mean, it becomes a big circus instead of us focusing on health care."
Asked about White House support for the resolution, spokesman Robert Gibbs declined to offer a position, telling CNN he is "going to let the House figure out how to deal with that."
Wilson is arguing that Democrats are trying to play politics with his outburst. He came out on the offensive over the weekend, suggesting that the House resolution represents "exactly what the American people do not want to see, do not want to hear."
Despite an outpouring of campaign contributions for his Democratic challenger, Wilson appears to have solid support in his South Carolina district in the wake of the outburst.
"Rep. Wilson has apologized to the President, and the President accepted his apology," House Republican Leader John Boehner said in a statement. "Last Thursday, Speaker 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."
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