Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Utah U.S. House Delegation Splits Vote On Joe Wilson Admonishment (H RES 744); Rob Bishop And Jason Chaffetz Vote No, Jim Matheson Votes Yes

Update September 16th: Post now updated to include reaction from Utah's three U.S. House members.

Utah's U.S. House delegation split their votes on H RES 744, which officially "admonishes" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) for his heckling of Barack Obama during his address to Congress, when he yelled out "You lie!". Wilson's outburst came as Obama said that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under his overhaul plan. Democrats have insisted that their proposals prohibit undocumented immigrants from getting assistance. Republicans say the legislation needs stronger verification requirements.

The resolution passed, 240-179, with 5 members voting Present. Voting took place almost completely along party lines, with most Democrats voting Yes and most Republicans voting No. The complete roll call vote can be viewed HERE. Of Utah's three House members, Democrat Jim Matheson voted Yes, while Republicans Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz voted No. According to this subsequent Deseret News article, Matheson's press secretary Alyson Heyrend said Matheson voted for it "because he believes Rep. Wilson's conduct violated the rules and standards of the House." But one of Matheson's constituents strongly disagreed, and posted his disagreement HERE.

In contrast, Chaffetz said,
"Clearly what he did was inappropriate, but he apologized to the president. The president accepted that apology. We should move on. It's just a political distraction to the issues that face the nation." And Scott Parker, chief of staff for Bishop, said Bishop opposed it "because we could be spending time on so many other, more useful things, like health care," and because several "things done by current and former members seem so much more severe, but had no action taken against them."

The resolution marks the first time in the 220-year history of the House that a member had been admonished for speaking out while the president was giving an address, according to the Office of the House Historian. A resolution of disapproval is less severe than other disciplinary action available to the House, including censure or expulsion. A 17-minute C-SPAN segment of the debate is embedded below:

CNN presents a good analysis of the situation. Proponents of H RES 744 maintain that Rep. Wilson's apology to Barack Obama was not enough. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) maintained that an apology to the entire House was warranted because Rep. Wilson allegedly breached the degree of civility and decorum requisite from a member of Congress in a formal setting. Thus, Hoyer believes Wilson's refusal to issue an apology to the full House required admonishment.

Not surprisingly, the Congressional Black Caucus turned the heat up on Hoyer to proceed, even stooping to play the "Klan" card. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) insists that Wilson would not have popped off the same way to a white President. Johnson said Wilson's comment amounted to a "wink" of approval to right-wing extremists who have brought highly charged language and imagery -- such as posters depicting Obama with a Hitler mustache or as an African witch doctor -- to the health care debate.

"He [Wilson] did not help the cause of diversity and tolerance with his remarks," Johnson said. "If I were a betting man, I would say that it instigated more racist sentiment feeling that it's OK -- you don't have to bury it now."

Johnson added that failing to rebuke Wilson would bring increased racism in the public discussion on health care, saying: "You can bring it out and talk about it fully, and so I guess we will probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again riding through the countryside intimidating people."

Opponents of H RES 744 maintain that only one person was "victimized" by Rep. Wilson's remark - Barack Obama. Consequently, when Wilson apologized to Obama and Obama accepted the apology, that was the end of it, and no further apologies are necessary. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) characterized the resolution as "piling on." During the debate, Boehner and other Republicans acknowledged the mistake by Wilson while citing his military career and how his four children also served in the military. They noted that he already had apologized to Obama and accused Democrats of a partisan stunt intended to deflect attention from what they called increasingly unpopular health care legislation.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) earlier circulated a letter among House Republicans last weekend urging Wilson not to apologize on the House floor. The letter stated, "We urge that you hold your ground against those who seek partisan advantage and reject all demands for additional redress. When the president of the United States accepts an apology, no observer has an additional claim."

Gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the Democrats who voted Present, said, "I think it's bad precedent to put us in charge of deciding whether people act like jerks. I don't have time to monitor everyone's civility." A surprisingly libertarian attitude from Frank.

In reaction, Rep. Wilson said his utterance, sparked by Mr. Obama’s assertion that illegal immigrants would not receive health insurance coverage under pending bills in the House and Senate, was made at the “wrong place, wrong time.” Citing his education, Mr. Wilson said he did understand civil conduct and would never violate those protocols intentionally. But he added: “I’m very disappointed because it seems like a double standard. I see, as people — look, I was there on the floor when President Bush was booed and not a word was said. That’s a double standard — I’m willing to live with that.”

The Wilson dispute, by capturing the attention of Republican and Democratic loyalists, has been a financial bonanza for both Joe Wilson and his expected challenger in next year's election, Rob Miller. Miller is a former Marine who's trying to ride his DD Form 214 into Congress. Each has raised some $1.5 million in contributions since the speech last week.


Paul said...

South Carolina has a long list of dignitaries that includes Lauren Caitlin Upton (Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant contestant), Board of Education Chair, Kristin Maguire, Governor (and avid Appalachian hiker), Mark Sanford and now Joe “the hater not a debater” Wilson or the “screamer not the dreamer” as others have dubbed him. I did enjoy him cut and running through his apology, which only goes to show that he stands for nothing. He is just another good old boy where in the morning these married men preach to you that there should be prayer in our schools and in the evening they are on their cell phones setting up a date with their other women on the side, hypocrisy has been bred in. I am not surprised that he felt compel to yell like he was at some Friday night game. So long Joey, you too will be seeing the unemployment lines.

Amy said...

Even if one does not agree with the President, the outburst was so disrespectful, so the rebuke was a good decision.

Paul said...

Some call Joe Wilson a great statesman, and are even proud of his “Shout Out”, so lets see, he says, he was told by the Republican leadership to apologize (he did not realize the magnitude of his mistake), he then gives his weak “not for reals” apology, but then goes on to those “Commentator Talk Shows” and basically says he real was not wrong and plays the victim card and calls for people to send in for money to support him for re-election. Had he kept quiet after his apology, that might have been the end of it but now that people know he lied about the apology the story will continue, until he is out of a job and the funny thing is, he does not see it coming. This summer has been rough for his beleaguered political party. At least he did not end up on the “Republican 2009 Summer of Love” list: Assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), Board of Ed Chair, and Kristin Maguire AKA Bridget Keeney (SC). In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme religious right (people who love to push their beliefs on others while trying to take away the rights of those they just hate) and that’s who they need to extract from their party if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”. The birthers, the tea baggers, the screamers, and the deathers continued extreme minority presence will become tiresome to mainstream America, if it has not already done so.