- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2009

UPDATED:

One apology is enough, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson said Sunday, challenging Democratic leaders who want him to say on the House of Representatives floor that he’s sorry for yelling “You lie!” during President Obama’s health care speech to Congress.

The leadership plans to propose a resolution of disapproval this week if Mr. Wilson, South Carolina Republican, doesn’t apologize publicly to Congress. Such a measure would put lawmakers on the record as condemning those two words, uttered during last Wednesday’s prime-time speech, that have become a fundraising boon for the defiant Mr. Wilson and his Democratic challenger.

Mr. Wilson said a resolution would show that Democrats simply want to play politics and divert attention from a health care overhaul that is lagging in Congress.

“I am not going to apologize again. I apologized to the president on Wednesday night. I was advised then that ‘Thank you, now let’s get on to a civil discussion of the issues,’” Wilson said. “I’ve apologized one time. The apology was accepted by the president, by the vice president, who I know. I am not apologizing again.”

Mr. Wilson spoke with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel after the outburst drew immediate rebuke from lawmakers, including some fellow Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he wanted to “see this matter end.”

“Joe’s a good man. He made a mistake,” Mr. Graham said. “Don’t give up on fighting health care. But what he said was inappropriate. This needs to come to the end for the good of Joe, South Carolina and the country. I’ll leave it up to his good counsel as to what to do next.”

And Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the shouting was inappropriate.

“Well, there’s a time and a place for everything, and that was not the time or the place for that kind of comment,” he said. “This is not the time to be demonizing anybody, calling anybody names on either side. This is a time to try to work together to solve a practical problem. And we stand ready to do that if the president will meet us halfway.”

The White House sought to dodge what has become a fiercely partisan reaction and an illustration of the fervor surrounding Obama’s agenda.

“Look, I’m going to let the House figure out how to deal with that,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “The president accepts, as I said, Joe Wilson’s apology.”

Mr. Obama, in an interview to air Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” described what he said was “a coarsening of our political dialogue,” where “the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention” in a nonstop news cycle.

Democratic leaders decided on Thursday they would move forward with a resolution of disapproval unless Mr. Wilson, a conservative who won a 2001 special election for a seat in Congress, makes a public apology for shouting after Mr. Obama said illegal immigrants would not be eligible for low-cost health care.

The Democratic proposals on health care explicitly prohibit spending any federal money to help illegal immigrants get health care. Still, Republicans say they aren’t convinced sufficient citizenship verification requirements to ensure illegal immigrants are excluded.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Minnesota Republican who might seek the White House in 2012, said Mr. Wilson’s concern is valid.

“Even if you have language that says illegal immigrants will not be a part of this program, unless you have the enforcement mechanism in place, it doesn’t mean much,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “In Minnesota, we have laws that say illegal immigrants won’t get many services, but unless somebody actually checks — guess what? — they show up and they get the services.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said it’s time to move on.

Mr. Wilson said he allowed emotions to get away from him and compared his outburst to the outbursts that dominated coverage of August’s town hall meetings, when members of Congress were on the receiving end of screaming and shouting over the health care proposals.

But he added: “I will not be muzzled. I’m going to be speaking on behalf of the American people, but I will be doing it very civilly.”

Mr., Wilson said his critics want to use the incident to silence opponents of health care reform.

His Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, raised more than $1 million — more money than the roughly $625,000 he spent for a 2008 race he lost with 46 percent of the vote.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Graham appeared on “Fox News Sunday.” Mr. Cornyn was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Mr. Gibbs spoke with CNN’s “State of the Union.” Mr. Pawlenty was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.”

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