Rep. Wilson (R-SC) yelled out “you lie” to President Obama during a September 9, 2009 speech the president delivered to a joint session of Congress on health care legislation. Wilson made the remark after President Obama said that no illegal aliens would be able to benefit from the changes made by the health care legislation. Rep. Wilson subsequently called The White House to apologize for his behavior, but he refused to make a formal apology to the House. This resolution was drafted in response to his refusal to do so.
House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD), arguing on behalf of the resolution, said it relates to the issue of “whether we are able to proceed with a degree of civility and decorum that our rules and our democracy contemplate and require.” He noted that The House Code of Official Conduct “requires that each Member . . . ‘conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.’ There seems to be little or no disagreement that Mr. Wilson did not so conduct himself on the evening of September 9.”
Hoyer then quoted Senator McCain (R-AZ) “as saying that Mr. Wilson's behavior was ‘totally disrespectful (and that) . . . he should apologize for it immediately.’” Hoyer said “it was the House itself whose rules were offended . . . However, for whatever reason, Mr. Wilson has decided not to take any further action. In light of that, this resolution simply states the House's disapproval of Mr. Wilson's words and actions.”
Rep. Clyburn (D-SC), the House Minority Whip, added: “(O)ur three separate branches of government have defined roles to play in this process, and those of us who hold positions within these branches are expected and are duty bound to treat each other with proper dignity and respect.”
Rep. Wilson responded by saying “I think it is clear to the American people that there are far more important issues facing this nation than what we are addressing right now. The President . . . graciously accepted my apology, and the issue is over . . . It is the Democrat leadership, in their rush to pass a very bad government health care plan, that . . . has muzzled the voices we represent and provoked partisanship . . . The challenges our nation faces are far bigger than any one Member of this House.”
Rep. Boehner (R-OH), the House Minority Leader, opposed the resolution. He first noted that Wilson “did the right thing. He called the President and apologized . . . and to put him through this on the floor of the House I think is unacceptable and it is a partisan stunt.” Boehner added: “(T)here has been behavior that has gone on around here far more serious than this, and it didn't bring a resolution to the floor to condemn someone's behavior . . . The American people sent us here to work together to solve the problems of our country. They didn't send us here to talk about our behavior.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 240-179. Two hundred and thirty-three Democrats and seven Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-seven Republicans and twelve Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved a resolution formally disapproving of the behavior of Rep. Wilson during the joint session of Congress.