Apparently two apologies from Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) aren't enough.
Key Democratic lawmakers threatened on Thursday to discipline Wilson unless he told the full House he was sorry during a floor speech after he jeered at President Obama during a Joint Session of Congress Wednesday night.
"You lie!" shouted Wilson, jabbing his finger at the president from the rear of the chamber after Mr. Obama declared his health care plan wouldn't cover illegal immigrants.
The outburst shocked Democrats and Republicans alike. The catcall earned Wilson a steely glare from the president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stared in Wilson's direction, her jaw agape.
Wilson later apologized in a statement and phoned White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to apologize.
That seemed to satisfy Pelosi On Wednesday night, the speaker said she didn't think any discipline was necessary. She reiterated that statement Thursday morning, describing Wilson's gibe as "stunning" during such a formal event. At her weekly briefing, the speaker signaled she was prepared to move on.
"It's time to talk about health care," Pelosi said.
But Pelosi might not be in synch with her top two lieutenants: House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC). Senior House sources tell FOX that Democrats requested that Wilson apologize on the floor. One source says Democrats suggested they could"censure" or discipline Wilson if he refused.
Democratic leaders then held open a vote on Thursday as Clyburn implored his Palmetto State colleague to say he was sorry. Sources familiar with the request say Wilson delcined three times. During the extended vote, Hoyer conferred with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).
When Wilson declined to apologize, a source said Republicans told Hoyer to close the vote and "do what he had to do."
Meantime, House leaders debated future steps against Wilson at a routine, weekly closed-door strategy session in Pelosi's office.
"I want Mr. Wilson to come to the floor of the House and apologize," said Hoyer. He indicated that House leaders didn't reach a conclusion on sanctioning Wilson.
"We need to figure out what to do," said one senior member of the leadership team. Another high-level House source signaled that lawmakers didn't want to let Wilson's transgression go unpunished "because of the magnitude" of the accusation, directed at the President of the United States during a Joint Session of Congress.
House rules expressly prohibit lawmakers from calling the president a "liar" or declaring that he is "lying."
"We need to maintain decorum in the House to operate," said another senior source.
For her part, Pelosi said she considered taking measures against Wilson during his interruption of President Obama "if he had continued." She said the House parliamentarian quickly handed her a document, outlining her options as Speaker to punish Wilson on the spot.
Pelosi could be seen reading the paper as Mr. Obama continued his speech.
"Censure" is like a reprimand, and one of four common forms of discipline in the House. The full House must vote for or against a censure resolution. If the House votes to discipline a lawmaker, he or she then stands in the well of the House chamber and receives a verbal rebuke from the House Speaker.