House to Discipline Wilson for 'You Lie!' Outburst

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Published September 15, 2009

| FoxNews.com

House Democratic leaders have decided to formally discipline Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., on Tuesday for his jeer last week at President Obama during a joint session of Congress. 

The punishment is expected take the form of a "resolution of disapproval," which is a milder version of other more traditional means of congressional discipline like a censure or fine. Wilson can avoid the rap on the wrists by apologizing to his colleagues on the House floor, but Wilson -- who already apologized directly to the White House -- has said that's not going to happen.  

Wilson bellowed "You lie!" at Obama during his address. It's against House rules to call the president a "liar" or accuse him of "lying" when the House is in session.

"We're not the British parliament for a reason," said Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.,."Ignoring the issue sets a precedent for bad behavior."

Greco described the resolution as "direct" and "non-partisan."

"It goes directly to conduct on the House floor," Greco said.

Most Democrats in the House appear poised to sanction Wilson. But many Republicans argue that since the South Carolina Republican has already apologized, this step is unnecessary. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opposed punishing Wilson until Clyburn and other Democratic leaders persuaded her to change her mind. 

Critics say Democrats are only prolonging the issue and hurting themselves by pushing for further action against Wilson. Republicans may use the Wilson resolution to try to embarrass Democrats Tuesday, by bringing up the alleged ethical lapses of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., or Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., or others. 

The resolution is "privileged," meaning whenever it is introduced the measure goes to the front of the legislative line. It is unclear who will call up the measure. 

A "resolution of disapproval" is not one of the four forms of discipline typically meted out in the House. The most commonly used means of punishment are expulsion, censure, reprimand or fine.

For instance, in 1997, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was both reprimanded and fined for his book deal. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was reprimanded in 1990 for ethical breaches tied to a male prostitute. Republicans tried to censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., in 2007 for comments he made on the House floor about President Bush. But Democrats voted to set aside that effort. 

A simple majority vote is needed to approve the resolution against Wilson.

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