The House of Representatives just voted 240 to 179 to condemn Rep. Joe Wilson for calling the President of the United States a liar during a joint session of Congress.
As I’ve said before, such an outburst is against House rules, which is why this rebuke was necessary.
As the majority party, Congressional Democrats have a responsibility to enforce the rules of the House of Representatives. They have a duty to ensure that enough respect and decorum is maintained in order for Congress to be able to tackle important issues. Teabagger tactics like this do nothing but kill debate and therefore have no place in the halls of Congress.
Wilson and many of his GOP colleagues are saying that this is just playing politics–ironic, since yelling out “you lie!” at the President of the United States during a speech on health care is the epitome of playing politics.
The GOP is also saying that Congressional Democrats called George W. Bush a liar. Really? A Democratic member of Congress yelled “you lie!” at Bush during a joint session of Congress?
No, of course not. But if a Democratic member of Congress had said something about Bush that also violated House rules, then the GOP should have tried to punish them in a similar manner. Just because the GOP may not have enforced House rules doesn’t mean Democrats should follow their example.
The GOP’s biggest talking point on this, though, is that there are far more important things Congress should be focusing on. I agree with that–Congress has a lot of work to do and a lot of important issues to resolve. But Joe Wilson broke the rules of the House, and the Democratic majority has a responsibility to enforce those rules.
And part of the reason why this vote was so important is because it will prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. If either party gets away with disrupting Presidential joint sessions, then it’s likely that they’ll start routinely disrupting those sessions for political purposes.
By punishing Wilson, Congress has likely saved time by ensuring this incident isn’t repeated and that Congress doesn’t have to go through the condemnation process again.
For years, a GOP majority allowed the tone in Washington to become downright toxic, and conservatives are continuing to foster a toxic tone with their unhinged teabaggery. It’s about time that Congress stood up and started enforcing some rules in order to return some semblance of sanity to our national discourse.
UPDATE: Here’s the exact text of the resolution. It’s pretty standard:
Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of Congress convened pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 179, the President of the United States, speaking at the invitation of the House and Senate, had his remarks interrupted by the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson; and
Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9, 2009.