Wilson talks health reform in Aiken

AIKEN --- U.S. Rep Joe Wilson said he wanted to make it clear Saturday that Republicans have an alternative to the Democrats' health care bill.

The congressman spoke to between 150 and 200 supporters, and a few protesters, at the Aiken County Republican Party headquarters in downtown Aiken. Mr. Wilson, whose 2nd Congressional District includes portions of eastern and southern Aiken County, did not speak on the incident that drew international attention.

"I do want to be heard, and I will not be muzzled," he said. "We as Republicans have a positive agenda, and an alternative to the House bill I believe will bankrupt the country."

Mr. Wilson said his colleagues have proposed House Bill 3400 as a solution to providing health insurance reform rather than government-run health care. The bill has six fundamental principles -- accessibility, affordability, choice, innovation, quality and portability. The plan encourages employers to offer discounts for employees with healthy habits, suggests health courts as a way to avoid frivolous lawsuits and offers citizens tax dollars back through credits and deductions to purchase affordable health care, Mr. Wilson said.

David Lobb, the vice chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party, said he was happy with the turnout and believes thousands of dollars were raised for the congressman's 2010 re-election campaign. Donations had not been tallied Saturday evening.

Most of the crowd was receptive, but a small group of demonstrators voiced their opinions about Mr. Wilson.

A chorus mixed with shouts of "Let's go Joe" and "Joe, you are wrong" greeted the congressman as he began his speech. Protesters also raised signs that read "Yells are so yesterday" and "Col. Wilson called his Commander-in-Chief a Liar. Shame on You, Joe."

The signs and protest referred to Mr. Wilson's yelling "you lie" during President Obama's Sept. 9 health care address to Congress.

De Rena Boose, of Aiken, said she attended the rally to oppose those who support Mr. Wilson.

"They are celebrating his incorrectness," she said. "If it would have been Congressman Obama and President Wilson, he (Mr. Obama) would have been in the jailhouse."

Karen Beighey, of Graniteville, told the protesters that the congressman said what most people were thinking. Though she is not in Mr. Wilson's district, she wanted to show her support.

"If the apology is good enough for Obama, it should be good enough for everybody," she said. "We are rallying to support him because he's being attacked by the liberal machine."