Never before has an elected federal official done what Rep. Joe Wilson did Wednesday night: The South Carolina Republican shouted "You lie!" at President Obama during his health-care speech before a joint session of Congress and a national television audience.
Mr. Wilson's outburst was in response to the president's assertion that: "There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false ... The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing -- would not apply to those who are here illegally."
The facts back up Mr. Obama's claim. The House version of the health care bill explicitly prohibits spending any federal money to help illegal immigrants get health care coverage. Illegal immigrants could buy private health insurance, as many do now, but wouldn't get tax subsidies to help them. Still, Republicans say there are not sufficient citizenship verification requirements to ensure illegal immigrants are excluded from benefits they are not due.
Mr. Obama said Thursday that he accepts Mr.Wilson's apology, which came "quickly and without equivocation." Mr. Obama also said he's a big believer that "we all make mistakes."
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters Thursday that when House decorum is violated, a lawmaker may introduce a resolution for expulsion, censure, reprimand or disapproval against the offending lawmaker.
"I have talked to the leadership about doing a simple resolution of disapproval, which is what I would prefer," said Mr. Clyburn, who as the majority whip, is the lower chamber's third-most powerful member.
"I hope between now and next Tuesday we can at least turn this around and get us back on track of making our state's image a little better," he added.
Rob Miller, a Democrat who lost to Mr. Wilson last year in the general election by eight points, called the congressman's eruption "stunning."
Since Wednesday's speech, Mr. Miller has received more than $350,000 from 10,000 contributions, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
One posting on Mr. Miller's Facebook page -- from someone identified as Stephen McDow -- said, "I am an Independent who grew up in Washington, DC. I currently live in Southern California. The actions from Rep. Joe Wilson (R) SC, was so out of line that it provoked me to give a contribution."
HEALTH CARE FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS?
Illegal immigrants would not get tax credits or Medicaid coverage under the health care proposals before Congress, a nonpartisan congressional group says. However, they could be required to buy health insurance.
Proposal: Allow tax credits for some low-income people to offset the cost of health insurance premiums
Would illegal immigrants be eligible? No
Proposal: Extend Medicaid benefits to more low-income people
Would it apply to illegal immigrants? No
Proposal: Mandate that individuals have health insurance
Would it apply to illegal immigrants? Yes, if they live in the United States for at least 31 days in a calendar year or 183 days during the past three years.
Proposal: Create a health insurance exchange in which individuals could buy health insurance, including buying into a public option
Would illegal immigrants be eligible? Yes
Source: Congressional Research Service
-- The (Columbia) State