House may vote on formal rebuke for Rep. Wilson outburst

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Joe Wilson apologized again Sunday on national television for heckling President Obama but said he won't do so from the House floor, triggering a likely showdown that could be awkward for both parties.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Wilson reiterated his regrets for shouting "You lie!" in the middle of Obama's health care speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. "I would never do that again," Wilson said.

Even so, Wilson rejected demands from some of his colleagues, including House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., that he deliver a formal apology on the House floor. "I have apologized to the president," Wilson said. "I believe that is sufficient."

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wilson's refusal likely will trigger a roll call vote to rebuke him.

"The House likely will take up a resolution," Daly said. "He violated the decorum of the House."

There are precedents for considering action against Wilson.

In 2003, House Republican leaders forced then-House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., to apologize for calling the Capitol Hill police to evict Democrats from a meeting room.

Two years ago, the House voted 196-173 to table House Republican leader John Boehner's resolution to censure Rep. Pete Stark after the California Democrat suggested that then-president George W. Bush enjoyed U.S. casualties in Iraq.

A reprimand vote on Wilson presents Republicans with a difficult choice: A "no" vote could condone conduct that many in the party, including 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, have condemned, while a "yes" vote could irk newly energized conservatives, such as the tens of thousands who packed Washington for an anti-Obama rally Saturday — some carrying "You lie" and "Joe Wilson: My hero" banners.

For Democrats, the choice is to ignore a controversy that has infuriated many of the party's liberal members, particularly those in the Congressional Black Caucus, or proceed with a vote that Obama himself, in an interview Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes, said could turn into a "big circus instead of us focusing on health care."

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., warned Democrats against "poisoning any possibility of working together" by taking action against Wilson.

Price, who heads the conservative Republican Study Group, told USA TODAY that his party could raise other controversies, such as Pelosi's assertion that the CIA lied to Congress about torturing terrorism suspects.

Yet Price was non-committal when asked how he'd vote on a resolution condemning Wilson's conduct. "I'd have to see what it says," he said.

The controversy has turned into political fundraising bonanzas for both Wilson and Democrat Rob Miller, a former Marine who is challenging the congressman for re-election next year.

Since Wednesday, each candidate has raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

That puts the race for South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District on target to become one of the most expensive in the country.

Contributing: Andrew Seaman