GOP, Dem defectors on Wilson measure explain their votes

Democrats who voted against reprimanding Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said their party needs to focus on its legislative agenda, while Republicans who supported the measure said it was a just punishment.

"I found his conduct offensive and disturbing,” Rep. Paul Hodes (N.H.) said in a statement. Hodes, who is running for Senate, added, “In my judgment, it’s time to move on, and I do not support this resolution.”

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“What Congressman Wilson did was wrong and just plain childish behavior, but the House of Representatives doesn't need to stop what it is doing to reprimand him,” Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.) said. “I'd much rather have Congress spend time on getting our economy back on track, addressing our energy challenges or advancing legislation to help our nation's veterans."

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans who voted to admonish Wilson indicated support for the South Carolina congressman, but held that Wilson’s outburst violated House rules.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said Obama “was lying” about the healthcare reform bill’s coverage of illegal immigrants, but that Wilson should have not registered his opposition so publicly: “The bottom line is President Obama was lying but Joe should have called him on it after the speech and off the floor of the House. Republicans have got to do more than just try to play lowbrow politics with the issue of the moment.”

Below is a list of the seven Republicans who voted yes, the 12 Democrats who voted no and the five Democrats who voted present, as well as their explanations as to why they voted the way they did on Tuesday.

Republicans voting yes


Joseph Cao (La.)

“Congressman Wilson was out of line,” said Princella Smith, Cao’s press secretary. “If [Wilson] wished to express his views on the matter, there are more appropriate venues, such as a letter to his constituents.”

Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.)


“No matter which party invites the president to a joint session of Congress, he should be treated with the measure of respect due to any American who holds the office, regardless of the circumstances,” Emerson said in a statement.

Jeff Flake (Ariz.)

“Congressman Wilson is a good man, and I have confidence that his apology to President Obama was sincere,” said Flake. “However, his actions violated the rules of decorum of the House of Representatives. While the tenor of political debate seems to get more disrespectful every year, the floor of the House of Representatives has always provided a welcome respite. Even the fiercest political opponents refer to each other as ‘gentleman’ and afford one another civility and respect. We need to uphold that tradition.”

Bob Inglis (S.C.)

“Joe Wilson apologized to the president. That apology fixed the problem pertaining to the president,” said Inglis. “Joe also broke House rules. That problem could have been fixed by an apology to the House by Joe Wilson. Absent that, the House had to police itself through a resolution of disapproval, which I supported.”

Walter Jones (N.C.)

Jones’s office did not return an e-mail seeking comment.

Tom Petri (Wis.)

Petri supported Tuesday’s resolution because “he does disapprove of that behavior,” according to Niel Wright, the congressman’s press secretary.

Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.)


“No one should excuse Rep. Joe Wilson if they would be upset if a Democrat did the same thing to President Ronald Reagan,” said Rohrabacher. “If a Democrat would have called Ronald Reagan a liar in the middle of his address to Congress, Republicans would have demanded that he apologize to the House for violating its rules and to the president for being rude and interrupting his speech. The bottom line is President Obama was lying, but Joe should have called him on it after the speech and off the floor of the House. Republicans have got to do more than just try to play lowbrow politics with the issue of the moment.”


Democrats voting no

Michael Arcuri (N.Y.)


“Let me be clear, what Congressman Wilson did during the president’s speech was absolutely out of line, but taking time to officially reprimand him was not in the best interest of my constituents,” said Arcuri. “Congressman Wilson has issued an apology to President Obama, which he absolutely should have done, and the president accepted his apology. I did not feel that further action was needed in this matter.”

Bill Delahunt (Mass.)

“President Obama accepted Rep. Wilson’s apology,” said Delahunt. “That is good enough for me. It’s time to move on.”

Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.)

“It is unfortunate that Congressman Wilson has not apologized to our colleagues for his rude outburst,” said Giffords. “Heckling the president of the United States while he is addressing a joint session of Congress is totally unacceptable for a member of this body. The American people know this and Congressman Wilson knows this — that is why he apologized to President Obama. We should not waste any more time on this matter. We need to stay focused on health insurance reform and improving our economy.”

Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.)


“Joe Wilson’s actions were inappropriate and wrong,” said Jeff Lieberson, press secretary for Hinchey. “However, [Wilson] apologized and the president accepted, and the congressman believes that it is time to move forward and focus on passing quality, affordable healthcare.”

Paul Hodes (N.H.)


"I found his conduct offensive and disturbing,” Hodes said in a statement. "But the focus on his outburst has served as a distraction to the larger goal of providing affordable, portable, high-quality healthcare to every family … In my judgment, it’s time to move on, and I do not support this resolution.”

Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)


“He apologized publicly to the president,” Kucinich said. “The president accepted his apology. That should have been the end of it.”

Dan Maffei (N.Y.)


“It does not promote civility to have a party-line vote and spend an afternoon debating whether Mr. Wilson's apology for what he said during the president's address last week is ‘good enough,’ ” Maffei said. “Clearly, Mr. Wilson thoroughly embarrassed himself. And while I disagree with Mr. Wilson and I strongly support the president, I think we should be moving on, and not piling on.”

Eric Massa (N.Y.)

"My vote against formally reprimanding Rep. Wilson is based on my belief that we should be doing more important things now that Congress is back in session," said Massa. "I strongly disapproved of Joe Wilson's outburst last week, but I think it's more important for us to be working on solutions rather than voicing more objections to something that happened almost a full week ago. The issues facing the American people are more important than myself, Rep. Wilson or President Obama, and I think we owe it to the public to continue working for them right now."

Jim McDermott (Wash.)


“This does not further the process of civility in the House. He apologized to the president and that apology was accepted. That's all that needs to be said,” McDermott said.

Gwen Moore (Wis.)


“I want to keep my eye on the prize of getting comprehensive healthcare reform passed,” Moore said.

Gene Taylor (Miss.)

Taylor’s office did not provide a comment for this article.

Harry Teague (N.M.)


"I didn't come to Congress to continue playing the same political games,” Teague said. “What Congressman Wilson did was wrong and just plain childish behavior, but the House of Representatives doesn't need to stop what it is doing to reprimand him. I'd much rather have Congress spend time on getting our economy back on track, addressing our energy challenges or advancing legislation to help our nation's veterans."


Democrats voting present

Eliot Engel (N.Y.)

“I don’t condone Congressman Wilson’s actions. It was inappropriate,” Engel said. “However, I don’t want to perpetuate partisan bickering.”

Bill Foster (Ill.)

“My ‘present’ vote is a reflection of my belief that Congress has better things to do at this time,” Foster said.

Barney Frank (Mass.)

“I think it’s bad precedent to put us in charge of deciding whether people act like jerks. I don’t have time to monitor everyone’s civility,” Frank said.

Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.)


Shea-Porter “voted present to recognize that the congressman did apologize to the president,” according to Jamie Radice, the congresswoman’s press secretary.

Ike Skelton (Mo.)

Skelton’s office did not comment by deadline.