Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says a South Carolina Republican’s outburst during the president’s speech last night is a turning point in the debate on health care. President Obama said extending coverage to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants and Congressman Joe Wilson reacted.
“The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally,” Obama said. Wilson, sitting with his Republican colleagues on the House floor, yelled: “You lie!” The House erupted in boos.
After the speech Wilson was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans and he issued an apology last night. Braley says everyone in the House was “offended” by Wilson’s outburst.
“It was a complete breach of protocol on the House floor,” Braley says. “It is the type of action that members can be sanctioned for and I was quite pleased that Congressman Wilson promptly apologized for remarks which were completely inappropriate and quite frankly a symbol of what’s been wrong about the national debate on health care.”
Braley says Wilson’s public apology may help the uproar it caused to “simmer down,” but Braley says it may also be the catalyst for calmer consideration of the issue.
“I’m hoping that based on the president’s invitation last night and based on some of the negative reaction to this comment that it will encourage members of the House and the Senate who have been very outspoken in their opposition to the bill to come to the table with ideas that meet the president’s framework for meaningful health care reform,” Braley says.
In a written statement, Wilson offered his “sincere apologies to the president for (his) lack of civility.” Senator John McCain — President Obama’s Republican opponent in 2008 — called his fellow Republican’s conduct during the speech “totally disrespectful.”
As Radio Iowa reported earlier this morning, Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron who is an outspoken critic of illegal immigration, said he sympathized with Wilson and agrees with Wilson that what the president said was not “the truth.”