Illinois Dem Stays Neutral on Wilson Admonishment

"Congress has better things to do at this time," Foster said.

By Andrew Greiner
|  Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009  |  Updated 2:04 PM CDT
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Illinois Dem Stays Neutral on Wilson Admonishment

Bill Foster 2010

Rep. Bill Foster doesn't think Joe Wilson needs congressional discipline.

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Representative Bill Foster didn't think much of the vote to admonish admonish a U.S. House member for heckling President Barack Obama.

"Congress has better things to do at this time," Foster said.

Foster voted "present" on the admonishment accord. He joined four other congressmen who thought it was a waste of time, including Barney Frank (Massachusetts), Eliot Engel (New York), Carol Shea-Porter (New Hampshire), and Ike Skelton (Missouri).

The rest of the Illinois congressional delegation split along party lines. Democrats supported rebuking Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, while his fellow Republicans opposed it.

"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.

Wilson shouted "You lie!" during Obama's recent health care speech to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The rare resolution of disapproval was pushed through by Democrats insisting that Wilson, a South Carolina lawmaker, had violated basic rules of decorum and civility in his outburst. Republicans dismissed the vote as a political "witch hunt" and a waste of precious time and taxpayers' money.

The Office of the House Historian said the resolution marked the first time in the 220-year history of the House that a member had been admonished for speaking out while the president was giving an address. A resolution of disapproval is less severe than other disciplinary action available to the House, including censure or expulsion.

Wilson had called the White House to apologize shortly after the incident, and he said at the time that the president "graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over." Republicans agreed, but several Democrats pressed the issue.

The final tally late Tuesday was 240-179, generally but not entirely along party lines. It was 233 Democrats and seven Republicans voting to chastise Wilson, 167 Republicans and 12 Democrats opposing the measure and five Democrats merely voting "present."

"The resolution is not about the substance of an issue but about the conduct we expect of one another in the course of doing our business," declared House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who sponsored the measure with Democratic Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.

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