Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke the South Carolina Republican is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.
In an obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will be putting on “white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.
The charged comments come as the House is preparing to take further action against Wilson. House Democratic leaders decided to formally discipline him Tuesday afternoon for jeering President Obama during last week’s joint session of Congress.
Wilson bellowed “You lie!” as Obama delivered his address.
While he has been widely condemned by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for breaching protocol, some have gone a step further and accused Wilson of being racially motivated.
Johnson seemed to reference the protests held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in making his claim. While many protesters were there to demonstrate against big government and federal over-spending, Johnson argued that a “fringe” element is motivated by race and that Wilson “winked” at that fringe with his behavior.
The resolution is “privileged,” meaning whenever it is introduced the measure goes to the front of the legislative line. It is unclear who will call up the measure.
A “resolution of disapproval” is not one of the four forms of discipline typically meted out in the House. The most commonly used means of punishment are expulsion, censure, reprimand or fine.
For instance, in 1997, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was both reprimanded and fined for his book deal. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was reprimanded in 1990 for ethical breaches tied to a male prostitute. Republicans tried to censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., in 2007 for comments he made on the House floor about President Bush. But Democrats voted to set aside that effort.