With a roll call vote of 240-179 mainly along party lines, the House of Representatives yesterday passed a resolution of disapproval of Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina). Wilson yelled "you lie" in the midst of President Obama's address to Congress last week; the House reprimand said that Wilson had committed a “breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House.” One of the “yes” votes on that resolution came from Rep. Laura Richardson (D-California), who joins us this morning. (click through for a full interview transcript)
For a refresher on Wilson's outburst watch the start of the ruckus below:
Todd Zwillich, for The Takeaway: Congresswoman
Richardson, why did you vote YES on the resolution yesterday?
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-California): First of all, good
morning and thanks for having me on your show. The reason I voted YES was
what Representative Wilson did was his behavior was inappropriate. We had
millions of people watching the joint [address to] Congress: men, women,
and children, and so on. And it’s inappropriate for people to yell out,
interrupt when someone is talking, and to also personally attack them
with name calling. And if we’re really going to have a serious debate in
this country, we’ve got to demonstrate that with ourselves in Congress.
And I think the town halls across this country over the last several
months have reached to a rhetoric that is basically unacceptable. And for
us as a Congress to participate in it as well, we’re just as much at
fault. So, yesterday was about saying, 'look, we might have differences
but we don’t have to be disagreeable.'
ZWILLICH: So, you want to draw a line between the House
floor and the outside world? Because of course what has been re-reported
in the last few days was when President Bush was President, Harry Reid,
the Senate Majority Leader, did call him a liar. He didn’t do it on the
Senate floor. That wasn’t very civil. Is the difference here the chamber
floor or is it a double-standard for the Senate and the House or for
Democrats and Republicans? What’s the distinction here?
RICHARDSON: Well the distinction, first of all, is the
behavior that goes on on the floor. We have specific rules. Parliamentary
procedure rules about how we are supposed to conduct ourselves while we
are on the floor. And so clearly Mr. Wilson did not perform in that
behavior. In addition to that, there’s a way that we carry ourselves at
all times and no one should be doing name calling with the President.
These issues are very emotional and very difficult. And I think if people
reach to the level of name calling, even with President Bush, we should
respect the office that he holds. There are some serious concerns about
what he and Vice-President Cheney did but we should all still carry
ourselves in an appropriate way and calling someone a liar I think goes
ZWILLICH: Well the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,
initially did not really want to touch this. There’s kind of a traveling
side-show that seems to follow the President wherever he goes, whether it
is talk of death panels or the Louis Henry Gates scandal – the Beer
Summit, educational speech – a lot of things that seem to have thrown the
President off-message. And it appears the Speaker didn’t want to help
throw the President off-message. But, Congresswoman, your whip,
Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina had a different view on
Let’s hear from him: [on tape] We, at a minimum, are duty bound to
express our disapproval.
ZWILLICH: Now, a lot of your colleagues, especially
members of the Congressional Black Caucus, did see a racial element to
Joe Wilson’s outburst. Did you hear any of those sentiments on the House
floor? Was this purely about protecting the integrity of House decorum?
Or were you hearing complaints about rebuking what people saw as a racial
RICHARDSON: No, when I was on the floor people were not
talking about race. People were talking about how Representative Wilson
disrespected the President of The United States. All you have to do is
turn on the television and look at some of the horrible pictures, some of
the things that are being said, and people are going too far. And that’s
what it clearly was about. We have to respect the office. If we want to
say something different there is a medium to do so. But to scream out and
yell and disrespect the President’s speech is inappropriate. And to do
name calling on top of it is just wrong. And it’s not about the race;
it’s about how we should behave.
ZWILLICH: Well, the House has always been a slightly
more raucous place than the Senate; slightly less raucous than the
British Parliament. Congresswoman Laura Richardson from the 37th district
in Los Angeles and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, thank you
for joining us.