Wilsonian Democracy
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a formal resolution of disapproval late this afternoon against South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson for his “You lie!” outburst against President Obama. You won’t be surprised to learn that the resolution passed along party lines, but you might be surprised to learn that neither of our U.S. Representatives, Democrats Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter, voted in favor of the resolution. Hodes voted against it, and Shea-Porter voted “present.”  While excoriating Wilson’s behavior earlier today, Hodes explained his rationale for voting against the resolution:
…the focus on his [Wilson’s] outburst has served as a distraction to the larger goal of providing affordable, portable, high quality health care to every family. We need to work together as Republicans and Democrats to craft a bill that seeks to lower costs, increase quality of care, and put families back in control of their health care. In my judgment, it’s time to move on and I do not support this resolution. We should not allow Mr. Wilson’s reckless conduct to overshadow the need to work together to craft a strong health care reform measure that gives Americans lower costs, more choice, and real control in a fiscally responsible fashion.
I have to say I agree with Hodes on this one. Anytime one of these wrist-slapping resolutions passes on a party-line vote, citizens usually chock it up to intramural partisan warfare among political elites inside the beltway. And, a resolution of disapproval isn’t even as strong as censure, which is typically viewed as the optimal wrist-slap for bad legislative behavior.
So, while I understand the thirst for revenge among Democrats, and the need to uphold our institutional traditions against a loss of decorum, the exercise was (as Hodes suggests) a waste of time. I would add that its primary impact will be to make Wilson an even bigger (and better funded) folk hero among movement conservatives than he already is.
As for Shea-Porter, I haven’t yet heard why she chose to vote “present,” rather than take a stand one way or the other. If she hasn’t offered an explanation already, I am sure some intrepid New Hampshire reporter or blogger will ask her for clarification.  For now, I can at least say that Hodes got this one right.


Posted On: 09-17-2009 09:54:14 by Jim Splaine
I agree that the resolution was unnecessary, and just gives the folk-hero tag to that Joe Wilson guy. But the fact is, the resolution WAS before Congress, and like I've seen many a-time in Concord with issues that I'd rather not have to vote on, if you're an elected official you have to make a decision. A few months ago, when I sponsored the marriage equality bill (HB 436) I heard from a number of potential supporters of the bill that they'd rather not have to vote on it this year. We had the budget, and other problems. But push come to shove, and House and Senate members realized that it was an issue in front of them, so if they supported marriage equality, they had to vote "yes" if they were to live up to their convictions. Good for them that they did so. That's called political courage. By Hodes making the decision to vote "no," he was saying he did not disapprove of Wilson's disgusting action. Shame on Hodes, and it gives one more reason why we should see a Democratic primary challenge to him. His weak stand on Afghanistan and his fundraising of dialing-for-dollars from just about any PAC leaves me unimpressed with this man. He's better than any of the Republican candidates out there, but certainly Democrats can do better. In Hodes I don't see much political courage. I see a man who wants to be a United States Senator. This vote tells me more about him and his ambition than about Joe Wilson and his decorum.

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