HH: I am bringing as promised throughout the show Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. Congressman, welcome, you’ve had quite a day today.
JW: It has been, but Hugh, thank you, and thank the Heritage Foundation.
HH: I’m glad to do that. Let’s start off with your reaction to both your call out last night, your apology, and then the blowback today from both the left and the right to your website, your campaign website, your House website. What’s happened in the aftermath of last night?
JW: Well, there’s obviously, Hugh, been an overwhelming number of people in touch with the office. I’m very grateful that the vast majority have been very favorable. They understand that I do respect the President, that I immediately apologized for speaking out. But they also are equally passionate, as I am, that we have a situation of big government, and big government health care, a takeover of 16% of our economy. And then as the President was speaking, and he mentioned about illegal aliens, it all clicked for me, because I’ve been working on the amendments to try to improve the bill, and I knew that in the Energy And Commerce Committee, and I knew that in the Ways And Means Committee, that the Republican amendments which were to provide for enforcement of verification of citizenship had been defeated by the Democrats. The wording that the President was citing has no meaning.
HH: Joe Wilson, I watched Rick Sanchez on CNN tonight do a very disingenuous analysis of your argument, parsing words. He’s clearly not a lawyer, doesn’t understand. But I believe your argument to be, illegal aliens will access services at emergency rooms, they will be given those services at emergency rooms, many people like me want them to be given those services at emergency rooms, but they cost money. And this bill will not stop that. It will, in fact, not make up that expense. Is that your argument, Joe Wilson?
JW: Well, actually, Hugh, it would go beyond that, in that the health insurance would be provided without verification of citizenship, that there would be subsidies to purchase health insurance without verification of citizenship. And so it’s not just the basic care.
JW: It’s far beyond that. And that’s why we were trying to have these amendments. And it’s really outrageous that you had this trillion dollar bill that would provide benefits far beyond simply providing for initial health care.
HH: Now Congressman, did members from the Democratic Party object to this…obviously, they objected to, and you apologized for, your outburst last night. But did members of the Democratic Party object to the President’s characterization? Because it’s my understanding that many Democrats know that people in the country illegally will in fact be accessing services, and I guess they must know they will be accessing the benefits in the Obamacare bill.
JW: Yes, they do, and that’s why in…several Democrats actually voted with the Republicans on the amendments that were defeated. And one of them was only defeated by one vote in committee.
HH: And so in terms of this issue going forward, Congressman Wilson, do you expect that as a result of last night, there will be increased focus and more opportunities to present the same amendment that was defeated in the Ways And Means Committee?
JW: And Hugh, you’re ahead of the curve. That’s how to resolve the issue that I got provoked about, and that is simply adopt the amendments that we’ve previously provided, and indeed it would be a verification of citizenship before you receive the benefits and subsidies.
HH: Would you expect people to be verified in the emergency room seeking services, or just when they seek enrollment in a government option?
JW: It would be with the enrollments.
HH: Okay, so you are not trying to add a level of verification in the emergency room?
JW: No, I think that should be done, but that’s not what this bill is about.
HH: Now Congressman Wilson, in terms of the vitriol directed at you, obviously you apologized last night. It’s not the way, we don’t do it the English way.
HH: But you’re on record, you said you’re sorry. But what has happened today from MoveOn.org and the rest of them? They’re trying to basically burn you in effigy across the internet.
JW: And also they’re raising big bucks for my opponent in the campaign, and so I…but Hugh, I never take a campaign for granted. I’m very grateful that I’ll be putting in the right time in the ten counties I represent in Central South Carolina, the low country, beautiful Hilton Head. I’ve got wonderful communities, and so I’ll be out there campaigning, and I understand that the far left will be doing all they can to silence my pointing out what I think is wrong about the health care bill.
HH: Now Congressman Wilson, I’ve linked your website, your campaign website at Hughhewitt.com. Has that crashed today?
JW: It has, and…but it’s back.
JW: And again, I’m very grateful, particularly from the district I represent, Hugh, which is that’s my home people. And overwhelmingly, again, they know that Joe Wilson respects the President, and the office of the president, but they do appreciate that Joe Wilson is standing up for them against this big government massive growth.
HH: Now I have been talking all day about two stories, not only the President’s speech, but also the ACORN scandal that is beginning to break out.
JW: Oh, yes.
HH: Have you followed that story today, Congressman Wilson?
JW: I truly, Hugh, you’ve got me on this one. I have not. I’ve only briefly been watching about ACORN, but that doesn’t surprise me.
HH: There’s a lot of deception in American politics. There’s a lot of disingenuous speech in American politics. You got in trouble last night because you spoke your mind about what you honestly believed, in a perhaps inappropriate setting, absolutely.
HH: But nevertheless, you spoke what you believed to be true.
HH: Do you think this could have, that your exchange with the President and the apology, which I gather he accepted…did he accept it?
JW: He did, and I spoke to the White House last night. They were very gracious. They said well, let’s get on now and have a civil discussion about the bill, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
HH: And there was some talk today about trying to censure you, and then Speaker Pelosi said no, let’s move on. Have you heard anything more about that?
JW: The key thing is that I’ve had so many wonderful people in Congress say Joe, we just appreciate your service, we just appreciate you. And so I’m very grateful at the outpouring of support from my colleagues, too.
HH: Congressman, what were you thinking? I mean, what led up to your calling out at the President?
JW: What was I thinking, Hugh, is that I was sitting there, and I heard something that was just not accurate at all. And I just, and I didn’t snap, because if I’d snapped, I would have kept on objecting. But I just heard something, Hugh, that I knew was not correct, it was being misstated, and I knew the facts about the amendments that had been defeated.
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HH: Let’s conclude, Joe Wilson, what do you think of President Obama as a person?
JW: Well, I’ve never made this personal. In fact, Hugh, I had town hall meetings ranging from 1,200 to 1,700 people. A lot of the criticisms I got at the town halls is that I never mentioned his name. I would talk about the administration, I would talk about the bill. But this is not personal, and I do not mean for it ever to be personal. This is my concern about the growth of big government, and how it will have a gruesome impact on the American people.
HH: And what do you want my audience to know, and everybody who reads the transcript of this, about the flaws in this bill? Because last night, I thought the President distorted the substance of his proposals, and especially HR 3200 dramatically. What do you think is the most important thing for the American people to know about the bill?
JW: They need to know about the extraordinary cost, and we already know from Cash For Clunkers that the government underestimates cost. What the American people need to know about the $800 billion dollars in taxes, they need to know as the National Federation of Independent Business has pointed out, this will cost jobs at a time where we have extraordinary unemployment. This will eliminate 1.6 million jobs. We can do better through health insurance reform.
HH: Do you expect, Congressman Wilson, that this will blow over, or that the left is going to try and make you a poster child for reviving what is basically a defeated proposal, the public option?
JW: I sort of see myself as a target. Hey, but I ran for this, and I’ll be working hard to justify reelection.
HH: Congressman Joe Wilson, your website is linked at Hughhewitt.com. I’ll check in with you in a couple of weeks and see how this goes. And stand up against the bullies on the left. I’m glad you apologized last night, but I’m also glad that you’re out there on the hustings trying to bring light now to a complicated subject that I think needs a lot of light over the next couple of months. Thank you, Congressman.
JW: Thank you, Hugh.
End of interview.