WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Bill Knight - September 17

Macomb, IL – Joe Wilson's outburst of "You lie!" interrupting President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last week apparently broke House rules. So what?

The relevant facts are: The South Carolina Republican Congressman is making money off his rudeness, using it to solicit campaign contributions; President Obama is a grownup and easily endures such behavior; Democrats should've done the same thing during the previous administration's well-documented litany of falsehoods; and Wilson and his Right-wing goofs are the liars.

Considering that the speech was distributed to Congress beforehand, Wilson's tantrum was about as spontaneous and unexpected as sound occurring after someone - even a Congressman -- blows into a horn. So he at least put what passes in his brain for a little thought into his two-syllable repartee.

However, Wilson, GOP apologists for such wackiness, and the extremist gas bags on radio and cable seemingly put no effort into reading the actual measure, House Bill 3200.

Its Section 246, titled "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens," reads: "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

The nonpartisan Library of Congress makes available all pending legislation on Capitol Hill, incidentally. To double-check that or any bill, its status, sponsors and so on, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/. The database is searchable, too.

So - especially given the clear language of the provision - it's not a stretch to conclude that Wilson and media mouthpieces such as Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Walter Williams, ad nauseam intentionally are misleading people who are concerned about spending tax money on non-citizens, people who hate Obama and embrace any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to attack him, and people who think of undocumented immigrants as conniving ne'er-do-wells instead of low-paid workers mercilessly exploited by Big Business.

Further, undocumented immigrants probably get treated by health providers now on occasion, particularly if they're gravely ill or injured and show up in need of medical attention at an emergency room. Physicians ideally work under the Hippocratic Oath, which says, in part, "I will apply measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice." Few doctors or nurses in good faith would refuse to treat someone in dire need.

That said, HB 3200 specifically excludes undocumented immigrants from benefiting from publicly funded health care reform.

Sure, an undocumented immigrant - heck, an extraterrestrial who passes for human, even - could find help at a hospital ER somewhere, as they always have. But that's more due to the Good Samaritan who resides in most people, not a government mandate. That's not new.

Ignoring reality for political gain isn't new, either, of course.

Last month, in fact, the nonpartisan FactCheck.org released its "Seven Falsehoods about Health Care" report summarizing the claims made by various opponents and proponents of health-care reform. Among its findings, with citations, is this statement: "One Republican Congressman issued a press release claiming that 5,600,000 illegal aliens may be covered under Obamacare,' and we've been peppered with queries about similar claims. They're not true. In fact, the House bill specifically says that no federal money would be spent on giving illegal immigrants health coverage. Also, under current law, those in the country illegally don't qualify for federal health programs."

Wilson's unapologetic apology really reiterated his verifiably false claim that health-care reform will provide for medical care for undocumented immigrants.

If Congressional Republicans cared more for facts rather than political points for their reelections, they'd take the position made famous by the late comic Gilda Radner on NBC's classic years of "Saturday Night Live." Speaking as Emily Litella, Radner would be part way through some mixed-up diatribe, get corrected, then meekly concede her error: "Never mind."

If Wilson would man up, he'd confess his dishonesty and do the same.