To be sure, Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) was rude to yell “you lie!” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last week on health-care reform. Since then, at least by some conservatives in the House, Wilson has been embraced as l’enfant terrible of the health-care debate: his words a southern-fried clarion call for an emboldened scrap with the Left over Obamacare.
As Congress reconvened today, some of Wilson’s allies took to the floor to defend the South Carolina Republican. Leading the pro-Wilson efforts was Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa), the ranking member on the House Immigration Subcommittee. “No one has any claim to further redress if the president of the United States accepted an apology and he did,” King said. But the Iowa Republican wasn’t just backing up his buddy. Over the weekend, King also circulated a letter urging House Republicans to resist pushes for Wilson to formally apologize to the House.
After King made his short “I’ll back you up” speech on the floor, he was rewarded with a thank-you tweet from Wilson. A nice gesture, sure. But King was there for more than Twitter and handshakes. He was there, on the floor speaking up for Wilson, because he knows that “you lie!” may be the best thing to happen to immigration reform this year.
“It’s really a shame that it took the Joe Wilson event to get some public scrutiny on the immigration aspect of this,” King tells NRO. “Now, the truth is finally coming out about how the Democrats are protecting public benefits for illegal immigrants.”
“The president had the audacity to stand before a joint session of Congress and lie about the details of his policy that are already printed. That’s what triggered the response from Joe Wilson,” says King. “Everyone knows that he is a nice guy. I’d like to take the heat off of Joe, if I could. If he hadn’t said that, we wouldn’t be having this debate. Instead, groups like La Raza and other organizations determined to provide a single-payer socialized system would be dominating.”
“From an immigration perspective, this event shifts the debate. If a bill passes either chamber, regardless of other amendments made, you have got to thank Joe Wilson when the bills are forced to contain specific language on proof-of-citizenship requirements. The American people deserve to have it. If we can get that much done, Joe’s comments will have gone a long way.”
One issue that King is trying to address now is whether entire households of illegal immigrants will enjoy Obamacare’s benefits when only one member of the household qualifies. “We could have a house full of illegal immigrants, where one has a baby, and then everyone qualifies,” says King. “That’s another insidious piece of language that hasn’t been spotlighted. We have got to pick it up and watch it closely.”
“Democrats have been in denial on these issues all along,” says King. “We heard President Obama directly deny to the American people something that was clearly true.”
Just watch, says King, there may be some more challenges to the Democrats’ health-care bills still to come. “There are many components of this bill to examine closely, especially in its language,” he says. “We know we’ll be hearing from illegal-immigrant advocacy groups to keep the current language in. Thanks to Joe Wilson, the American people heard the truth.”