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Democrats and Republicans alike are denouncing Rep. Joe Wilson for shouting "You lie" at President Barack Obama during his speech to Congress, an extraordinary breach of decorum for which the South Carolina Republican swiftly apologized.
"There’ll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said late Wednesday on WTOP radio when asked about possible punishment for Wilson. "I’ve talked to Republican members who share that view."
"Let’s see what he does," Hoyer said before Wilson issued an apology. "Then there’s time enough to consider further action."
House Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but there was widespread condemnation of the outburst from members of both parties.
Wilson’s outburst came after Obama said extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.
"You lie!" Wilson shouted from his seat on the Republican side of the chamber.
Wilson’s behavior caused a political hangover for him and possibly for the Republican critics Obama had cast as shrill and more interested in killing any health care overhaul than finding a way to provide it.
Later, Wilson was contrite.
"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," he said in a statement. "While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."
He then tried to call Obama to apologize personally, but ended up talking with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead, Wilson’s office said.
By that time, the congressman’s Web site had crashed, he had taken a beating on his Twitter page and Democrat Rob Miller had raised thousands of unexpected dollars online for a possible rematch with Wilson in next year’s midterm elections, according to Lachlan McIntosh, Miller’s campaign manager.
"Everybody was stunned," Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said of Wilson’s eruption. "It was just something that nobody had ever witnessed before. We all felt embarrassed."
Republicans froze; several glanced in Wilson’s direction.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a fierce frown at him; first lady Michelle Obama pursed her lips and shook her head from side to side. Vice President Joe Biden looked down and shook his head too.
Obama, meanwhile, looked toward the outburst and replied, "That’s not true" before going on with his speech.
Wilson appeared to consult his Blackberry for much of the rest of Obama’s speech. He shook his head defiantly after several of the president’s statements. When Obama finished, Wilson bolted from the chamber.
Wilson’s behavior was "totally disrespectful," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had been Obama’s rival in the 2008 presidential election, said on CNN. "There is no place for it in that setting, or any other, and he should apologize for it immediately."
Associated Press writers Ben Evans in Washington and Jim Davenport in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.