POLITICS

Wilson's Outburst May Have Violated House Rules

11/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When Representative Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted "You lie!" at President Barack Obama during last night's address, it may have been more than a dick move. The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reports today that it may have actually been a violation of House of Representatives "rules of decorum." In other news: the House of Representatives apparently has "rules of decorum!"

Akers cites section 370 of the House Rules Manual and discovers that there are a number of things that members are not allowed to say about the president in the chamber. Members are not permitted to:

* call the President a "liar."

* call the President a "hypocrite."

* describe the President's veto of a bill as "cowardly."

* charge that the President has been "intellectually dishonest."

* refer to the President as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

* refer to alleged "sexual misconduct on the President's part."

Obviously, some of these rules take a lot of the fun out of governing! Here's another fun fact:

Sec. 47.1 In discussing the President of the United States in debate a Member may not refer to him contemptuously or by surname.

On Jan. 23, 1933,(6) Mr. James M. Beck, of Pennsylvania, arose to a point of order and stated as follows:

The gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. McFadden] who is now addressing the House has on more than one occasion in the course of his address referred to the President of the United States as "Hoover." My point of order is that it does not accord with the dignity of this House that the President of the United States should be contemptuously referred to by his last name.

Speaker Pro Tempore Thomas L. Blanton, of Texas, sustained the point of order.

But all is not lost! According to the rules, the following insults are still in bounds:

* You can call the government "hated" or "oppressive."
* A Presidential message can be called a "disgrace to the country."
* Members are allowed to refer to "a federal agency as a socialist and communist experiment"
* Anyone can be referred to as "half-baked nitwits handling foreign affairs," so long as they are not identified by name

Obviously, none of these rules should be confused with the Cider House Rules, which are far more onerous, but rarely followed.

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