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Heckling lawmaker says no more outbursts Wednesday

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[January 27, 2010]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- The South Carolina congressman who called Barack Obama a liar during the president's last speech before Congress says he'll be on his best behavior for the State of the Union address Wednesday night.

HardwareRepublican Joe Wilson said he's been getting plenty of ribbing from his family and colleagues leading up to Obama's big speech. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said there won't be another outburst like his shout of "You lie!" during Obama's health care address to Congress in September.

"I am a gentleman. My natural inclination is to be on my best behavior," he said. "I have the highest respect for the president, and I certainly look forward to the speech."

Wilson said voters in recent elections have shown that they share his concerns about health care legislation by defeating Democratic candidates. He said he thinks Obama can win significant GOP support by paring back the bill now that it has stalled in the Senate, and he thinks Republicans agree with him on a majority of the ideas for changing the health care system.

After apologizing to the White House last year, Wilson parlayed the incident into a public relations and financial bonanza. Previously a little-known lawmaker, he drew campaign donations from across the country, and he now regularly appears on cable TV news shows and is a sought-after guest at Republican fundraisers.

He is, however, the only House member ever to have been admonished by the chamber for speaking out while the president was delivering a speech, according to the Office of the House Historian. A week after the incident, the House passed a resolution, largely along party lines, saying Wilson's conduct was a breach of congressional decorum that brought "discredit to the House."

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Wilson's shout came during Obama's speech after the president commented that illegal immigrants would be ineligible for federal subsidies to buy health insurance. Republicans expressed their disbelief with sounds of disapproval, punctuated by Wilson's outburst. Although the original proposal expressly prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving benefits, the White House later endorsed stronger language reinforcing the goal.

Wilson emphasized that he never planned to insult the president but that his emotions got the better of him.

"That was truly a one-time ... town hall moment," he said, referring to the raucous town halls over the summer where conservatives protested Obama's plans. "Since that time, it's been my view to have a civil discussion on the issues."

[Associated Press; By BEN EVANS]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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