Obama’s big speech may draw bipartisan seating arrangement
A top Republican on Friday embraced a Democratic proposal to project a sense of national unity by having members of their respective parties sit together at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 25
“I like the idea,” House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy told reporters at the second day of a three-day retreat in Baltimore by the new House Republican majority. “I think the American public would find it as a positive,” he said.
Democrats and Republicans traditionally sit divided by party at the annual State of the Union Address. Partisanship is on display with members of one party — and then the other — standing to clap when they like what the president says, and sitting quietly when they don’t.
Democratic Senator Mark Udall suggested on Thursday that lawmakers intermingle at this year’s event. The idea was first offered by the moderate think tank Third Way.
The suggestion came on the heels of the attempted assassination in Arizona on Saturday of Representative Gabrielle Giffords that left six dead and 14 others wounded, including the Democratic lawmaker. The shooting spree stunned the nation and raised questions on whether U.S. political rhetoric had become too heated, too partisan.
Hoyer quickly backed the idea that lawmakers sit together, saying in a statement, “I believe Congress has a responsibility to set an example of less ugly, less divisive debate.”
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski on Friday joined Udall in urging colleagues to sign a letter to the Senate and House leadership calling for a bipartisan seating arrangement.
“The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room – while the other side sits – is unbecoming of a serious institution,” the letter reads, in part. “And the message that it sends is that even on a night when the president is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two.”
In Baltimore, McCarthy told reporters that he and Hoyer often try to talk to each other. “I’d enjoy sitting next to him” at Obama’s nationally broadcast speech, McCarthy said.
Photo credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (President Obama gives his first State of the Union address on January 27, 2010) and REUTERS/Jim Young (Closeup of Obama during his first State of the Union address)