Senator Mark Udall’s proposal for members of Congress to sit side by side without regard to party during the annual State of the Union speech later this month may be gaining ground.
Traditionally, Republicans sit on one side of the room and Democrats on the other. Traditionally, one side of the room sits on its hands while the other side applauds.
In an effort to bring the country together by bringing the Congress together, Udall says it is time for that to change.
Some prominent Republicans agree.
Congressional seating is open at the State of the Union on a first-come basis, so anyone can sit anywhere — outside of the first few rows reserved for cabinet officials, Supreme Court justices and certain congressional leaders.
The real test will come the evening of the address, when members will choose to sit with their parties or mix it up. But at least on paper, Udall’s request for a “symbolic gesture of unity” is gaining support.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announced Friday she is now “co-leader” of the initiative, supported by GOP colleagues Sen. John McCain, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Sen. Susan Collins and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
“Congressional reaction to the president’s State of the Union address has increasingly come to symbolize the sharp partisan divide in Congress,” Murkowski said in a statement. “So we think a good first step towards greater civility would be for senators and congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, to sit together in the House chamber on Jan. 25 when President Obama addresses a joint session.”