Senators Udall, Murkowski suggest bipartisan seating at President Obama’s State of the Union speech
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — At least a few U.S. senators think that rearranging the seating during President Obama’s Jan. 24 State of the Union speech could be a tiny step toward healing some of the bitter partisan divisions in Congress.
Senators Mark Udall (CO) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) today renewed their call for members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to sit together during the address.
Udall and Murkowski last year suggested ending the longstanding custom of sitting divided by party during the president’s speech — with lawmakers on one side of the room cheering, while those on the other sit in silence. The gesture — while symbolic — changed the tone in Congress for one night.
This year, with Americans increasingly frustrated with the partisanship in Congress, Udall and Murkowski are calling on Congress to change the tradition for good. Beyond that, Udall and Murkowski are also urging their colleagues to seek out opportunities and forums to build on potential areas of policy agreement.
“Now more than ever, we have the obligation to show that there is a place for civility on Capitol Hill and that civility can lead to problem-solving. As we saw last year, bipartisan seating reduced the division we had witnessed for decades at the annual State of the Union address,” the Senators write in their letter. “We therefore believe that permanent bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address would be one small way to bridge our partisan divide and to encourage members to find solutions to our nation’s problems. We started that new tradition in American politics last year. Let’s now continue that tradition moving forward.”
Udall and Murkowski are also asking Congress to hold bipartisan retreats, a suggestion also put forward by the think tank Third Way, at which lawmakers could focus on finding areas of agreement on policy issues across the board.