Mark Udall Wants Members Sitting Together for SOTU

Today, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) “urged his colleagues in both houses of Congress to end a longstanding custom in which the two political parties sit divided on opposite sides of the room during the President’s State of the Union address,” according to a press release from his office.

Only tradition dictates that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives gather in the House chamber for the President’s annual speech – Democrats on one side, and Republicans on the other.

In a letter to his fellow lawmakers, Udall said the partisan seating arrangement has become a negative symbol of the divisions in Congress – and among the American people – with one side of the chamber cheering and applauding loudly throughout the President’s speech, while the other often sits silent.  He urged them to bridge the partisan divide by sitting together as a symbolic gesture signifying unity and better reflecting the communities they represent.

“The President’s State of the Union address sets the agenda for the year – the challenges and opportunities we face.  But what Americans see when they watch it on TV is a Congress that is bitterly divided by party,” Udall said.  “It sets a negative tone that only perpetuates the narrative that Congress cannot – and will not – come together for the good of the country we all love.  Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country.”

“After serving over a decade in the House and Senate, I know that more unites us than divides us, and now – more than ever – we need to find ways to dial down the political rhetoric and set a positive example for all Americans,” Udall continued.  “Our country has been talking about changing the way Washington works, and now it’s time to take action by crossing the aisle and sitting together.  It’s a simple step, but an important one that will go a long way in bridging our political divide.  So I’m asking my colleagues to join me in sitting side-by-side in a symbolic gesture that reflects the diversity in the communities we represent.”

Full letter here.

Update (1/13): According to the Wall Street Journal, an aide to Senator Udall said this proposal “has the support of Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.), Joe Lieberman, (I., Conn.), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.).”  Greg Sargent has a statement indicating that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also supports the idea.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mark Udall Wants Members Sitting Together for SOTU

  1. Lauren Allen

    I do hope this comes to pass. I have been reading how members and staff of both parties in the House have come to the aid of Gabby Giffords’ staff to help and support them after the horrific events of this past Saturday. They are showing that they can pull together to help a colleague. Is is too much to ask that they show they can pull together to do the peoples’ business?

  2. Leslie Bart

    This is an excellent idea. I’m copying Sen. Udall’s letter to my Senators and Representative recommending they take him up on his offer.

    Its time for all of us to start acting like Americans again in the truest sense of the word. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, we must now come together as Americans and save ourselves and our country from those who wish to continue to divide us. We are the UNITED States of America. It is the duty of all of us to start acting that way.

  3. marcie jewel

    If the suggestion comes from a Dem, it’s always suspect! Perhaps they don’t want people to see the SILENT GOP majority. With Dems intermingled it will give an allusion of bipartisan support. Stay divided & force Dems to resort to pompoms & bullhorns! The TeaParty doesn’t support this spendthrift president and don’t even want Conservatives to pretend we’re all one big happy family!

  4. it is sad that you have to tell GROWN UPS WHAT TO DO.the republicans have gotten so rich off of the poor peoples until now the only one who matters now is them. they want you to think it’s about their children but it’s not.IT’S ALL ABOUT KEEPING THEM RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICH

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