Sen. Mark Udall is circulating a letter among all Members of Congress asking them to support scrapping partisan seating at the president’s upcoming State of the Union address.
Senators and House Members traditionally sit aligned by political party during the address, with Republicans on the right side of the House chamber and Democrats on the left. The Colorado Democrat is promoting a recommendation by Third Way to mix up the seating when President Barack Obama appears before Congress on Jan. 25. The centrist Democratic think tank proposed the idea this week.
“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 in his letter. “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.”
Udall plans to send a letter formally requesting the bipartisan seating to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Udall offered his proposal in the wake of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, Ariz., which left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is in critical condition but expected to survive. The shooting occurred during a constituent services event outside a local supermarket.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.