Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Friday joined with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in urging Members to break with tradition and sit in a bipartisan fashion during the State of the Union, arguing that divided seating has become a symbol of the nation’s political schism.
Murkowski becomes the highest profile Republican to publicly endorse the Colorado Democrat’s efforts to put an end to the tradition of partisan seating during the president’s annual address.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter, the two lawmakers urge Members to sit in a bipartisan manner, arguing the address presents an opportunity “to bring civility back to politics. It is important to show the nation that the most powerful deliberative bodies in the world can debate our differences with respect, honor and civility.”
They also included a letter they hope to send to the Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers asking them to endorse a mixed seating arrangement and ask their colleagues to sign that letter in a show of support.
“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.
“But this is also about respect for an institution that we’re all a part of. If we’re not showing respect for the institution, how can we expect our constituents to have respect for Congress?” she added.
Udall thanked Murkowski for joining his effort.
“I’m very pleased Senator Murkowski is helping me lead this effort. It’s a simple, symbolic gesture, but an important one that we both believe will go a long way in bridging our political divide,” he said in a statement.
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.