Legislative aides are performing matchmaking services today in Washington D.C., as federal reps hurry to find bipartisan viewing buddies for the State of the Union.
With the tragic Arizona shooting in the background of the yearly presidential status report, the clamor for civility and more collegial politicking is still echoing.
It led U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) to introduce the idea of mixed seating for the speech, even though the process looks more like finding a prom date than spontaneous camaraderie at this point.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is in, said spokesman Afshin Mohamadi, but he hasn’t found a Republican buddy yet.
“He has a couple of irons in the fire,” Mohamadi said this afternoon.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) isn’t so sure.
“We’re still looking at it,” said spokesman Caley Gray.
Asked if it would be awkward for Lautenberg – for instance when the president looks out to on/off-on/off applause – Gray said, “I think it could be uncomfortable at times.”
Menendez’ spokesman said, “There will certainly be moments when Senators who are cheering are right next to Senators who are sitting on their hands, but the point isn’t that there will be an end to disagreements. The point is that they can disagree without being disagreeable.”
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) turned down Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) request to sit together – the two are close adversaries – but Pelosi turned him down in a tweet.
“I thank @GOPLeader for his #SOTU offer but I invited my friend Rep. Bartlett from MD yesterday & am pleased he accepted,” Pelosi said on Twitter. Bartlett is a Republican.
According to reports, U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), who have had extremely contentious existences on Capitol Hill, will put their daggers away as they listen to the national update tonight.
In honor of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), victim of the shooting, and her two aides, Congress will also leave a seat empty on the floor during the State of the Union.