Colorado Senator Mark Udall has sent his colleagues a letter urging them to do away with the tradition at the State of the Union where Republicans sit on one side of the room and Democrats on the other, by all mixing and mingling among each other.
At the State of the Union address, on January 25th, instead of sitting in our usual partisan divide, let us agree to have Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side throughout the chamber. 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. The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room – while the other side sits – is unbecoming of a serious institution. And the message that it sends is that even on a night when the President is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two.
On the night of the State of the Union address, we are asking others to join us – House and Senate members from both parties – to cross the aisle and sit together. We hope that as the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans will reflect the interspersed character of America itself. Perhaps by sitting with each other for one night we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.
Today both senators from New York are among the first to endorse the idea.
“Senator Udall has the right idea,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “This would be a great way to start off the new session in a bipartisan way following up on the cooperation during the lame duck and the President’s speech urging all Americans to come together.”
And earlier today Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was asked about Udall’s letter on CNN, and said that sitting together would help the Senate realize the call for a more civilized debate that President Obama asked for last night.
“I think Senator Udall’s idea is a very good idea,” she said. “We can come together as a political body to help the nation come together.”