Season of Silly: SOTU “bipartisan” seating arrangements revealed

Posted by: ST on January 25, 2011 at 9:12 am

I’d hoped this idea, first proposed by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) would die a quick, quiet, uneventful death. Unfortunately, it hasn’t – and some lawmakers who we all respect have decided it’s a “good idea” in the name of “civility.” Ugh. Via CNN:

Washington (CNN) — Will Tuesday be “Date Night” in Congress for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address?

Democratic and Republican legislators are pairing off to sit together for the annual speech in a symbolic gesture of bipartisanship, and some of the combinations so far are intriguing.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the epitome of East Coast liberalism, and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a symbol of conservative intransigence, are putting aside their differences to cross the political aisle for a night, Schumer said Sunday.

“I think if Coburn and Schumer can sit next to each other, then probably just about everybody can,” Schumer told the CBS program “Face the Nation,” adding: “It’s true it’s symbolic, but let’s not forget (that) oftentimes in history, symbols influence reality.”

Another conservative Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, told the same program he would be sitting with Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, a longtime friend. And Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa tweeted Sunday that his “date” for the speech will be Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The idea of Democrats and Republicans sitting together for the speech, instead of being segregated on different sides of the House chamber, was first raised by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat and the cousin of New Mexico’s Udall.

Now more than 20 legislators have said they will break tradition by sitting next to members of the other party.

McCain called it “a good idea,” but also said it was “a bit overblown.” One benefit he hoped for was fewer of the automatic standing ovations by Democrats for a Democratic president, or Republicans for any right-leaning proposal Obama might endorse in the speech.

“I frankly think the cheerleading side of it has detracted from the ability of any president, Republican or Democrat, to speak continuously to the American people without so many interruptions,” McCain said. “I think there will be plenty of interruptions, and it doesn’t matter where you sit, but it might be nice to have a few less.”

Uh, no. Of course, I suspect McCain has no idea that the argument he’s making sounds just like what … a Democrat might say. Go figure.

That CNN article was written Sunday. Since that time, apparently 30 more lawmakers have signed on to the “bipartisan” seating arrangement. Via ABC News:

More than 50 lawmakers have so far signed on to Udall’s bipartisan seating plan, and several couples announced their pairings Sunday.

“Who’s your date?” ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour asked Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison Sunday on “This Week.”

“I don’t have a date,” Hutchison replied.

“Kay, I’m available,” interjected North Dakota Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.

The two will now sit together.

How sweet. 8-|

For what it’s worth, leaders in the House and Senate are either sitting where they normally do, or have mostly been non-committal on Udall’s proposal:

“If people want to mix it up, they certainly can. We don’t have seating assignments for most of our members,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he will not be sitting on the left side of the aisle, in an interview on Fox News.

“More important than the appearance of sitting together is what we do together. And the American people are more interested in actual accomplishments on a bipartisan basis here in the next six to nine months than they are with the seating arrangement at the State of the Union.”


House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have not yet weighed in publicly on the seating proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has only said that the plan should receive “serious consideration.”

Outside the Beltway libertarian Doug Mataconis – with who my Twitter readers know I almost never agree – rightly likens the atmosphere to proms and young love:

The silly idea of bipartisan seating at Tuesday’s State Of The Union has taken hold, and it’s made Congress look like a bunch of high school kids looking for prom dates:


It’s all kind of dumb, really, and its a way for political leaders to pretend that they’re actually doing something when they really aren’t. There’s nothing stopping Republicans and Democrats from being more bipartisan, or even just being more civil toward their opponents, and the fact that they’re going to sit next to each other for 90 minutes and listen to a long, boring speech doesn’t mean that they’re actually going to do either when the rubber hits the road.

Not only that, but it gives off the false impression that political “incivility” and “dangerous political rhetoric/imagery” played a role in the Tucson tragedy that left 6 dead and 14 injured. We all (everyone but diehard liberals, anyway) know it didn’t.

One person not taking part in the “civility” march tonight: Justice Alito. He won’t be there. I don’t really blame him after what happened last year. As far as the court’s other “conservative” Justices – Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, and Justice Thomas – it’s not known yet whether they will be in attendance.

Here’s the only seating list I’ve been able to find so far. I’m looking for a complete list of the politicos who have decided it’s in their best interests to take part in the bipartisan seating idea. When I do, I’ll post it here so that – in the event your House rep. and/or Senator(s) are taking part – you can email them (House / Senate) and let them know what you think.

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17 Responses to “Season of Silly: SOTU “bipartisan” seating arrangements revealed”


  1. NC Cop says:

    Window dressing. Nothing more.

  2. RM says:

    I hope the “Odd Couple” theme is played as they take their seats.

  3. your mama says:

    I don’t see this lasting very long. Just because the Dem’s all of a sudden want to play nice because they were called out on their hateful rhetoric and the folks said enough,,we see it for what it is, pure nonsense. And as soon as the republicans don’t go along with Obama’s failed policies it will all fly right out the window. Oh and it is childish and this political correctness is passe, as it should be.

  4. Carlos says:

    “Another conservative Republican, John McCain of Arizona…”

    Only from CNN, New York and California would such a nonsensical statement come from.

  5. Great White Rat says:

    Awww…isn’t that sweet. Look how we’re just one big happy family.

    Maybe we should extend the same concept to bloggers. ST – who’re you going to sit with? Kos? Andrew Sullivan? Hamsher??

    :: ducks and runs for cover::


  6. Rorschach says:

    If you ask me, instead of the GOP members of the House and Senate sitting with the Dems and making nice nice, they should all stand up and march out en masse when Obama takes the rostrum. Enough with turning the other cheek! When the Dems won, they froze us out and treated us like terrorist wannabes or worse. I think we should bend em over, shove it up their arse and break it off in em now. Payback is a bitch.

  7. Unfortunately, even after the 2010 wave, the GOP is still more a political party with a conservative veneer than a party of principled conservatives. As such, silly politico kabuki dances still come too naturally to them. We need another wave in 2012, and 2014, and …
    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  8. DF says:

    The whole idea that sitting together changes anything is crazy. If you think that Dems and Reps dont hang out together and go to dinner or play golf already you are nuts. This is all for show, it wont change a thing, and as Rush mentioned on his show it may very well be a way to disguise just how many republicans are in congress now. If they are sitting in groups like normal it would be obvious on TV, but all mixed-up it will be difficult to tell the exact numbers. Its all smoke and mirrors.


  9. Zippy says:

    Who knows where this could lead.. to all out blows right there in front of God and Country? Or dinner and drinks and cigars in the oral.. er.. oval office..

    I’m intrigued *rolls eyes, whistles and files nails*

  10. are the republicans fools. a few days after obama’s speech for for civility in political rhetoric democratic congressmen are calling the american people nazis and racists for opposing obamacare. and the emily post in chief doesn’t say a word about it. he never meant a word he said in tucson.

  11. RM says:

    Elections have consequences pretenses.

  12. The GOP are all too eager to be escorted and “kept in line” by their DEM babysitters. In their calculation, they have neglected to consider how many voters and contributors who worked hard to get GOP candidates in office will feel betrayed.

  13. ST says:

    LOL, GWR – I’d sit with Matt Yglesias, who told me a while back a couple of times in the same ‘conversation’ to “f*** off” :D

  14. grayjohn says:

    Some would call it political maneuvering, I Call it political manuring.:d

  15. teetem says:

    Window Dressing – that’s all it is. “Let’s give the illusion of a ‘united front’ – let’s make the American people THINK we all are just hunky dorey with each other, sitting around the campfire singing kumbaya” – True to form – the substance isn’t NEARLY as important as how it looks…