Season of Silly: SOTU “bipartisan” seating arrangements revealed

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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