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Colorado's Mark Udall Wants Democrats, GOP to Sit Together at State of the Union

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Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, thinks members of his party and Republicans should sit together -- not on opposite sides of the aisle -- when President Obama delivers his State of the Union message to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 25.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter reported by NPR and Politico, Udall said, "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 on one side of the room -- while the other side sits -- is unbecoming of a serious institution."

Customarily, Republicans sit to the right in the House of Representatives chamber -- as viewed from the Speaker's rostrum -- and Democrats to the left. On the night of the State of the Union it gets crowded as senators, cabinet members, the diplomatic corps and some Supreme Court justices also squeeze in.

Udall wants to break with custom as a symbolic sign of unity in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in Arizona that left one House member, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head. His call for political civility also follows a bitterly-contested midterm election campaign that saw the flowering of the aggressively conservative tea party movement.

"Perhaps by sitting together 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," Udall said. (In that vein, Politics Daily writer Jeffrey Weiss has proposed naming January National Political Civility Month as a way of encouraging more good will in government and politics.)

Mark UdallHouse Speaker John Boehner, earlier this week, formally invited the president to the U.S. House for the annual speech, which will appraise the health of the nation, talk about its future, and lay out Obama's legislative agenda for 2011.

Boehner's letter was a formality, but the speech is much more than that. It is often laden with meaty policy proposals and even controversy. Last year Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, sitting up front in the House chamber, appeared to mouth the words "not true" when Obama criticized a high court ruling easing restrictions on spending by corporations and unions on campaign ads. In 2009, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted, "You lie" when the president gave a speech about health care.

But Boehner said Jan. 25 will mark "a renewed opportunity to find common ground and address the priorities of the American people."

NPR said there's no word yet on how many House members or senators would take Udall up on his idea, but at least one Democrat and one Republican will be sitting next to each other. As leader of the new Republican majority, Boehner (R-Ohio) will be behind Obama in a large chair where Rep. Nancy Pelosi presided last January, often popping up to applaud during Obama's speech. Next to him will be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

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And, where should the TEA Party sit??

January 15 2011 at 8:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I think the should sit in sections according to the states they represent.

January 15 2011 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I see nothing wrong with them sitting together they are still human beings and citizens. Politics is not a rule of life or a religious belief it is nothing more than an opinion to a topic. sure they argue and express their views on legislation but that is what they are paid for. Once the 5pm whistle blows they all go to dinner together even sometimes go play a round of golf. All the finger pointing and name calling is nothing more then a politician trying to control your votes. Look a lawyers they enter a courtroom and fight over a case, but once they leave the courtroom they are talking about going to dinner or golf tomorrow. It is called the separation of business and pleasure. Do you take your personal life to work? Do you bring your work home? How many people register republican or democrat because that is the political makeup of where they live. Politics is not a way of life just an opinion.

January 14 2011 at 8:56 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Hi! The modern Republicans and the Democrats have acted like the North and the South acted in the Civil War of 1865. They don't get along and they want to fight and be seperated! Don't you think it's time to end this fight? They should do what's best for our Country and not what's best for their party. All of the money wasted on their internal problems could be used to help us Americans! I think the Republicans and the Democrats should shake hands and call it a truce for the sake of our Country, don't you? God Bless America!

January 14 2011 at 4:17 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Linda K

I am amazed that this is still a free country. Too many people have drawn the line in the sand and will never cross over. What you people seem to not understand is that most US voters don't believe all of what politicians from either party say. I am a Democrat who has never voted a straight ticket. I think for myself and don't rely on others to make up my mind.

January 13 2011 at 11:29 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

They should sit together. The reason: “There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress.” --Mark Twain

January 13 2011 at 10:59 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Don't care much for Udall but think he has an interesting idea here. We need to do a lot of things differently, what we're doing presently is not keeping us from a growing division in the country.

January 13 2011 at 10:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Unfortunately I believe it is a futile attempt at some type of civility. Republicans have already said many times their main goal is the destruction of Obama and thedemocrats. We manage to come together for a few moments after a disaster but that has proven fleeting, Clinto and Okla city, Bush and 9/11 , Reagan and his asassination, Bush and kuwai t, teh lis t goes on.Perhaps Sarah Palin is right , Why even bother.

January 13 2011 at 10:21 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I have one problem with this article. Judge Alito did not respond to Obama's criticizm of the Supreme Court decision. Obama said that the ruling would allow foreign influence in our elections. To which Judge Alito shook his head from side to side and muttered the words: "not true" It was not the criticizm but the intent to mislead that the Judge responded to.

January 13 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Marvin

I think that's a great idea. They are not there to choose sides, they are there because we elected them to do a job. If you can't get along with members of the other parties then they don't need to be there.

January 13 2011 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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