Early State of the Union sitters snag aisle seats
By Ben Pershing
More than four hours remain until President Obama is scheduled to commence his State of the Union address, but per tradition, a handful of House members just couldn't wait to take their seats.
As of 4:30 p.m. Eastern, a half dozen lawmakers had snagged key spots along the center aisle in the House chamber and were waiting patiently for their colleagues and the president to arrive. The early sitters include Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and -- for whatever reason -- a large contingent of California Democrats: Reps. Barbara Lee, Laura Richardson, Joe Baca and Loretta Sanchez.
A few rows ahead of them sits Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), one of several members who have made a habit of arriving early over the years to ensure an on-camera handshake, regardless of whether she supported the commander in chief (Obama) or not (George W. Bush). Lee has been talking on her mobile phone nonstop. Other lawmakers aren't in the chamber but made a point of leaving sundry briefcases and books on aisle seats to save them. For security reasons, members are unable to hire professionals to hold their seats for them, the way lobbyists sometimes hire people to stand in line for them before key congressional hearings.
Beyond the lawmakers, a handful of workers are busy setting up the extra chairs needed in the chambers to accommodate senators, members of the Cabinet and other VIPs. The television cameras are in place, as is Obama's teleprompter. Presumably because so many hundreds of people will be crowding into the chamber later on, the air-conditioning has been cranked up to make the chamber resemble a large, walk-in freezer. In her seat near the back, Rep. Richardson appears to be wearing a heavy winter coat.
January 27, 2010; 4:58 PM ET
Categories: Capitol Briefing
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