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Posted at 7:42 PM ET, 01/12/2011

Senator calls for both parties to sit together during State of the Union

By Felicia Sonmez

As members of the House delivered a long stream of tributes and calls for bipartisanship in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting rampage, over in the Senate, one lawmaker penned a letter to members of both chambers Wednesday urging them to come together at the State of the Union address later this month.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a member of the class of 2008 and former five-term congressman, wrote that Republican and Democratic members of Congress should make the symbolic gesture of sitting side-by-side during the Jan. 25 State of the Union rather than on opposite sides of the House chamber as they have traditionally done.

"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," Udall wrote in his the letter, which is addressed to the Senate and House majority and minority leaders. "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."

The letter makes no specific reference to the Tucson shooting; it states that "political differences will always generate a healthy debate, but over time the dialogue has become more hateful and at times violent."

"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," the letter concludes.

Udall spokesperson Tara Trujillo said that the letter was being circulated to Udall's Senate colleagues Wednesday and would be hand-delivered to House members on Thursday.

As of Wednesday evening, two lawmakers -- Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) -- had signed on to the letter, Trujillo said, adding that "there are a number of other folks who have expressed interest."

Earlier this week, the centrist Democratic group Third Way sent a letter to congressional leaders proposing several ideas for fostering bipartisanship, including the notion of bipartisan seating during the State of the Union.

By Felicia Sonmez  | January 12, 2011; 7:42 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Who ever is forced to sit next to Congresswomen D-Texas Sheila Jackson better be packing heat. Just kidding!! Do not take this out of context.

Posted by: petethegreek35 | January 15, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Who ever is forced to sit next to Congresswomen D-Texas Sheila Jackson better be packing heat. Just kidding!! Do not take this out of context.

Posted by: petethegreek35 | January 15, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Nuts to that idea. The Republicans should boycott this circus, or at least sit on their hands. The best part will be not to see that communist, shrew grimacing behind the President during his oration of B.S., spins and outright lies. Pelosi will be hidden. What a shame this BIT@H was re-elected. Doesn't say much for her constituents

Posted by: nomobarry | January 14, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, good luck with that, Mark. Congress is the most vivid example of grownups acting like 3rd graders I've ever seeen (Nooo, I don't want to sit next to HIM. He's not my friend...Waaaahhhhh!)
Members of Congress need to grow up and realize they have an important job to do. The operative word there, in case they didn't hear it....was JOB....No place for elementary school behavior.

Posted by: uplandermom78 | January 14, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Something "smells in Denmark." This Nation was built on "customs." On the surface it may seem like a good idea, but what is really behind the idea? Cooperativeness? Right! Maybe the Dems simply don't want to look like such a small group now that they lost so many seats. Their small section would really stick out during the Address. By "spreading out," they will look like a larger group when they stand and applaud every sentence spoken by the President while the Republicans stay seated waiting form something intelligent to be said before they rise to applaud.

Alternative suggestion: Since this President likes to "reprimand" in public (i.e., Supreme Court Justices), maybe Pelosi and her staff can sit where the Justices used to sit since they will probably not show up. That way, she'll still be in the limelight and can continually give her botox grin to the President while he speaks.

Posted by: Tollthebell | January 14, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Since the Republicans will never go for it, the Democrats should just get there early, and spread themselves out. Then the Republicans won't have any choice.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 13, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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