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Posted at 4:06 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Mixed seating at the State of the Union: Just a stunt?

By Rachel Weiner

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is taking the idea of toning down partisanship in Congress in the wake of the attempted assassination of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) seriously, proposing that Republicans and Democrats to sit together at this year's State of the Union.

"Instead of sitting in our usual partisan divide, let us agree to have Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side," Udall wrote in a letter to colleagues. "The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room -- while the other side sits -- is unbecoming of a serious institution."

(There are no seating assignments at the State of the Union; by tradition, Democrats gather on one side and Republicans on the other.)

An aide told the Wall Street Journal that Udall has the support of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for the proposal. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) released a statement of support, saying he hopes "this new tradition can remind us that, no matter what our differences, we all come to Congress with the nation's best interests at heart."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called it "an interesting idea." House Republican leadership, on the other hand, told ABC News they were not giving the idea any serious thought.

So, what do you think? Is mixed seating at the State of the Union a step toward greater political comity -- or is it just a silly political stunt?

By Rachel Weiner  | January 13, 2011; 4:06 PM ET
Categories:  House, Senate  
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