ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: The lawmakers behind the bipartisan seating plan for the State of the Union today acknowledged that it is a symbolic move but one that they hope will help change the tone in Washington.
“I think we all believe that the State of the Union has become more like a high school pep rally and we want to show the public that we can change the tone and work together,” Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO, said at a press conference this morning on Capitol Hill.
“If we can’t sit together on an important night like this how can we face the challenges that the country has?” he asked.
“We’re committed to having the kind of debates around here where you can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Udall managed to secure the signatures of 59 lawmakers on his letter to Congressional leadership backing the bipartisan seating plan. He was joined in his push by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and House members Heath Shuler, D-NC, and Paul Gosar, R-AZ.
“It is a symbolic gesture but why not start with a symbolic gesture? Why not start off this new 112th Congress with a gesture, an effort, to try to come together even for just a couple hours?” Murkowski said.
“There are no cooties to be had, Republican or Democrat – together we can join in this important speech that the president will give tonight,” she said.
The new seating push has left lawmakers pairing up with colleagues from across the aisle, giving tonight’s address a “prom date” buildup.
“Who are you going with reminds me a little bit of 8thgrade,” said Murkowski, who’s taking Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski and Hawaii Democrat Daniel Akaka. “I’ve got a double date and we’ll see how that works out.”
As a reminder, here are some of the more noteworthy “couples” that are pairing up for the big night…
On the Senate side:
On the House side:
Just to emphasize, there are many more pairings as well. Overall it’s tough to say exactly how many lawmakers have paired up, but suffice to say it’s more than the 59 that signed on to Udall’s letter. After all, they can sit wherever they want – the partisan seating split is just tradition, not a rule.