Rep. Van Hollen: Bipartisan Seating Possible Again Next Week

Sep 1, 2011 2:23pm

A kerfuffle over timing of a presidential speech has marred dreams of bipartisan comity in the coming weeks on Capitol Hill.

But one symbolic statement about the willingness to work together may come together next Thursday, when President Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress – a day later than he had planned.

Asked on ABC’s “Top Line” today whether mixed seating – Democrats next to Republicans – will be in place like it was in January, at the State of the Union address, a top member of House Democratic leaders said he hopes so.

“That last time I sat with a couple of my colleagues from Florida, [Rep.] Connie Mack and some others,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “So I thought that was a good example to set. I hope we will do it again.”

Van Hollen, a member of the congressional “super-committee” charged with recommending deficit-reduction matters, said the committee is “off to a fine start,” notwithstanding the fact that Democrats and Republicans on the committee have only met separately thus far.

“Things have been coming together,” Van Hollen told us. “The nuts and bolts have to be put together, you have to agree on a hearing schedule, who your witnesses are going to be. That does take a little bit of time.”

Van Hollen said he hopes President Obama’s proposals aren’t going to be considered “partisan by my GOP colleagues.”

“I think you do need additional investments, stimulus – whatever you want to call it,” Van Hollen said, saying that spending on areas such as transportation infrastructure are a “win-win.”

In any event, he acknowledged that the disagreement over timing of the speech didn’t instill confidence in the process.

“Clearly we had an unfortunate back and forth with the date that the president can deliver his speech,” Van Hollen said. “I’m glad that that was very quickly resolved. Obviously we were not off to a great start in that respect.”

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