Pretty soon, “Who are you going with?” might be heard around Capitol Hill again this year.
After a year of fierce division on Capitol Hill, there will be a renewed call this weekend for both parties to sit together – rather than divided by party – at President Obama’s State of the Union address at a joint session of Congress later this month.
In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, members of Congress teamed up last year with a member of the opposite party, sitting as “dates” together, a bipartisanship showing after the Tucson tragedy.
Republicans and Democrats have traditionally sat together en masse on their respective sides of the aisle. The simple idea last year was aimed at projecting a greater sense of unity and civility in politics.
After the particularly tense and partisan year that followed, at least one senator believes that Congress needs a reminder again this year.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., was the first to propose this idea then, and he will renew the call again Sunday at the Tucson one-year remembrance ceremony.
“It’s a symbolic gesture,” Udall spokeswoman Tara Trujillo said. “It was a nice moment of bipartisanship last year. The tradition is more divisive than anything and there’s no reason to continue it. It helps change the climate at least for a day.”
Udall is slated to speak at the Tucson ceremony Sunday afternoon and will call for a permanent end to members sitting divided by parties during all future State of the Union addresses.
While the idea last year went over well, leading to odd-couple pairings such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and conservative Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s sitting together, it’s unclear how the idea will be received this year.
The State of the Union is Tuesday Jan. 24.