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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Udall, Murkowski Lead Call to Permanently End Tradition of Sitting Divided by Party at State of the Union

 

Senators also Call for Congress to Follow up by Holding Bipartisan Retreats

Today, U.S. Senators Mark Udall (CO) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) renewed their bipartisan call for members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to sit together during the president’s State of the Union address on Jan. 24.

Last year, the two Senators teamed up in a call to end the longstanding custom of sitting divided by party during the president’s speech – with lawmakers on one side of the room cheering, while those on the other sit in silence.  The gesture – while symbolic – changed the tone in Congress for one night.

This year, with Americans increasingly frustrated with the partisanship in Congress, Udall and Murkowski are calling on Congress to change the tradition for good.  Beyond that, Udall and Murkowski are also urging their colleagues to seek out opportunities and forums to build on potential areas of policy agreement.

“Now more than ever, we have the obligation to show that there is a place for civility on Capitol Hill and that civility can lead to problem-solving.  As we saw last year, bipartisan seating reduced the division we had witnessed for decades at the annual State of the Union address,” the Senators write in their letter.  “We therefore believe that permanent bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address would be one small way to bridge our partisan divide and to encourage Members to find solutions to our nation’s problems.  We started that new tradition in American politics last year.  Let’s now continue that tradition moving forward.”

Udall and Murkowski are also asking Congress to hold bipartisan retreats, a suggestion also put forward by the think tank Third Way, at which lawmakers could focus on finding areas of agreement on policy issues across the board.

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, and Minority Leaders McConnell and Pelosi:

As you know, last year we called on Members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to sit interspersed – across party lines – at President Obama’s State of the Union address.  Members of Congress met the challenge and sat in a bipartisan fashion to symbolize the importance of working together to solve the common challenges we face in securing a strong future for the United States.

This year, we again call for bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address and we ask for your assistance in making this a permanent tradition.

Although our political discourse often falls far below our expectations, we in Congress all have the same interests.  In these historically challenging times for our nation, we all share the goal of putting the United States back on the right track.  Political differences will always generate a healthy debate, but too often our dialogue impedes the progress demanded by the American people.  Hyper-partisanship has frequently kept Congress from finding common-sense solutions that could spur economic growth or help our middle class.  It’s little wonder that the American people have such a low regard for Congress and a lack of confidence in their governmental institutions.

So, now more than ever, we have the obligation to show that there is a place for civility on Capitol Hill and that civility can lead to problem-solving.  As we saw last year, bipartisan seating reduced the division we had witnessed for decades at the annual State of the Union address, where Members traditionally took part in choreographed standing and clapping on one side of the Chamber while the other side sat in silent protest.  That is an image unbecoming of our institution, especially when we should be striving for ways to put aside our differences and stand united.

We therefore believe that permanent bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address would be one small way to bridge our partisan divide and to encourage Members to find solutions to our nation’s problems.  We started that new tradition in American politics last year.  Let’s now continue that tradition moving forward.

It is appropriate to start the new year with one small step toward restoring people’s confidence in Congress.  On the night of the State of the Union address, we are asking others to join us – senators and congressmen from both parties – to cross the aisle and sit together.  We hope that sitting with each other for one night will help rekindle the common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and diverse backgrounds to serve the public good.

With respect and admiration,

Senator Mark Udall

Senator Lisa Murkowski

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