Senators Want to Make Bipartisan State of the Union Dates the Norm

Declaring that they have launched a new bipartisan tradition, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) are encouraging their colleagues yet again to pick a bipartisan date for the State of the Union.


“For the past three years, an overwhelming number of our colleagues in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have sat interspersed — across party lines — at President Obama’s annual State of the Union address. Although this gesture has not ended the gridlock on Capitol Hill, we feel it continues to be a step in the right direction, symbolizing the importance of working together across the aisle to solve the common challenges we face in securing a strong future for the United States,” the pair wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“As we enter the second session of the 113th Congress, we are asking our colleagues to once again sit together as representatives of the American people and not just representatives of political parties. This can — and should — be a permanent tradition. Although our political discourse often falls short of what the country expects, we all represent the United States as senators and congressmen. In these historically challenging times for our nation, we share the goal of putting the United States back on the right track and getting Americans back to work,” Udall and Murkowski continued.

“Permanent bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address would be one small way to bridge the divide and to encourage Members to find bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems. Please join us in moving this tradition forward.”


New Blue Dog caucus member Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) encouraged the tradition in the House with his seat buddy this year, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.).

The seat-buddy mixing began in 2011 after the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), when partisan discord throughout the country was believed to have played a role in the attack.

“We’re going to get through this. The country’s divided. We reflect that. But it’s on us to be a little bigger than that, to be leaders, to remember in the end that we are Americans,” Udall said on CNN yesterday with Murkowski at his side.

“But I think it is important to send those small and perhaps subtle messages. There are efforts that are ongoing every single day where Republicans are talking to Democrats and we’re trying to work things through. It isn’t reflected in the media, in the newspaper, but it is important to know that we haven’t given up trying. We should not give up,” Murkowski said.

Obama’s address is set for Feb. 12, which will no doubt inspire Valentine’s Day jokes about the bipartisan congressional “prom dates.”


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