(CNN) - Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall released a letter Wednesday proposing that members of both political parties sit next to each other at this year's State of the Union address instead of the normal seating which is divided along party lines.
"As the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans should reflect the interspersed character of America itself," Udall wrote. "Perhaps, by sitting with each other for one night, we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good."
In the letter Udall plans to send to Congressional leadership, he said the "debate surrounding our politics has grown ever more corrosive," and suggested choreographed standing and clapping is unbecoming of Congress, especially given the recent Arizona shooting.
The idea was first announced in a letter to "restore civility" by Third Way, a think tank dedicated to moderate political ideas.
- CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Overcoming Divided Government
January 12, 2011
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, Minority Leaders McConnell and Pelosi:
We, the undersigned members of Congress, believes that partisan seating arrangements at State of the Union addresses serve to symbolize division instead of the common challenges we face in securing a strong future of the United States.
As we all know, the tenor and debate surrounding our politics has grown ever more corrosive – ignoring the fact that while we may take different positions, we all have the same interests. This departure from statesmanship and collegiality is fueled, in part, by continuous campaigns and divisive rhetoric. Political differences will always generate a health debate, but over time the dialogue has become more hateful and at times violent. But now the opportunity before us is to bring civility back to politics. It is important to show the nation that the most powerful deliberative bodies in the world can debate our differences with respect, honor and civility. It is not only possible, but it is something that nearly all members of Congress truly desire. To that end, we should set a small, but important, new tradition in American politics.
At the State of the Union address on January 25th, instead of sitting in our usual partisan divide, let us agree to have Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side throughout the chamber. Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country. The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room – while the other side sits – is unbecoming of a serious institution. And the message that is sends it that even on a night when the President is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two.
On the night of the State of the Union address, House and Senate members from both parties ought to cross the aisle and sit together. As the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans should reflect the interspersed character of America itself. Perhaps, by sitting with each other for one night, we will being to rekindle that common spark that brought us here form 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.
I plan to send the attached letter to both House and Senate leadership indicating an intention to pursue a bipartisan seating arrangement. If you are interested in joining on this letter, please have a staff member contact Hillary Daniels.
With respect and admiration,
United States Senator