Senator wants changed seating for State of the Union
January 12th, 2011
05:26 PM ET
3 years ago

Senator wants changed seating for State of the Union

(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


Full text:

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,

Mark Udall
United States Senator

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Danny Cali

    I agree and I like this Idea every body need come together and work together for the United Country as we call United States.

    January 12, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. Dan

    We are "One" Country under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. That is how it was taught to me. I am thankful that our Congress continues to look for ways to broker civility, and common purpose.

    January 12, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. aNTHONY

    A noble move.
    And somehow even a positive gesture like this will draw negative comments from the Rightwing posters.
    Sad. And so the divide will continue.
    We live in a country that is behind the world in science, math, AND common decency...

    January 12, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. Kara

    It's amazing how there are conservative bloggers on here who actually object to such a benign suggestion. Amazung and a little sad. Why is it so many of you cling to this atmosphere of rage and hatred? What's wrong with you?
    There is no way in which 'your sides' wins and the other loses, can't you get that? Everyone wins, or everyone loses.

    January 12, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  5. Tammy lambert AZ

    I always thought it seemed odd to see the two party's separated. They would feed off each others dissatisfaction for something that was said or announced, so we would see one side clapping and smiling while the other side sat with grim faced with arms crossed.
    The past two years have been interesting to watch and painful.

    January 12, 2011 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  6. Tammy lambert AZ

    I always thought it seemed odd to see the two party's separated. They would feed off each others dissatisfaction for something that was said or announced, so we would see one side clapping and smiling while the other side sat grim faced with arms crossed.
    The past two years have been interesting to watch and painful.

    January 12, 2011 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. Chris

    Ha! He doesn't want the public to see the picture of how few Democrats are left. It's funny he didn't have that suggestion last year... Hmm?

    January 12, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  8. Voldude

    Excellent idea! I always loved Stuart Udall and I'm guessing this is a son or nephew.

    I think they need to set an example for the nation by sitting together.

    January 12, 2011 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  9. js007

    I like the idea, but it is largely symbolic – what we need is for politicians to remember that they work for the people, and that you should not be against something the President does based solely on the political party to which you belong. The voters are ultimately responsible for some of the most cynical people around getting elected and serving special interests instead of doing what is best for the country. I'm sure that Obama is not 100% right in all he does, but he certainly isn't 100% wrong either.

    January 12, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  10. CBR

    A great idea and one that should be part of the congressional protocol for every State of the Union Speech. It is time to move away from partisanship and time to work together.

    Unfortunately the comments gathered here are just rehashed words of blame and partisanship. I don't think we will ever learn that it is not necessary to tear down anyone just to make a point – if in fact that is what these statements represent.

    January 12, 2011 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Corey

    Great idea. It reminds me of the movie "Remember the Titans". I think he hit the nail on the head, we as Americans may have different ideas as to what is best for the country. But in the end it is the same goal, to do what we think is best. It sure would be nice if some Republicans could embrace this type of thinking. Maybe then we will learn to compromise more considering that is what democracy is supposed to be about.

    January 12, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  12. raingirl2

    Great idea try it you might just like it.

    January 12, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  13. Suzi Q

    Certainly can't hurt.

    January 12, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  14. LordOfReason

    Although it sounds like a stupid kumbaya waste of time, I think it is not unreasonable and maybe then the senators/reps could interact with people from all over the country.

    January 12, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  15. john

    What an excellent idea. Not only might this present a symbol of our underlying unity to our people and to the rest of the world, but it might curtail the current, mind-numbingly politicized format of the State of the Union–with its unending litany of applause lines and staccato partisan applause outbursts and (lately) catcalls. What a win–win. Who could argue with this proposal?

    January 12, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  16. duckbutter

    lets see the democrats get embrassed last election ...so lets not show how many seats nancys supports lost...thanks to her leadership of doom.... yea lets all hold hands ....ugh

    January 12, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. Greg in Cabot, AR

    Gives meaning to those bumper stickers that everyone used to have that said "United We Stand".....since the message in the past few years has been "divide and conquer" or "hope Obama fails".....WE NEED UNITY......................

    January 12, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. scott

    I think this is a great idea, perhaps we can all join together and start down a path that will benefit this country

    January 12, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  19. Bob in Pa

    That way, no one can single out individual opinions to the Pres's speech and Dem's can hide their stances from the American People.

    January 12, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  20. Patriots Salute the Flag! Traitors don't!!!

    What your saying is fine. But, I will go one further you Congressmen/women are supposed to be there working for us the people not trying to do something for your party. Making money trying to pass certain bills that will help certain groups. If these bills or not for the benefit of the people then you should get the heck out of there for you are a deceiver and a crinimal. Your not there to make money and cetrtain few lots of money at the expense of the people's tax money. Yes you should be seated together and yes you should be workang together. To do selfish things for selfish gains for you your backers and your party is not what you were elected for. Remember we put you in and we can take you out.

    January 12, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
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