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59 back mixed-seating idea

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Sen. Mark Udall’s call for a congressional kumbayah moment at State of the Union address has gained speed over the past week.

So far, 59 lawmakers, including the Colorado Democrat, have agreed to sit side by side Tuesday with a member of another party in a symbolic gesture of unity — breaking with the longstanding custom in which the two political parties sit divided on opposite sides of the room during the address.

The list includes 8 Republicans and 51 lawmakers who caucus with Democrats.

While lawmakers have always been free to sit where they like, generally speaking, Democrats tend to plop down on one side of the House chamber and Republicans ten to plop down on the other. And when one side stands to applaud, the other side often stays seated.

But following the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead and 13 people wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, Mr. Udall joined the chorus of people calling on Congress and the general public to dial down the heated political rhetoric.

In a letter to his fellow lawmakers, Mr. Udall said the partisan seating arrangement has become a negative symbol of divisions in Congress — and among everyday people.

“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,” he told his colleagues in the letter. “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 it sends is 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.

The latest list from Udall’s office:

Senate Democrats: Mark Udall, Shaheen, Wyden, Lieberman, Begich, Boxer, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Landrieu, Reed, Gillibrand, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Manchin, Cardin, Merkley, Schumer, Bennet, Pryor, Hagan, Warner and Bill Nelson

Senate Republicans: Murkowski, McCain, Snowe, Collins, Ayotte and Scott Brown

House Democrats: Mike Michaud, Heath Shuler, Mike Ross, Jim Matheson, Chellie Pingree, Sanford Bishop, John Carney, Laura Richardson, Steve Cohen, Dan Boren, Larry Kissell, Tim Walz and Madeleine Bordallo

House Republicans: Sue Myrick and Phil Gingrey.

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