The Washington Times - January 20, 2011, 11:59PM

President Barack Obama will address both chambers of Congress on Tuesday at the State of the Union Address. It has been reported that members of both parties are thinking about mixing it up across the aisle, so Democrats and Republicans will sit among each other as opposed to the traditional seating arrangement that would have both parties segregated from one another.

Some lawmakers believe the different seating arrangement is a “nice” gesture, but think it is a big to do about nothing. Not so fast, though. Political watchers very often observe who gives a standing ovation and who remains seated for different remarks made by the president. Many believe such actions give clues as to where lawmakers are on key pieces of Capitol Hill legislation.


Even the presence of the stone-faced Supreme Court Justices at the State of the Union is an important aspect for what is happening in Washington. Remember when Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words “not true” when President Obama criticized the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling? 

Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh believes he knows why Democrats want to sit with Republicans at the SOTU 2011 address next week (1/14/11 radio broadcast):

Here’s the real answer.  And Snerdley was waving at me, and I was ignoring him ‘cause, frankly, he’s interrupted me too much today.  He was waving at me when I was talking about this Udall effort to sit together.  He said, “That’s not what this is,” he told me during the break.  For the first time in years Republicans have a noticeable majority in the House chamber during a State of the Union, and what the Democrats want to do here is dilute it so that during obvious Republican stand up lines it’s not apparent how many Republicans there are, if they’re all sprinkled out among the Democrats.  So Snerdley is suggesting that the Republicans not fall for this.  Go ahead and you occupy your side of the aisle, let the Democrats occupy theirs, and let’s see how few Democrats there are in there anymore.  And I have to say that I agree with that.  Good catch, Snerdley.  Good catch, right alongside my logical conclusion to go hand in hand.  It’s a sad thing.  Look at what one disaster they think is perhaps going to cause what bliss.

Several House lawmakers spoke to me about the new seating arrangement proposal during the State of the Union Address.


Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, on SOTU 2011 seating:

Do you think the seating should remain more traditional?

“I don’t know how you’re going to enforce it.  People are going to sit with their friends and some will sit with Republicans. That’s fine. I don’t think it’s the most important thing, but it’s nice.”

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, on SOTU 2011 seating:


“Oh I  think it’s a very good idea. I will not, myself, be able to do it because I’m going to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, because there’s a certain point where we have to work towards financial reform where its done similarly in various countries. We don’t want our people to be at a disadvantage. But I think it’s a very good idea.

I think you’re making much too much out of a fairly…I just don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t think it’ll make much difference. It’s a nice gesture, but I don’t think it will affect much.”

KP: What do you think about conservative commentators who say Democrats want to do this, so it won’t show their diminished numbers?

“That’s unusually stupid even by the standards of some who are saying it. In fact, there are more Democrats today in the House than there were Republicans last year. So it just shows people’s capacity to make something out of nothing. It’s not a big deal. In the Senate, the Democrats are still in the majority. I’m really struck by the stupidity and meanness in that, but I’m not surprised that you would ask it.”

Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, on SOTU 2011 seating:


“I remember Nancy Pelosi directed her people to scatter out across the crowd in one of the previous states of the union address and it was of minimal impact but I think if we did that— if we each took a number 1-2-1-2, and sat down so every other one was a Republican and vice versa, the great American past time of observing the choreography of the standing ovations would be so diminished that we wouldn’t be able to tell who thought what.”

“If you watch this now, you can see that who leads the standing ovation. Nancy Pelosi is like a cheerleader who jumps up and down and claps her hands, and all of her Democrats do the same thing. And the Republicans are moved by different things. And sometimes we are all moved by the same thing. And you wouldn’t be able to discern how the crowd responded to the speech.”

Rep. Robert Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, on SOTU 2011 seating:


“The only thing I want to say is for a country that’s deep in debt as this country is with 15 million unemployed people, breast worry about who’s sitting next to whom at the stated the Union is just bizarre. I would think the real genesis of this is a gesture.”

KP: What do you think about conservative commentators who say Democrats want to do this, so it won’t show their diminished numbers?

“People can disagree and do so in a agreeable way. And again I’m for that, but I don’t think we should put too much attention to it or put much stock in it. The country has major problems that have to be solved by us voting together not just by us sitting together.”

Rep. John Larson, Connecticut Democrat, on SOTU 2011 seating:


“Well I think anytime we can get people to continue to work together and any spirit of comedy is welcome here in United States Capitol. I think there are habits and customs where people are used to sitting with one another, but I think it’s not a bad idea at all.”