- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sen. Mark Udall wants his colleagues to adopt a new seating arrangement, calling on lawmakers to break with tradition by sitting next to a member of the opposing party during President Obama’s State of the Union address Jan. 25.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the Colorado Democrat said that having Democrats and Republicans sit on opposing sides of the House chamber for the annual address sends the wrong message to the American public watching on television.

“It sets a negative tone that only perpetuates the narrative that Congress cannot — and will not — come together for the good of the country we all love,” Mr. Udall wrote. “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 request comes on the heels of the shooting in Tuscon, Ariz., which killed six and wounded 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat.

Since then, a number of lawmakers have called for toning down the political rhetoric, which some people inside and outside Washington have tried to link to the shooting rampage.

“Our country has been talking about changing the way Washington works, and now it’s time to take action by crossing the aisle and sitting together,” Mr. Udall said. “It’s a simple step, but an important one that will go a long way in bridging our political divide.”

Asked about Mr. Udall’s proposal, Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said, “Members of the House can sit where they like during the State of the Union, as always.”

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