WASHINGTON — The Tucson shootings produced a new State of the Union seating plan Tuesday, but no apparent new agreement on the thorniest issues facing Congress and President Barack Obama as he sought to heal a nation still trying to understand the violence.
The politics, it seemed, remained intact if better-mannered than the anger-fueled tirades of the midterm elections. Though Republicans and Democrats were mixed through the audience – a change from the seating-by-party tradition – key issues revealed which lawmakers were seated where.
Democrats stood and cheered when Obama said he would make a fresh run at immigration reform. Republicans did likewise when Obama said corporate tax rates should be cut. Only when he mentioned universally agreeable themes, such as supporting military personnel, did everyone rise together.
Looming over it all was the lingering sadness and bewilderment over the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., which left six dead, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords recovering from a bullet wound to the head and 12 others injured. There, about three rows from the back, was the seat left empty in Giffords' honor. Gazing down from the gallery overhead were John and Roxanna Green, the parents of 11-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the 9-year-old girl born on 9/11 and killed in the Tucson attack. They were joined by Daniel Hernandez, the Giffords intern who helped clear the wounded congresswoman's airway and held her until medics arrived. Also present: members of Giffords' medical team.
And across the chamber, most members wore black and white lapel pins in honor of those who died and the hopes of the survivors.