Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) appeared on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon to describe their reasons for pursuing an ongoing pet project to get congressional lawmakers to embrace a system of bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address.
"Any small step we can take to show a little togetherness -- the fact that this is an opportunity for us, as lawmakers, to demonstrate that we can be civil with one another, we can show respect for the institution, show respect for other lawmakers," Murkowski said. "It's a small, small, small gesture, but I think that every step that we can take to help improve relationships is a good thing."
Udall, who will join Murkowski for Obama's State of the Union Address Tuesday in an effort to lead by example, agreed.
"This is symbolism tonight, but it's important symbolism," he said.
All in all, 184 of the 535 members of Congress have decided to adopt the "prom seating" model for Tuesday's event.
Enthusiasm for intermingled seating at the State of the Union address grew last year in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at a constituent meet-and-greet event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who announced over the weekend that she will be resigning at the end of the week to focus on her recovery.
No Labels, a bipartisanship advocacy group that The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins recently described as "an organization that earnestly believes that all of America's problems are being caused by a deficit of niceness among Congresscritters," has been among the biggest proponents of the new decorum. They recently took out a full-page ad in The New York Times pushing the seating arrangement.
Centrist group Third Way has also championed the proposal, penning an open letter to Congress urging Democrats and Republicans to sit together, and also attend a yearly retreat to "restore the bonds that make us a great nation." Third Way has also encouraged the implementation of a 24-hour grace period on either side of the State of the Union address, during which partisan mudslinging would be traded for positive language on the merits of the presented ideas.
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