Amidst criticism that mixed seating at the State of the Union is an empty gesture, Democratic and Republican lawmakers are finding themselves at odds once again as they compete for more aggressive ways to express bipartisan unity.
"We'll be doing trust falls," said Republican Sen. Tom Coburn who has agreed to sit next to Republican Sen. Chuck Schumer.
"Liberals like Tom Udall think playing musical chairs will create unity," continued Coburn, "But most of my Republican colleagues agree that we need more aggressive action to forge ahead."
"After Chuck is done clapping for whatever radical Marxist legislation the president has endorsed, I've encouraged the senator to fall into my arms. He can trust that I will catch him," said Coburn.
Schumer agrees that trust falls will more effectively communicate a bipartisan commitment to unity, but disagrees with Coburn on one key point. "I'll likely catch Tom, because I'm interested in harmony, but the idea came from our side of the aisle."
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson agrees that the Democratic initiative of mixed seating isn't enough. He says that in light of the tragedy in Tucson, lawmakers need to diffuse their divisive rhetoric.
"Instead of shouting 'you lie' when the president addresses Obamacare," said Wilson, "I will yell out something more sensitive like: 'you articulate an unsubstantiated conclusion to a complicated issue to which I have a differing opinion and to which I want to find common ground.'
Sen. John McCain, who will be sitting with Democratic colleague Sen. Mark Udall on Tuesday, told Face the Nation that conservatives should not feel pressured to stand and cheer.
"When the president says something I disagree with, I plan on rising slightly out of my chair and tilting my torso forward at a 45 degree angle into a position that is neither standing or sitting. Instead of clapping, I'll click my teeth together," said McCain.
Other lawmakers, including Olympia Snowe and Harry Reid have pledged to remain standing and clapping for the entire proceedings to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is upping the ante with an even more dramatic display of bipartisan solidarity.
"I'm bringing Michael Moore" said Bachman. "Let Schumer sit next to Coburn. Big whoop. I'll be sitting between Michael and, if she ever returns my email, I'm hoping to sit beside Whoopi Goldberg too," said Bachman.
Upping the Ante For Unity
As a warm-up to the game of musical chairs the State of the Union has become, Congress remained in session all weekend playing other friendship-building games like "Truth or Dare" and "Spin the Gavel" with the express intent of establishing cross-party solidarity.
"I was hoping it would land on Scott Brown," joked Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein after initiating a game of "Spin the Gavel" in the Senate. "But that little twirling thing Mitch McConnell did with his tongue was, well, let's just say he's one heck of a kisser."
Not to be outdone, House Republicans challenged their Democratic colleagues to a game of "Truth or Dare" to illustrate their commitment a more friendly environment.
"When my turn rolled around, I picked 'truth,'" said Texas Republican Joe Barton. "That rascal Henry Waxman made me reveal all the corporate interests I've gone to bed with."
"We feel closer, more unified, from the experience," said Waxman. "In fact, I discovered we're both music fans. Joe is taking me to a Brad Paisley concert next week. And I'm going to burn him copies of my James Taylor bootlegs."
Despite the attempts at unity, many have criticized the displays as political theater, especially in light of a highly-partisan bill just passed by the House, "Repealing the Job-Killing, Baby-Heart-Eating, Un-American Healthcare Law Act."
Republican Congressman Paul Broun agrees that the divisive rhetoric has gotten out of hand, but says we need a tangible commitment to change, instead of staged displays of unity. To show his commitment to a more polite environment, Broun has pledged to stop questioning Obama's citizenship.
"Forget the birth certificate, let's move on," said Broun. "If the president is willing to show us a driver's license and a copy of a utility bill with his current address, then I'll be satisfied."
Of course, it's not just Congress that's feeling the pressure. In recent days, many in the media have addressed a commitment to ending the vitriolic rhetoric. Just last week, Fox News pundit Glenn Beck told viewers that he will no longer compare president Obama to Hitler or Mao.
"For the sake of unity, the only crazed Marxo-Leninist communist I'll be comparing the president to is Che Guevara. Conservatives despise Guevera but liberals love him. It's a win-win."
Of course, Vice President Biden and Rep. John Boehner - who will join the president on stage for the State of the Union address - are also making efforts to promote unity.
"I've agreed to bring a hanky to dab away the tears should John get misty," said Biden at a joint press conference with the Speaker.
"Thanks in advance for that, Joe," replied Boehner. "And I've agreed to make my bottom lip tremble freely and without partisan considerations. Should the president relate an emotional anecdote about a single mom without healthcare or about a soldier of the homosexual persuasion, I will get choked up," said Boehner.
Biden also announced his desire to establish more civilized relations with the Tea Party. As a symbol of this commitment, Biden says he will sit behind the president in a lawn chair during the speech and will fire a semiautomatic weapon into the air after Obama is introduced by Boehner.
Though much of Obama's speech will undoubtedly be about jobs and the economy, he will also address his plans to forge a more bipartisan federal government. White House insiders say Obama will be wearing over thirty pieces of "solidarity flair" on his lapel to promote post-partisan harmony.
A Break With Protocol
As the speech draws near, pressure to show increased unity is mounting on both sides of the aisle. Democrats announced on Friday that they would break with protocol and allow the Democratic response to the State of the Union address to be given by Pat Buchanan.
"By choosing Pat, we hope to show the American people that we're tired of partisan politics," Harry Reid told reporters.
Not to be outdone, Republicans have selected an even more unlikely individual to deliver the Republican response to the president's speech.
"We're going with Hugo Chavez," said Boehner.
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