October 24, 2014

State of the Union speech turns into “date night”

For what’s apparently the first time ever, Republicans and Democrats will sit amongst each other during tonight’s State of the Union Address, ignoring the aisle that usually separates them by party. Some jokingly compare the effort to prom, without the corsages.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, says he was invited to sit beside his “date,” Oregon Senator and Democrat Ron Wyden. Grassley says it’s all part of a plan to reduce Congressional partisanship. “I suppose it’s groundbreaking, just the fact of where you sit because it’s always been so divided,” Grassley says.

“The words of the president are going to have more to do with the creation of an environment of bipartisanship than one Democratic senator or several Democratic senators partnering up with several Republican senators.”

Anyone who’s surrounded by laughing people in a theatre may find they’re more susceptible to laughter themselves. Grassley was asked if he might find himself caught up in the moment by those around him to start applauding President Obama.

“It won’t (affect) me, but it could have an impact like that,” Grassley says. “Here’s what I think you’re going to have. Instead of having most of the time either everybody standing up or everybody sitting down, most of the other time it’s the Democrats all rising and applauding and Republicans sitting down and sometimes when the Republicans applaud, then the Democrats don’t. So, I think you’re going to have a more mixed bag tonight.”

Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, says he’s a member of the Center Aisle Caucus. In a recent statement, Loebsack said: “I strongly support the proposal that members of both parties sit together during the President’s State of the Union Address. This will symbolize that, although we will not always agree, Congress remains committed to civil discourse, honest debate and mutual respect. At a time when our nation is facing pressing challenges, we must transcend party lines and come together to craft common-sense solutions that will move our country forward.”

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Ames, reportedly asked Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson to sit beside him tonight, but at last report, Peterson hadn’t responded. Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, is quoted as saying this about whether he’d sit with a Democrat for tonight’s Congressional Prom: “If they come over and sit with me, I’m happy to do that, but I don’t think I can actually go over and actually pick a seat. It’s hard enough to just find a place to sit down in there. It’s just packed.”