WASHINGTON — Like an estranged married couple trying to reignite the spark, lawmakers again will pair off in bipartisan couplets at the president’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday — making another show of goodwill after a year of bad blood.
As of Friday more than 160 members of Congress had agreed to mix it up in the House chamber for the Tuesday speech, eschewing the traditional seating chart: Democrats to the left of the rostrum, Republicans on the right.
The move revives last year’s effort, which came after calls for civility and cooperation in Congress after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
The spectacle of bipartisan co-mingling at last year’s speech was striking. Gone was the visual of half the room rising to applaud the president while the other side sat in disapproval. Instead, observers saw lawmakers jumping to their feet while their seat mates sat still — a somewhat more awkward scene.
After the speech, the legislative session quickly devolved into endless partisan battles that led to few accomplishments, near-shutdowns of government, historic low approval ratings — and no love lost between the parties.
Lawmakers, with the urging of outside groups, are giving it another go. This time with feeling.
“I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep pushing the reset button,” said Sen. Mark Udall, the Colorado Democrat who, with Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is championing the effort in the Senate. The two are sitting together.
Read more of this story Monday in the Arizona Daily Star and on StarNet.