Monday, January 24, 2011

Congress Looking For a Suitable Date to the State of the Union

The idea of civility doesn't mean having to sit with the opposing party member. This "Kuymbaya" moment is an embarrassment to the integrity of the political institution. Just the sight of it is revolting. This is not a high school classroom or the pageantry of a high school prom. These are matured individuals making laws that govern this land. I just don't know the purpose of this juvenile charade.

(Politico) — Lawmakers on the Hill haven’t quite broken out the corsages — yet — but the high school level drama is on as senators and representatives scramble to find suitable across-the-aisle seating partners for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

The very public rollout of odd-couple pairings this week, from lofty press releases to tweets to public displays of bipartisan affection on national TV — where Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) kicked off a Capitol craze on “Meet the Press” last Sunday by announcing their intentions to sit together — has turned conventional State of the Union wisdom on its head.

A night typically marked by highly symbolic partisan coordination, from seating charts to dramatic, orchestrated applause for the president, now has become about the buildup: Which Democrat will sit with which Republican on which side of the aisle? And now that the room is all mixed, will it become as awkward as a high school dance where no one knows exactly what to do when sitting next to a new partner?

Perhaps the hubbub is not quite what Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) had in mind when he sent an open letter to Congress asking his colleagues to break tradition this year because of the Jan. 8 shootings at a constituent event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Approximately 60 lawmakers have signed onto Udall’s letter.

But this is Congress, and if lawmakers weren’t trying to get a few minutes of attention, even for the noblest of causes, it wouldn’t be right.

And no pair symbolizes the uniqueness of this arrangement better than Democrat Anthony Weiner and Republican Pete King, whose wife, in suggesting the two sit together, called them the “biggest loudmouths” in the House.

Last summer, Weiner got into a shouting match with King on the House floor over the 9/11 first-responders health care bill, yelling repeatedly, “The gentleman will sit! The gentleman will sit!” in what became one of the most iconic — or, at least, viral — moments of the 111th Congress.
Tuesday, the gentleman will be sitting. Right next to Weiner.

“To me, this is really stretching the outer limits of civility for Weiner and I to be sitting together,” King told POLITICO, crediting his wife for the idea. “He wants to sit on the GOP side with me, so I guess for one night he can pretend he’s in the majority.”

“It’s a nice thing. I’m going to be sitting on the Republican side, so not only will Peter King be my date, he may be my security detail also,” Weiner added. “Look, Peter and I have had our moments. We disagree on a lot of things, and from time to time we disagree very loudly, but if we’re going to get stuff done for New York, we’re going to have to work together.”