Sen. Udall joins Alaskan senator seeking unity

Call for cross-the aisle State of the Union

WASHINGTON – It's a walk down the aisle with a Washington spin – but rather than a vertical movement, it's a horizontal glide.

Senators Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are sending out invitations for this year's State of the Union in the hope that their colleagues will once again cross the Capitol's aisles and sit together, regardless of party politics, to make the practice a permanent tradition.

Udall and Murkowski sent a letter Wednesday morning to leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives asking for continued bipartisan cooperation.

“As we have seen over the past two years, bipartisan seating at the State of the Union Address has started to chip away at the decades-old tradition where Members traditionally took part in choreographed standing and clapping on one side of the Chamber while the other side sat in silent protest,” the letter said. “This entrenched tradition was unbecoming of our institution, especially when we should be striving for ways to put aside our differences and stand united.”

Udall first floated the idea making the president's speech into a bipartisan “date night” in 2011. He was prompted by the attempted assassination of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., as well as a letter to Congress suggesting the idea by left-leaning Washington think tank Third Way.

Before then, Republicans and Democrats sat on opposite sides of the chamber.

“This is a small step that Washington can take to improve the way that Congress functions,” said Udall communications director Mike Saccone in a phone interview Wednesday. “There is still hope for comity.”

Udall sat with former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in 2011, and Murkowski in 2012. Udall and Murkowski will likely sit together again this year, staffers said.

The rest of the Colorado delegation has sat together for the past two years. However, in 2012, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, skipped the address in protest.

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern with The Durango Herald. You can reach her at sdazio@durangoherald.com.

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