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Murkowski Teams with Sen. Mark Udall to Promote Congressional Bipartisanship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark Udall, D-Colorado, are co-leading an effort to forge more bipartisanship by calling on members of Congress to sit together – rather than in party blocs – during President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address.

“Congressional reaction to the President’s State of the Union address has increasingly come to symbolize the sharp partisan divide in Congress,” Murkowski said. “But this is also about respect for an institution that we’re all a part of. If we’re not showing respect for the institution, how can we expect our constituents to have respect for Congress? So we think a good first step towards greater civility would be for senators and congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, to sit together in the House chamber on Jan. 25 when President Obama addresses a Joint Session.”

Udall said: “The President’s State of the Union address sets the agenda for the year – what better way for Congress to respond that we’re united in our desire to work together to address the biggest challenges we face than to sit side by side, rather than by party. Beyond custom, there’s no rule or reason that we should emphasize divided government, instead of being seen united as a country.  I’m very pleased Senator Murkowski is helping me lead this effort.  It’s a simple, symbolic gesture, but an important one that we both believe will go a long way in bridging our political divide.”

Murkowski and Udall are asking their colleagues to sign a letter to the Senate and House leadership calling for a bipartisan seating arrangement at the State of the Union.

“The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room – while the other side sits – is unbecoming of a serious institution,” according to the letter to congressional leaders. “And the message that it sends is that even on a night when the President is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two.”

The letter concludes: “We hope that as the nation watches, Democrats and Republicans will reflect the interspersed character of America itself. Perhaps by sitting with each other for one night we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 different states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.”

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