Democrats pushing for State of Union unity 

Regular viewers of the president's annual State of the Union address are familiar with one enduring tradition: The thunderous applause that often comes from just one side of the chamber.

That's because Democrats and Republicans sit on different sides of the chamber during the speech, and depending on president's party, clap or scowl accordingly. (Remember "You lie"?)

This year Democrats want to do away with that partisan seating arrangement following the mass shooting in Tucson, which, even though Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was among the victims, apparently had nothing to do with politics.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., issued a statement Thursday calling for Republicans and Democrats to sit together during the State of the Union, scheduled for Jan. 25.

Hoyer said Congress has a responsibility to set an example of less divisiveness. Such a gesture, he said, "should help end the political theater of repeatedly seeing one side of the aisle rise in applause, as the other sits still. We must always consider ourselves Americans first, and Democrats or Republicans second. It is my hope that this new tradition can remind us that, no matter what our differences, we all come to Congress with the nation’s best interests at heart.”

The idea of mixing up the seating for the two parties was first suggested by the group Third Way, a progressive think tank.

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Susan Ferrechio

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