Conrad home sick; no planned seat for Berg
FARGO – In a show of bipartisanship in the wake of the Arizona shootings, one of North Dakota’s two U.S. senators will join others in Congress in sitting with members from across the aisle during tonight’s State of the Union address.
All members of Congress gather on the House floor for the annual presidential address, and routinely, they’ll sit with colleagues from within their own party.
This traditionally results in a striking divide within the chamber: Members of the president’s party often rise in vibrant applause, while members of the opposing party sit stoic.
That picture should look more gray this year, as several Republicans and Democrats have decided to sit with each other to demonstrate a renewed interest in bipartisan cooperation.
According to his office, Republican Sen. John Hoeven plans to sit with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia. The two previously knew each other when they served as governors of their respective states.
Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad had planned to join in the bipartisan display, too, but ultimately can’t.
When he appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Conrad invited Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, of Texas, to sit with him at tonight’s address. (Both senators recently announced they’ll be retiring in 2012 rather than seeking re-election.)
However, Conrad’s spokesman said this afternoon Conrad had come down with a cold and will watch the address from his home, rather than risk getting his colleagues sick.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Republican Rep. Rick Berg said earlier today he had no specific plans as to where he’ll sit.
The decision to have a more bipartisan mix in SOTU seating stems from the recent shooting rampage in Arizona that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in serious condition. Pundits have said fiery and divisive rhetoric and a combative political environment might have contributed to the shooter’s actions.
As a reminder — the State of the Union will air at 8 p.m. CST on all major networks and cable news channels.
In addition, a grassroots Democratic group will be hosting “watch parties” in Fargo and Grand Forks, and the White House also is offering various ways for citizens to ask questions following the address.