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Bipartisan State of Union Seating Urged By Sen. Mark Udall

The usual arrangement at the State of the Union, in which Republicans and Democrats sit on their separate sides of the aisle, would get a makeover if lawmakers heed the wishes of Sen. Mark Udall.

To show that in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings that they are trying to transcend the usual partisanship, the Colorado Democrat has asked his colleagues to sit next to members of the opposite party during the joint session of Congress scheduled for Jan. 25.

Udall to other members of Congress earlier in the week. An excerpt:

At the State of the Union address, on January 25th, instead of sitting in our usual partisan divide, let us agree to have Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side throughout the chamber. Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country. The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room - while the other side sits - is unbecoming of a serious institution. 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.

On the night of the State of the Union address, we are asking others to join us - House and Senate members from both parties - to cross the aisle and sit together. 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.

No word yet on how many of his fellow lawmakers will follow his lead and cross the aisle to sit with members of the other party.

At the very least, we know that the Democratic vice president will be sitting next to the Republican House speaker. So that's a start.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.