Murkowski and Begich urge lawmakers to mix during address

January 15, 2011 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Alaska's two U.S. senators have joined the call for members of both houses of Congress to mingle during the president's Jan. 25 State of the Union speech.

The Hill reports that the idea came from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who proposed that the House Speaker as well as the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate sit together during the speech.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined Udall's appeal, as did Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

"Congressional reaction to the President's State of the Union address has increasingly come to symbolize the sharp partisan divide in Congress," Murkowski said in a statement. "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."

Begich suggested that Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, consider sitting together as a delegation. Young, who rarely attends the State of the Union address, has not weighed in so far.

"Democrats and Republicans sitting together at the State of the Union is an excellent way to show we share a common goal of working to make this country a better place for every American," Begich said. "It may only be a symbolic gesture on one evening, but I believe it's a positive step toward showing unity and ending some of the partisan practices that have become common."

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