In response to the Arizona shootings and the country’s heated partisan rhetoric, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill challenged each other to leave partisanship at the door by sitting next to one another for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday. Some of Connecticut’s delegation will be participating in the symbolic gesture, while others won’t.
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, chairman of the Democratic caucus, will be seated with Democratic leadership in an area where he typically sits during joint sessions. The only difference is this time he doesn’t belong to the majority party.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro has no specific plans to sit next to anyone Tuesday, while U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said he’s looking forward to sitting with Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania.
“GT and I both serve on the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus, and together succeeded two years ago in obtaining emergency funding for dairy farmers during the industry’s worst-ever economic crisis,” Courtney said Monday. “I am pleased to continue the recent resurgence of bipartisan civility with him at the State of the Union.”
Retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman will join Courtney in a display of bipartisanship by sitting with U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Tom Udall (D-NM).
Since at least 2007 Lieberman, who chaired the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, established a Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican seating arrangement in place of the usual seating arrangement which had the two parties sitting on opposite sides of the dais.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a freshman, isn’t sure where he’s sitting, but his staff promises it will be next to a GOP colleague. U.S. Reps. Chris Murphy and Jim Himes weren’t sure about their seating arrangements late Monday night.
But Connecticut’s Congressional delegation won’t be the only ones from the Nutmeg state in attendance Tuesday night.
Larson has invited Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to be his guest at the annual address.
“Strengthening our economy and bolstering competiveness are goals, both myself and Governor Malloy, believe are needed to secure our state’s prosperity,“ Larson said.
The sentiment was echoed by Malloy, who accepted the invitation.
“I’ve been clear that my main focus as Connecticut’s governor is to create new jobs while getting our fiscal house in order,” said Malloy.“Getting people back to work while facing some very real challenges, both in the state and nationally, won’t be an easy task.”
But elected officials won’t be the only ones in attendance Tuesday.
Ursula M. Burns chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation will be seated in First Lady Michelle Obama‘s box during the President’s speech.
Ms. Burns, of Norwalk, was named by the President to help lead the White House campaign on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in November 2009, and is on the board of Change the Equation, a coalition of over 100 CEOs focused on STEM education.
Burns was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.
Click here for an interactive seating chart of the First Lady’s box.
Also Robin Chesmer, managing partner of The Farmer’s Cow, has been invited to be Courtney’s guest. Courtney was recently appointed to the Agriculture Committee and was the founder of the Dairy Caucus.