Bipartisan seating for State of the Union

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Both of New York’s Democratic senators will sit next to Republicans at Tuesday’s State of the Union address in a show of bipartisanship.

Sen. Chuck Schumer plans to sit next to conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a bearded obstetrician who may have delivered as many babies as Schumer has delivered press conferences.

Coburn opposes abortion rights, gay marriage and federal spending on special home-state projects — or earmarks. Schumer takes the opposite view on each issue.

New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, will sit next to tall, lanky Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who may soon announce his candidacy for president.

Gillibrand said her office called Thune’s office to suggest the arrangement.

Does she expect Thune to be the next president?

“He won’t win,’’ she said with a laugh. “I’ll tell him that, ‘Just because I’m sitting next to you doesn’t mean I’ll vote for you.’’’

Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of the Bronx is arguably the New York lawmaker most invested in the spectacle of the State of the Union, year-in and year-out. He gets there about 12 hours before the speech in order to claim a coveted aisle seat along the path the president will follow into and out of the chamber.

About a dozen lawmakers do that, keeping each other’s seats reserved during bathroom and meal breaks leading up to the speech.

This year, Engel will switch his seat on the Democratic side of the chamber with the seat on the Republican side usually claimed by Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, another reliable early arrival.

“We think that will be our showing of bipartisanship,’’ Engel said.

Some New York delegation members haven’t decided if they’ll break with the usual divided seating arrangement.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, Ulster County, said no one has asked him yet.

Freshman Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth of Mount Kisco, Westchester County, said she’s been too focused on her work to think about it.

Freshman Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning likewise has no firm plan.

“I’m going to sit wherever there’s a seat,’’ he said.

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5 Comments

  1. Notice the words the Annointed One uses in re abortion rights: gov’t should not interfere in family decisions – is this a set up for Islamic Honor Killings being okayed? Sharia law in the family setting – creeping sharia? how about domestic violence? family criminal enterprises?

    Shouldn’t he use the words: “abortion is a Constitutional Right and a decision between a woman and her physician only”? – it’s not a family decision – IT’S A WOMAN’S DECISION !!!!

    ANYBODY BUT OBAMA IN 2012!!!!!

  2. Talk is cheap. And so is this shallow and meaningless show of bipartisanship, when Republicans are still being called nazis for differences of opinion on policy matters.

  3. I’m new to this site, but I just wanted to respond to DanS. comment about abortion. Obama is a constitutional lawyer, and the basis of the constructional right to contraceptives and abortions through Supreme Court decisions in the ’60s and ’70s is the right to marital privacy, and privacy in making family decisions. So from a constitutional perspective, it’s a right because it belongs to the family.

  4. the consultant on

    its nice to see some intellectual back and forth on this blog…the suggestion that
    Obama is countenancing sharia law is lucicrous….this is the kind of right wing
    rhetoric that needs to be stopped…because it suggests the president is undemocratic
    and stokes the notion that he is unamerican…but even eric cantor has had it with
    this type of hyperbole…see his interview yesterday on meet the press…However
    on another subject cutting discretionary spending doesn’t do it..if republicans
    are serious about the deficit they will propose cuts in social security and medicare
    and defense to be phased in over time including means testing of benefits and raising
    the retirment age

  5. Cut Social security, medicare and defense? As we rapidly tumble further into the societal disintegration of socialism, the Consultant recommends further burdening the very people who have always, and continue, to pay for it all, with their pocketbooks and their lives.