WASHINGTON – In order to try to ease partisan acrimony, Illinois House members, Rep. Randy Hultgren R-Ill., and Rep. Brad Schneider D-Ill., will sit together in the House chamber when President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
It’s a symbolic move coming as Trump is expected to call for more bi-partisanship in his speech even as his own words, Tweets and actions have contributed to the enormous divides between Republicans and Democrats. Bipartisanship is a hard goal to achieve, especially when it comes to Trump’s divisive immigration policies and finding legal protections yanked by Trump for “Dreamers,” youths in the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own.
Hultgren represents the west suburban 14th district and Schneider’s 10th district turf includes northern suburbs.
“When it comes down to it, we can all agree on about 80 percent of the issues facing the nation,” said Hultgren in a statement.
“Building relationships in Congress and working on common goals can help us address the other 20 percent without being divisive. I am committed to working in a bipartisan, common sense way on the important issues facing Illinois, and building bridges across the aisle is key to solving the challenges we face.”
“We’re only going to solve the challenges facing our country by finding common ground and listening to one another,” said Schneider. “Randy and I don’t agree on every issue, but we share a commitment to working together in good faith. Crossing the aisle at the State of the Union is a small symbolic gesture, but hopefully one we can build on in the days ahead to put partisanship aside and start working constructively on the problems facing our nation,” Schneider said in a statement.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT: There has been more emphasis on cross-aisle displays in prior State of the Union years. Former President Barack Obama’s January, 2011 speech came in the wake of shootings at a Tucson shopping center wounding former Rep. Gabby Giffords D-Ariz.
From my 2011 SOTU seating story: “several lawmakers, including Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat and Mark Kirk, a Republican, plan to sit together at Tuesday’s State of the Union address in a bid to cool down partisan reaction to the presidential speech.
In recent years, the State of the Union - no matter who was the president – has been often punctuated by hoots or cheers by lawmakers in the House chamber.
The Tucson tragedy prompted calls to try to tone down heated political rhetoric. One way to do that: end the tradition of having Democrats and Republicans sit on separate sides of the House chamber during the State of the Union, a seating arrangement that makes it easier to hoot and cheer and make the event seem more political than substantive.
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) also plan to sit together, all in an effort to reduce rancor.