Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn Plans To Break Tradition For Union Address

Sunday, January 16th 2011, 12:04 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Two senators from different parties say they'll skip tradition and sit together during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

The decision by Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York comes amid calls for greater civility in political discourse following the fatal shootings last weekend at a political event in Tucson, Ariz.

"My college Senator Mark Udall called for Democrats and Republicans to sit together at the State of the union. I called up Tom after he did that, he graciously agreed going to sit together," Schumer said.

Schumer said he and Coburn hope other lawmakers will follow their example and skip the partisan seating arrangements that usually come with joint sessions of Congress. Schumer said it's a symbolic move but one he hopes will help set a more civil tone.

News 9's political analyst Scott Mitchell said he feels the decision by some lawmakers to sit with each other is nothing more than symbolic gesture that has been a part of politics since the beginning.

"This is one of those things you look at it, and it's hard to take it serious," Mitchell said. "Do I think that people are sincere? Senator Coburn and people like that are sincere about trying to do something symbolic, yes, but politics is full of symbolism that is here today and gone tomorrow."

Mitchell said there are too many contentious issues like health care for Washington to stay quiet for long.

"Republicans have their line and they're not going to cross it, and Democrats have their line and their not going to cross it. So what does symbolism do? Well, it makes you feel good for 15 minutes and then tomorrow we get up and play the ball game again," Mitchell said.

In light of Coburn and Schumer's decision to sit together at the State of the Union,  it is now being reported that more than two dozen other lawmakers will do the same.

The State of the Union address is set for Jan. 25.