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Strange but true: Sitting together would lead to working together

January 24, 2012
In The News

 

Eau Claire Leader Telegam
 
By Eric Lindquist 
 
Last week in this blog I urged U.S. Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Sean Duffy, R-Weston, to join the parade of legislators giving at least a symbolic nod to bipartisanship by sitting with members of the other party for Tuesday's State of the Union address by President Obama.
 
Well, while I can't actually claim credit, I'm pleased to report that Kind has, in fact, announced that he will join the bipartisan seating movement. He is one of 182 members of Congress (as of Monday morning) who had agreed to sit with a member of another party for tonight's speech.
 
Kind recently revealed he would sit with Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a fellow member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Kind and Reichert have worked together on multiple small business bills as well as on legislation related to the environment and reforming the farm bill. In addition, Kind and Reichert are co-chairs of the National Parks Caucus.
 
"We've got to get past the hyper-partisanship and find the common ground that I know exists," Kind said in a news release. "I have always been willing to work across the aisle on issues important to western Wisconsin and the nation. Sitting together identifies those of us that are still willing to put our differences aside and take the first steps towards building consensus."
 
Kind was the first and is one of five members of the Wisconsin delegation to heed the call by No Labels, a nonprofit organization promoting bipartisan seating as part of its action plan to "make our government work again." The others are Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl; Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison; Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac; and Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood.
 
No Labels has an updated tracker of members who have agreed to sit together at the State of the Union on its website (nolabels.org) and took out a full-page ad in The New York Times on Jan. 13 calling for bipartisan seating.
 
Throughout his time in Congress, Kind indicated he has worked with Republican colleagues on issues including tax incentives, small businesses, sportsmen, obesity, farm bill reform and the St. Croix River Crossing project.
 
"We can't afford another year plagued by a Congress unwilling to compromise," Kind said in the news release. "We've got to show the American people that we are willing to work together to move this country in the right direction."
 
While I don't pretend that bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address will somehow lead to a renaissance of congressional cooperation anytime soon, it does seem reasonable that members of Congress are likely to act more civilly toward members of the other party - at least for one night - if they are seated next to each other.
 
While that may not be anything to moon walk over, in this era of hyper-partisanship one such small step for Congress at least leaves room for hope that a giant step for all Americans (read: continued examples of Democrats and Republicans working together) could still be on the horizon.
 
For that to happen, members of Congress have to start sometime. Why not tonight?