WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Wednesday the House and Senate should abandon the custom of partisan seating arrangements for the State of the Union address.
In a message posted on his Web site, Udall published the text of a letter to his colleagues in which he urged House and Senate leaders to end the longstanding custom of Republicans sitting with Republicans and Democrats sitting with Democrats when the president delivers the annual address.
Udall called the seating arrangement a negative symbol of division in Congress and among the American people.
"The President's State of the Union address sets the agenda for the year -- the challenges and opportunities we face. But what Americans see when they watch it on TV is a Congress that is bitterly divided by party," he said. "It sets a negative tone that only perpetuates the narrative that Congress cannot -- and will not -- come together for the good of the country we all love. Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen united as a country."
Udall urged colleagues to sign a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. -- indicating that signers "believe that partisan seating arrangements at State of the Union addresses serve to symbolize division instead of the common challenges we face in securing a strong future for the United States."