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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Who’s your speech date?

Being watched almost as closely as what President Obama says tonight are the locations of where the honorable members of Congress will sit.

Put another way: Who's your date for the State of the Union?

Traditionally, the Democrats sit on one side of the House and Republicans on the other, which explains why sometimes half the crowd gives a standing ovation and the other half sits on their hands at various points.

But in the new spirit of bipartisanship, members of Congress are asking colleagues of the other party to cross the aisle and sit with them. This is what we know so far about with whom members from Washington and Idaho will be sitting:

Patty Murray, Washington's senior Democrat in the Senate, will be sitting with Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. Maria Cantwell, the state's junior Senate D, will be sitting with Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. They've been working together on some climate legislation, an aide said.

Mike Crapo, Idaho's senior Republican in the Senate, will be sitting with a group that is regional as well as bipartisan. He, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., have an area staked out that they all prefer when watching a presidential speech. They'll be joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Word is that they like the place because it's possible to make a quick exit as soon as the president says "Thank you, and goodnight."

James Risch, Idaho's junior Senate R, said he was sitting in an area surrounded by Democrats and Republicans, but that's not too unusual, he added.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an Eastern Washington Republican who is part of the GOP leadership in the House, invited Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat to watch with her. McMorris Rodgers said she ran into Roybal-Allard earlier in the day, and they noticed that they were wearing similar outfits. She asked if the Los Angeles congresswoman wanted to sit together, and when Roybal-Allard asked if there'd be room, McMorris Rodgers assured her they'd make room.

No word yet on seating partner for Rep. Raul Labrador, North Idaho's freshman Republican.

The bipartisan seating was first mentioned by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Various sources on Capitol Hill have described this as something akin to asking or being asked to homecoming or Sadie Hawkins Dance. At least they don't have to pass notes in Study Hall to find out if some one just likes them or REALLY LIKES them.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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