State of the Union Shuffle Underway

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. CBS/ AP

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010.
CBS/ AP

It appears that at least some members of Congress are on board with Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado's effort to end the practice of divided seating along partisan lines during the State of the Union address.

Udall says that 30 senators and 15 representatives are vowing to cross the aisle to sit with a member of the opposition party at the Jan. 25 speech, CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

In past years, Democrats and Republicans have sat exclusively with other members of their party, creating a situation in which about half the room offers standing ovations at certain moments while the other side sits on its hands.

There are those that argue that's not a bad thing, since it allows viewers to see clearly which policies each party supports. But in the wake of the Tucson tragedy, Udall has called for a symbolic mixing of the parties to signal that they can work together.

The two senators from Illinois - Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin - today revealed plans to sit together at the speech. Senators who have also backed the effort include Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"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," reads a letter to the Congressional leadership signed by the lawmakers. "The choreographed standing and clapping of one side of the room - while the other side sits - is unbecoming of a serious institution. And the message that it sends is that even on a night when the President is addressing the entire nation, we in Congress cannot sit as one, but must be divided as two."

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