It's nothing so formal as assigned seats. Indeed not. Instead, it's an old Washington game of putting yourself in the right place for the maximum exposure.
Most members of Congress are good at this and secure secure those prize chairs for themselves. To do this — and be sure they will get the prize of great value they are looking for — they come early and put a card with their name on it on a choice seat.
Many members come early and do this but others go an extra step and note the time. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., noted on his card "6:45 a.m." Another, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, not only marked her chair, but was seen sitting in it at 9 a.m. reading the paper.
Others just came early and left the card with their name on it in the chair. One Congressman was seen walking up and down the rows trying to see which seats had not been taken. He seemed to be having trouble finding one - guess he learned the early bird catches the worm.