WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer released the following statement in support of members of both parties sitting together during the President's State of the Union address:
"Last night, President Obama issued an inspiring call for all Americans to conduct our public debates with more civility and respect for one another, even when we strongly differ on the best course for our nation. I agree, and I believe Congress has a responsibility to set an example of less ugly, less divisive debate. Coming together to hear an address on the state of our union in a few weeks is an especially important moment to recommit ourselves to approaching our public life with the respect and honesty that our serious, shared problems demand.
"I believe that members of both parties can symbolize our common citizenship and common interests by sitting together to hear the president's remarks, rather than divided across the aisle by party. A gesture like this won't make partisanship disappear, nor should it -- democracy is built on strong disagreements between the parties. But this gesture, which was first suggested by the independent group Third Way and supported by Senator Mark Udall, should help end the political theater of repeatedly seeing one side of the aisle rise in applause, as the other sits still. We must always consider ourselves Americans first, and Democrats or Republicans second. It is my hope that this new tradition can remind us that, no matter what our differences, we all come to Congress with the nation's best interests at heart."