Marylanders mixing it up at State of the Union
Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are joining the effort to mix things up at the State of the Union Address Tuesday night.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Andy Harris and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger are some of the many members of Congress who are planning to break up the traditional seating plan for the event – Republicans on one side, Democrats on the other – and sit with members of the opposite party.
The idea follows the shooting attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords this month that left six dead and 14 wounded; polls show it has broad public support.
Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, is planning to sit with Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican.
Cummings has championed broadening access to pediatric dentistry, particularly in poor communities, since the 2007 death of Deamonte Driver, the 13-year-old Prince George’s County boy who succumbed to an infected abcess after his mother was unable to afford a routine tooth extraction.
Gosar is a dentist.
“I am pleased to have a chance to discuss this critical cause with Dr. Gosar,” Cummings said in a statement. “The death of Deamonte Driver was a seminal moment in my life, and in the lives of so many in the dental community who have fought to see dental and oral health education and treatment, particularly for children, reach an equal footing with other types of healthcare. Dr. Gosar has dedicated his life to this crucial service and I salute him for that. As well, he is a member of the Arizona delegation in which my good friend Gabrielle Giffords serves. It will be my pride to share stories with him about this beautiful public servant who we both pray will rejoin our body as soon as possible.”
Gosar said he is “looking forward to sitting with Rep. Cummings and learning more about his passion for children’s healthcare.”
“I admire the Congressman's dedication to this important issue,” he said. “We share the values of ensuring good health care for children and all Americans. I am encouraged by the response of all our colleagues thus far – it is time we put our country first and move past the partisan rhetoric and focus on solutions that will make our country a better, stronger place.”
Mikulski, a Democrat, will be sitting with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who won reelection in November as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to Sarah Palin endorsee Joe Miller.
Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, and Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat, are sitting with each other.
Earlier, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland – the No. 2 Democrat in the House – endorsed the new seating arrangements.
“I believe Congress has a responsibility to set an example of less ugly, less divisive debate,” he said. “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 … 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.”