Most Americans, no matter which party they're in, want Congress to work together. They understand that extreme partisanship has led to gridlock and an inability to solve our problems.
A perfect time to put aside partisan differences is during the President's State of the Union address. Instead of sitting by party on different sides of the aisle, we should sit together with no division showing political affiliation.
No Political Labels
I've joined with about a dozen other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in a movement by a group known as No Labels to call for bipartisan seating at this year's State of the Union address on Jan. 24.
Last year many of us voluntarily sat together at the State of the Union. People had fun with it calling it, "Date Night Under the Dome." My "date" started out with my Republican colleague Mike Johanns. Eventually the entire Nebraska delegation sat together as Nebraskans and as Americans, rather than separated by party affiliation.
It may seem like a small thing, but it's not because of the message it sends to America and because when you sit together as friends it makes it easier to work together to find common ground on the problems facing our nation.
I felt so strongly about it last year I suggested sitting together all the time either by state or alphabetical order but not by party. My thought was to not just bridge the aisle but to get rid of the aisle paraphrasing the words of a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, "Mr. President, get rid of this aisle."
In my calls for more bipartisanship in Congress I have often quoted the words of a former Nebraska Senator, the late Ed Zorinsky, who said, "there are too many Republican Senators and too many Democratic Senators and not enough United States Senators."
In the true spirit of bipartisanship I should also quote an Independent, Senator Joe Lieberman, who says of the No Labels night, "When we sit together as Americans rather than as partisans we can begin sending the message that we are willing to stand up for the powerful principle of putting progress before partisanship."
Americans are at our best when we speak with one voice and it begins with a display of unity showing the nation that Congress can put aside differences and compromise in order to move forward and solve problems. There is more that unites us than divides us. A visual showing at the State of the Union Address is only the beginning, but it's an important step toward working together for the good of all.
No Labels seating may be a symbolic gesture, yet it's a welcome gesture by the public which has expressed growing dissatisfaction with the partisan divide in Congress and the inability to work together for the good of the country. As the No Labels group states, "No left -- no right -- forward!"