PORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is heeding the call to break with the tradition of Republicans and Democrats sitting apart during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
The Maine Democrat says she intends to sit with members of the congressional women’s softball team, a bipartisan team composed of members of the House and Senate. Pingree says party politics don’t get in the way on the softball field “and shouldn’t come between us during the president’s address.”
Democrats and Republicans usually sit with their parties, but some are breaking with tradition because of calls for more civility and less partisanship after Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting in Arizona. Giffords, a member of the softball team, is recovering at a Texas hospital.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced last week that she and Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., will sit together during the State of the Union address.
“Americans want our two parties to come together and reach agreements in an atmosphere of mutual respect and good faith,” said Collins. “This simple gesture demonstrates to the American people that Republicans and Democrats are willing to work side by side to seek consensus on our nation’s most pressing problems.”
Collins and Cantwell in 2009 introduced the Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal — or CLEAR — Act. Collins and Pryor have worked closely together for several years on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, also signed the letter in favor of bipartisan seating and is sitting with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., her counterpart on the small-business committee.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, doesn’t have formal plans to sit with any particular person, but he is likely to seek out someone such as Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., with whom he works closely on international trade issues, or Jeff Miller, R-Fla., with whom he works often on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.