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Giffords helps renew call for bipartisan seating at State of the Union

WASHINGTON – Several members of Arizona’s congressional delegation will sit with members of the opposing party at Tuesday’s State of the Union address by the president.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be one of them.

Giffords could not be there last year when her wounding in a shooting spree at a Tucson event sparked a push for bipartisan seating. It led Arizona Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, and Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, to sit on either side of an empty seat.

Tuesday, Giffords will be in that seat, flanked by Grijalva and Flake, while at least 200 other lawmakers are expected to cross the aisle and sit, Democrat-to-Republican, in a show of bipartisanship.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was the only Arizona lawmaker who had officially signed on by late Monday to the effort organized by a nonprofit group called No Labels. He and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will sit side-by-side for the president’s annual speech to both houses of Congress.

“I am delighted to begin the session by sitting with Sen. John McCain,” Hagan said in a statement. “John and I work together closely on a range of national security issues because we know that bipartisan cooperation is essential to achieving principled and pragmatic results for the American people.”

The effort for bipartisan seating at the State of the Union began last year following Giffords’ shooting. The push was championed by Sens. Mark Udall, D-Col., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, along with Third Way, a Washington organization working to advance moderate politics and civil discourse.

Moderation and civility are in even shorter supply now than they were last year, said Third Way spokesman Sean Gibbons.

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“In the months succeeding the State of the Union, things got especially partisan and nasty,” Gibbons said. “And that’s why we feel we need to do this again.”

This year, Third Way and No Labels teamed up to call for bipartisan seating.

“Democrats and Republicans have been retreating to their own bunkers and don’t even really socialize anymore,” said No Labels co-founder Jonathan Miller.

“There’s always been partisanship and there’s nothing wrong with partisanship. It’s part of democracy,” Miller said. “But when it turns into hyper-partisanship it’s a problem.”

For Giffords, Tuesday’s address will be one of her last acts as a congresswoman before resigning sometime this week to focus on her recovery.

She has also invited a constituent, Brian Kolfage, to the address. Kolfage is an Air Force veteran and a triple amputee who was wounded by a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004.

Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, was invited by President Barack Obama to attend and will sit with first lady Michelle Obama for the address.

Aides to Reps. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, and David Schweikert, R-Scottsdale, said both men would attend the State of the Union, but neither has announced seating plans.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, has prior commitments in Arizona, but plans to watch the speech on television, a spokeswoman said.

Aides to Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Reps. Ben Quayle, R-Phoenix, and Trent Franks, R-Glendale, did not return calls seeking to confirm their attendance.

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3 comments on this story

3
318 comments
Jan 24, 2012, 7:05 pm
-1 +0

perhaps you didnt read the key word. “Tough” I havent seen one tough question posed to or inferred toward this administration.  Hence/ free ride. Please point out any tough critical questioning of this administration. It aint Jimmy zuma, it aint Center for American Progress,it aint MSNBC, it aint cbs or nbc. it aint the New York Times, it aint the White House Press. I have never seen a President let off the hook more than this one. Yes Im sticking with liberal (ass kissin) media. Oh wait dare I mention one… FOX NEWS and even they have softened up a little.

2
524 comments
Jan 24, 2012, 4:58 pm
-0 +1

@buddhaboy

TucsonSentinel.com and our media partners were covering the ATF’s gun running investigations long before anyone heard of Fast and Furious.

Ah, but you said “liberal media.” Don’t know exactly what giant corporation you might be referring to, but here on the ground we’re all about asking questions.

1
318 comments
Jan 24, 2012, 3:58 pm
-1 +0

how sweet, yet we all know this will not do one thing to ease the polar opposite thinking between right and left and liberal and conservative. Seating means absolutely nothing. What could help would be for the liberal media to start asking some tough questions of this administration instead of giving Holder and Obama a free ride. 1st question:  Ask Barry about the Fast and Furious travesty.

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C-SPAN

Giffords only appearance at the Capitol since the shooting was to vote on the debt ceiling bill last August.