BALTIMORE — House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voiced support for a Democrat-led proposal to integrate party members at this year’s State of the Union Address in response to the shooting in Arizona that left House colleague Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords severely injured.
“The Republican leadership doesn’t urge the members all to sit on one side or the other; there is nobody that walks in and tells you where to sit. It comes in nature,” said California Rep. McCarthy, the third-ranking Republican in the House. “I think you’ll find that people are willing to and want to do it, but not because someone’s out telling them to do it.”
“I’d go sit by them,” he added.
Seating at the president’s annual address is traditionally divided by party, but it is looking increasingly likely that it will change with President Obama’s speech, which is scheduled for next week.
Prompted by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado earlier this week, House and Senate leaders from his party say they support the idea, but until now, Republican leaders have remained largely unresponsive. Before this, only Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain had officially said he will make an effort to sit with the opposite party.
“I think in this time and this nature it kind of goes back to what Speaker Boehner said after the incident with Gabby. He said ‘one attack on one of us is an attack on all who serve,’ and I think that comment set a tone to what that House looks like,” McCarthy said. “And I think the action that you’re seeing where members are now saying, ‘Hey yeah, why don’t we sit next to one another? We are all one House.’ That’s the action that you’ll see and it doesn’t take a call from somebody.”
At least one Republican House member, Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, showed unease and would not say if she planned to sit next to a Democrat during Tuesday night’s speech.
“Every member has to think about that personally,” Miller said. “I think all of us need to reach out to talk to other colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”
When asked again if she specifically would make an effort she said, “I actually sort of move around on the House floor myself anyway so I guess I hadn’t really thought about that.”