Press-Republican

January 23, 2011

Gillibrand to sit with Republicans

รข Senator to sit with Republicans during State of the Union

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — As a symbol of working together, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand intends to sit with Republican colleague Sen. John Thune during President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Local politicians are hailing the move as the right thing to do.

"Good for her," said Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett, a Democrat. "I am ecstatic that she is doing that, and there should be more of that."

Gillibrand and several others in the Senate have taken up Sen. Mark Udall's (D-Colorado) idea to have bipartisan seating during the State of the Union.

Normally, Democrats and Republicans sit separately during the speech, and party members applaud only when they hear something that agrees with their agenda.

Gillibrand will sit with Thune, of South Dakota, on the Republican side of the chambers.

"This is just a symbol, but it sends an important message that although we may disagree on various issues, we all stand ready to work together and do what we believe is right for the country," Gillibrand said in a statement.

"The American people want this Congress to work together, not as Democrats and Republicans but as Americans.

"I look forward to sitting with my colleague Sen. Thune, and I look forward to working together with all my colleagues on a legislative agenda to create good-paying jobs and get our economy growing and working for all Americans."

Bassett said both parties need to spend more time together in Washington in order to fix the nation's problems.

"It's hard to have civil discourse when you have to yell across the aisle," he said.

"They should wine and dine together, and when they go into chambers, they need to focus on the problems and work something out together."

Clinton County Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley, a Republican, said Congress can take a lesson from the body he chairs.

Democrats and Republicans used to sit on different sides of the legislative chambers before Langley took over as chairman in 2001.

Since then, they have sat amongst each other and have often crossed party lines on issues.

"We are all working for the same goal, and things can get done when you work together," Langley said.

Many observers believe the spirit of bipartisanship was reborn after the shootings in Arizona of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others two weeks ago.

Langley remembers Democrats and Republicans holding hands and singing together after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Unfortunately, that didn't last too long," he said. "It shouldn't take gunfire to come together. It should be the fact that the country really needs them (Congress) to get along and address the problems we face."

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com