A Muted Response

One thing that is not appealing in a State of the Union Address is the routine of lawmakers jumping out of their seats repeatedly for standing ovations.  That sort of went away this year.

Many people scoffed at the idea of lawmakers moving around and not sitting just on the Democratic or Republican side of the aisle, all an effort to promote bipartisanship.

While the “State Date” idea seemed more like a rush for a prom date at times, it might have succeeded on one level, by limiting the applause in the House chamber.

“You know the speech was shorter because we didn’t stand up as much as we usually do, and there was not as much cheering and hollering as there usually is,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

“That’s part of it,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) about the seating arrangement, “and I think the Vice President and Speaker weren’t jumping up and down.”

In fact, Speaker Boehner tried to almost ignore the President’s offer of congratulations, giving him a thumbs-up, with a smile that said, “Get back to your speech, buddy.”

“Mood seemed more subdued tonight than last year,” tweeted Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).

Maybe it showed that when everyone was mixed together, lawmakers were on a bit better behavior.

“It was Democrats and Republicans and Senators and House members,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

“We must not just sit together one night, but we’ve got to work together tomorrow,” Lewis added.

“I thought it was a mainstream address,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told me in a darkened Capitol Rotunda after the speech.  “There was a lot there to encourage unity.”

Of course, there were detractors, who didn’t like what they heard at all, led maybe by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who skewered the President with his blackberry from the House floor.

“Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution,” Broun tweeted during the speech.  “You believe in socialism.”

That was as close as we got to a “You lie!” moment in this speech, as members emerged from the House chamber ready for the next stage of this debate, where actions will prove much louder than words.

“I want to see some action,” said Rep. Crenshaw.  

“I think he said a lot of the right things; I want to see what he does.”

And since the President offered the olive branch of cooperation on so many different issues, there are a lot of chances for lamwakers to push forward.

25 years ago, the Democrats ran the House, the Republicans held the Senate and the GOP had the White House.

In 2011, the makeup is a bit different, as Democrats hold a 2-1 edge; but could it be similar, in that 1986 was a year that Congress produced a major tax reform law?

Tax reform is just one of the many items on the table right now, along with the budget.

We’ll see if last night was an aberration, or maybe an event that foreshadows some big time deal making.


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