Senator Mark Kirk to sit with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin during State of the Union

Marshall Cohen

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) will sit beside U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the State of the Union address later this month, according to a news release issued by Kirk on Friday.

The two first-term senators will sit next to each other during the Jan. 24 presidential address instead of sitting among their respective parties. Members of Congress began this tradition last year after the January shooting that gravely wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

“Senator Manchin and I will kick off 2012 with a renewed launch of our weekly bipartisan lunches and inviting both parties to join us in finding common ground on deficit reduction and tax simplification,” Kirk said in the news release.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) championed the idea of bipartisan seating last year and recently indicated their desire to continue the tradition in the future.

“This new call to make bipartisan seating a permanent tradition on Capitol Hill is one way we can move forward and ensure the State of the Union is more than just a run-of-the-mill sporting event,” Udall said in the news release.

Kirk spokesman Greg Lemon told The Daily on Monday the seating arrangements prove members of Congress are “comfortable” talking and working with each other.

“It’s all about building personal relationships between members of different parties and one way to do that is to sit together at the State of the Union,” Lemon said. “The more they’re around each other, the more they can have substantive policy discussions.”

The two senators previously worked together in November, jointly encouraging the deficit reduction supercommittee to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. Ultimately, the supercommittee failed to reach any agreement and a package of smaller, pre-determined cuts was automatically set into motion.

Both Kirk and Manchin were elected to serve in the U.S. Senate during the 2010 midterm elections. Kirk previously represented the 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and Manchin was the governor of West Virginia.

President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address on Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.

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