Lieberman and Collins Revise Committee Seating Chart

One Senate committee just got a little less partisan:

Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Susan Collins of Maine are mixing it up at the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. For future hearings, Democrats and Republicans won’t sit on opposite sides of the dais but rather, next to each other — alternating Democrat, Republican, Democrat, Republican etc.

In a joint statement , Chairman Lieberman, an independent, and ranking Republican Collins, said “In the last election, the voters said they were sick of the partisanship that produces gridlock… So, as a start, instead of sitting on opposite sides of the room like a house divided, we want the American people to see us sitting side by side as our committee members work together make our nation more secure and our government more efficient.”

They credited Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) a new committee member, with hatching the idea.

For similar reasons, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Malmay, set us boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. It worked, too, as most of the boys grew up to marry girls and vice-versa. Somehow, I don’t think the congressional variation will have the same level of success. There are just too many institutional pulls toward polarity.

On the other hand, even silly symbolic moves–and this is among the sillier I’ve seen–can make an important point. If any committee should put aside partisan gamesmanship (as opposed to honest differences in political philosophy) it’s this one.

And, if this happens to get Joe Lieberman more publicity, that’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make for the good of the Republic.

via Taegan Goddard

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Wow, woke up on the cynical side of the bed this morning, eh, James? Hehe.

  2. legion says:

    For similar reasons, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Malmay, set us boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. It worked, too, as most of the boys grew up to marry girls and vice-versa.

    So, what exactly are you saying about the Senate, James?

  3. Rodney Dill says:

    A seemingly silly move like this can do more than make a point, it can actually work to some extent.

  4. Just not being able to lean over and make a partisan aside or the caution to the tongue of an aide whispering in the ear what could be overheard would be worthwhile. The next step is to have start taking away time from committee people who spend more time talking than listening when they conduct questioning.

  5. Michael says:

    Am I the only one who was more astounded by learning that the Senate actually has to have seating charts for committee hearings? Aren’t our senators old enough to choose for themselves where they want to sit? Or are the committee hearing rooms more formal that I realize (i.e. with name plaques and personal storage spaces)?

  6. James Joyner says:

    Or are the committee hearing rooms more formal that I realize (i.e. with name plaques and personal storage spaces)?

    Yes.

    Traditionally, the chairman sits in the middle next to the ranking member. Their partisans sit on the side not occupied by said counterpart.

  7. MSS says:

    Kind of a funny statement from Collins.

    “In the last election, the voters said they were sick of the partisanship that produces gridlock…”

    Uh, no. When the defeated incumbents are overwhelmingly of one party, the voters are saying they are sick of that one party, not of partisanship generically.

    Moreover, when voters vote to change partisan control in a midterm election, they are voting for gridlock.

  8. Michael says:

    Traditionally, the chairman sits in the middle next to the ranking member. Their partisans sit on the side not occupied by said counterpart.

    And somewhere during this horse and pony show they do the job we sent them to do, right? What is the argument against everyone just sitting wherever they want at a big table, and figuring out how to solve the damn problems? That always worked best for me.