Don’t count Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among the members scrambling for bipartisan buddies to sit with at President Obama’s second State Of The Union tonight. Asked this morning about the endlessly reported developments on who’s sitting with whom at the big speech, McConnell threw cold water on the scheme and dismissed it as more or less completely ridiculous.
“I mean the seating arrangement at the SOTU in the end is going to mean absolutely nothing,” McConnell told a gathering of journalists and DC observer-types gathered by Politico this morning. “The question is can we come together on substantive issues.”
Later McConnell described what that process looks like from his perspective, but before then he took time to diss the plan for bipartisan BFFery tonight.
“I don’t make much of it at all, because I don’t think it has anything to do with accomplishing something at the end,” he said. McConnell added that the effort could strive to take away from Obama’s big speech tonight, as press obsession with the story turns into focused coverage of the unfolding prom-night storyline.
“I think from the president’s point of view it ends up being distracting because cameras may be for example on teams that are sitting around in the audience. ‘Who’s sitting with who? My goodness there’s Sen. Gillibrand [D-NY] sitting with Senator Thune [R-SD]!’”
“I’m not sure that’s helpful to the president,” McConnell said.
Not all Republican leaders on Capitol Hill feel the same way. This morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor invited his Democratic counterpart Nancy Pelosi to sit with him at the speech. Via Twitter, Pelosi declined the offer.
The pair who kicked off the whole bipartisan seating thing, Sens. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), defended the idea at a press conference here on the Hill today, though even they admitted it was a less than, well, substantive step toward a de-partisaned Washington.
“It is a symbolic gesture,” Murkowski said. “But why not start off with a symbolic gesture?”
For his part, McConnell said he’ll be sitting in his usual spot and forgoing the whole prom night thing.
“Most people don’t have assigned seats, but the two leaders usually have seats across the aisle and I’m going to sit where I usually sit,” he said. “Everybody [else] can sit wherever they want to.”
This post has been updated with Pelosi’s response to Cantor.