Despite historically low approval ratings for Congress, lawmakers from South Carolina were outliers Monday as they declined to join a symbolic show of bipartisanship for President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.
As of Monday evening, none of South Carolina’s eight members of Congress were on a list of 182 lawmakers who’d committed to sitting next to a senator or representative from another political party for the annual speech to a joint session of Congress.
That made South Carolina one of just three states with no announced participants in the goodwill initiative by No Labels, a bipartisan group of mainly former lawmakers, political consultants and policy analysts dedicated to ending gridlock in Washington.
Only 11 percent of Americans, a record low, approved of how Congress is performing its job in a CNN poll released Jan. 16. That compares with Obama’s average approval rating of 45.9 percent in three polls taken Jan. 12-22, according to realclearpolitics.com.
Voters for months have cited hyper-partisanship in turning thumbs down on Congress, but the six representatives and two senators from South Carolina want no part of a short break in the bickering through a symbolic mixing of Democrats and Republicans on the House floor.
“Not interested in responding,” said Josh Dix, spokesman for freshman Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg.
“I do not know at this time if my boss will be sitting with a Democratic lawmaker,” said Danielle McAdaragh, spokeswoman for Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land, also in his first term.
Kevin Bishop, spokesman for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca, said: “A possibility, yes. He hasn’t made any arrangements to sit with GOPers or Dems.”
The other five delegation members were mum on their plans.
The initiative was led in Congress by Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican.
“Americans are tired of the division in Washington,” Udall said. “Let’s show the American people we all play for the red, white and blue team – not just the red and blue teams.”
At the State of the Union addresses, Americans have become accustomed to the decades-old tradition of Republicans and Democrats sitting across the center aisle of the House chamber.
Following the partisan script each year, GOP lawmakers rise to cheer a Republican president while Democrats sit in silence; Democrats boisterously applaud a Democratic president while stone-faced Republicans look on.