The cross-party-dating tradition that began tonight did not go off as smoothly as it appeared from the television screens.
Much like in the legislative tussles between the parties and the chambers, House and Senate members jockeyed for position prior to the speech. According to House rules, no member is allowed to claim a seat for him or herself: The People’s Chamber is first come, first serve. In practice, members routinely save seats for themselves before the State of the Union, a tradition that spun out of control as bipartisan groups attempted to save long rows and blocs of seats.
Former House members are granted floor privileges — former Congressman Joe Scarborough, for instance, was on the floor receiving text messages from co-anchor Mika Brzezinski — and so many have never left Washington that their attendance added to the shortage of seats. The Senate, meanwhile, claimed well more than 100 seats for itself, “because they’re the Senate,” said Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.).