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Third Way Proposals Seek to Increase Congressional Civility

The centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, of which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) serves as an honorary co-chairwoman, was planning Monday to deliver a letter to all four Congressional leaders with suggestions on how to engender a more bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

The letter makes three recommendations, including permanently ending the custom of partisan seating for State of the Union addresses, and instead having Members of both political parties sit interspersed together throughout the House chamber, beginning with President Barack Obama’s scheduled Jan. 25 State of the Union address.

The letter also recommends the institution of an annual bipartisan retreat, where Members of both parties would mingle off the record and out of the public eye. Additionally, the letter urges that Congress implement the practice of having every Member make one trip per year to the district or state of a colleague of the other political party, using government funds specifically appropriated for this purpose.

The letter, written by Third Way President Jonathan Cowan, was set to be delivered by hand Monday afternoon to the offices of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.); and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The organization was offering its ideas in the wake of Saturday’s attempted assassination of Giffords during a constituent outreach event in Tucson.

“This is a moment of tragedy and reflection for the great body you lead. We believe — as you all do — that perhaps a greater, more enduring sense of comity and common purpose can emerge from the senselessness in Tucson,” Cowan wrote, according to a draft copy of the letter.

“We hope that you will consider these small suggestions,” Cowan continued, in closing the letter. “They will not mend our economy or win a war, but they can help you make some progress in restoring a sense of common purpose in the institution you lead. We know that it is possible to argue passionately and disagree vehemently, yet do so in an uplifting and unifying manner.”

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