The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 14, 2012

Our View: Long reach

By Ann Leach
Special to The Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Congress returned on Tuesday from an election break. Members — including 12 new to the Senate and some 70 in the House — have plenty on their plate.

The nation’s voters endorsed a Democratic president and Senate, a Republican House. According to the Associated Press, Democrats will hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate if independent Angus King of Maine caucuses with them as expected. Republicans’ advantage in the House narrowed and is likely to stand at 233-201.

Congress has to somehow figure out in the coming weeks how to raise revenues, slash the deficit and address the entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare. They also have to figure out how to stop across-the-board cuts to defense and domestic programs totaling $110 billion next year.

One longtime Globe reader, Keith Adams, retired chief executive officer of the  former Oakhill Hospital, this week introduced an idea to us that makes a lot of sense — new seating assignments.

Members of the House have no assigned seats but are by tradition divided by party; Members of the Democratic Party sit to the House speaker's right and members of the Republican Party sit to the speaker’s left. Members of the Senate are divided by party.

What might happen if, say, 7th District Republican congressman Billy Long from Missouri could decide to sit next to California’s 8th District Democrat congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi?

A little less extreme might be seating Missouri’s two senators, Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Republican, by each other.

Adams says he has made the suggestion before. It usually falls on deaf ears. There is a reason, though, that the voters often implore their representatives to “reach across the aisle.” They literally have to make that effort if they want to have a discussion.

America is sick and tired of the deep divide. Adams’ suggestion of seating Congress in alphabetical order makes as much sense as anything we’ve heard in a while.