“Aisle Hogs” Fight for Position at State of the Union

LTB logo

It was nice that at least some Democrats and Republicans chose to sit together during the State of the Union address, but apparently there were ferocious seating-arrangement battles going on behind the scenes.

According to the Huffington Post, this happens routinely but was exacerbated this year because those who wanted to sit bipartisanly were trying to save large blocks of seats for that purpose. This brought them into conflict with other members who were trying to save seats for themselves and their friends, and while there was no actual violence the whole thing seems remarkably but maybe unsurprisingly childish.

House rules do not even allow members to reserve or save seats; it's first-come, first-served. Maybe this is another one of those rules that government officials claim they're too dim to figure out, or maybe they just all blow it off, because it appears that the practice is almost universal. Making it worse is that the rules do allow former House members into the chamber, and of course lots of them are still running around Washington and so they increase the competition for seats. Then there are the senators, who took the opportunity to claim many more than 100 seats for themselves, "because they're the Senate," as Rep. Brad Miller put it. As that suggests, members of the House were not too happy about their guests' lack of etiquette.

"If you had actually followed the rules and not claimed a seat," Miller said, "and got there at eight or a quarter to eight, there were no seats." Likely terrified that they might not get to be on TV, House members got upset. "[They] almost wrestled the staff of the Senate sergeant-at-arms to the ground" in their efforts to reclaim lost territory, Miller claimed. Meanwhile, one representative, Mel Watt, decided that simply occupying the disputed zone would work better. "Mel's the one who led the way in grabbing Senate seats and not taking no for an answer," Miller said. "He just sat down."

The worst offenders of all, though, are the "Aisle Hogs" — a term apparently coined by Salon's "War Room" politics blog to refer to members of Congress who "stak[e] out a position on the center aisle in the House chamber hours early just for the opportunity of crossing paths with the President (and winding up on national television) for two or three seconds."

If these guys would put half as much energy into governing as they do fighting over seating arrangements, we'd be a lot better off.