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McConnell to Sit in His Usual Spot at State of Union Address

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will take a seat at the leadership table on the Republican side of the aisle, as usual, for President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, bucking gestures of chumminess among lawmakers.

With calls for more civility in Congress and less partisanship after Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' shooting in Arizona, some lawmakers said they want to show some camaraderie at this year's speech by having Democrats and Republicans in mixed seating. 

But McConnell likes his view. 

"If people want to mix it up, they certainly can. We don't have seating assignments for most of our members," he told "Fox News Sunday."

"More important than the appearance of sitting together is what we do together. And the American people are more interested in actual accomplishments on a bipartisan basis here in the next six to nine months than they are with the seating arrangement at the State of the Union," he added.

But other lawmakers say they will hang out with their colleagues from the other party.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who appeared on "Fox News Sunday," said he's going to sit with new Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. 

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona plans to sit with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall from the neighboring state of Colorado. McCain told CBS' "Face the Nation" that "it's a good thing to do, so why not" rearrange the seating if it could further help ease the partisan atmosphere in Washington. 

"It might be nice to cut back on all the jumping up and down," he added, referring to the practice of lawmakers standing ovations that persistently interrupt the speech. McCain said that can detract from a speech that's intended mainly for the American people.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, noted that in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee he leads, members sit without regard to party. "In other words," he told ABC's "This Week," "we're not warring camps facing each other."

"This is symbolic, but it sends a good message. We've really got to do more of this."

Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, who appeared with Lieberman and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, said he had just asked to sit with the Republican Hutchison.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said he's going to join a group from the California delegation that's sitting together, but for him the "really heavy-duty lifting" will involve his negotiations with Republicans to develop a package of clean alternative and nuclear energy platforms.

"That's nice symbolism on Tuesday night when the State of the Union is taking place," he told Fox News of sitting together. "The real bipartisanship takes place in the work of the committees and on the floor."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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