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Jan. 27, 2010
Lawmakers line the aisle as the president enters for the 2010 State of the Union. When he leaves, the gripping and grinning begins.
Seven hours or more. That's how long some members of Congress sit and wait to claim aisle seats for the State of the Union, all so they can be seen on TV shaking the president's hand as he leaves. Really. It's mystifying, but enough members of Congress care enough about those few seconds of televised presidential hand-shaking that there is a day-long wait for the seats, and rules for getting them:
“Members will not be allowed to reserve seats prior to the joint session by placement of placards or personal items. Chamber Security may remove these items from the seats,” said a note sent out Monday by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the majority whip. “Members may reserve their seats only by physical presence.”
I guess it's a less harmful waste of congressional time than a lot of things they do? (Voting more than 30 times to repeal Obamacare springs to mind.) Actually, though, several of the dedicated aisle-squatters say been seen shaking the president's hand plays well with constituents:
“You would get a lot of calls from back home” afterward, said former representative Dale E. Kildee (D-Mich.), who first did it with President Jimmy Carter. A longer-serving member, Rep. William Natcher (D-Ky.), had invited Kildee to join him in waiting. There were cookies. And then, after Kildee had shaken the president’s hand, he found his own constituents looked at him in a different light.

“People would say, ‘Gosh, I saw you shaking hands with the president.’ So you had that advantage,” Kildee recalled.

But still. A whole day of just sitting there in what frankly do not look like very comfortable chairs. It's dedication to the job, of sorts?

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 06:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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