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Democrats sit on hands as Trump pleads for cooperation

Women Democrat member of Congress, wearing white inn honor of women’s suffrage, watch as President Donald Trump arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, to address a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

March 01, 2017

Forget about an end to partisanship anytime soon.

It never got as bad as the GOP’s “you lie” disruption that struck President Obama, but Democrats were intent on showing as little approval of President Trump as possible during his address to Congress Tuesday, at one point even staging a round of fake coughs to protest his claims of making strides to “drain the swamp” in Washington, and hissing at his recognition of victims of illegal immigrant crimes.

The freeze-out was nearly total. Democrats who had lined the aisles in recent years to be seen hugging President George W. Bush and President Obama as they strode to the rostrum hung back Tuesday night, leaving the president to shake hands almost exclusively with Republicans.

“Why not join forces and finally get the job done?” Trump pleaded from the lectern, promising to try to work with members of both parties.

But judging by Democrats’ reactions, there aren’t many areas where he’ll find willing partners.

The only part of his agenda that won even a moderate level of applause was his call for paid family leave.

Democrats have vowed resistance to almost all of Trump’s plans, and Senate Democrats have mounted the most fervent obstruction to a president’s Cabinet in history, claiming victory by leaving many empty spaces in the rows where the Cabinet sat directly in front of the president Tuesday night.

Even usual can’t-lose applause lines such as showing solidarity with Israel didn’t get many Democrats out of their seats.

Perhaps most surprising were the handful of Democrats who didn’t applaud the widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a raid in Yemen, or to applaud first lady Melania Trump.

 

Republicans more than made up for Democrats’ reticence, erupting into standing ovations dozens of times.

Long gone are the days when members of Congress sat in bipartisan pairs, a symbol of unity that became prominent after the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, just weeks before that year’s State of the Union address.

Republicans retreated to their traditional side to the speaker’s left, while Democrats were ensconced on the right,

One exception was Sen. Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democrat who was his party’s vice presidential nominee last year. He searched for a seat on the GOP side, finally landing in between Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Democrats, who apparently forget they’re in the minority, said the burden was on Trump to change his ways.

“He needs to work, with at least a hint of humility, to unite our country, and not to further divide it,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat in the Senate.