While the State of the Union address is an annual opportunity for political posturing on both sides of the aisle, some hopes for bipartisanship quietly and subtly emerged in the thoughts and statements of suburban members of Congress in attendance Tuesday.
President Obama, entering the lower chamber, embraced the Highland Park Republican who was narrowly elected to his former Senate seat in 2010, and who missed last year's address as he was at home recovering from a January stroke. Deliberately reaching around his Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama hugged Mark Kirk, who in turn clapped him on the back. The two men then exchanged a fist bump, and pictures of it went viral on the web.
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Kirk later said he "shared the President's optimism that America's brightest days are ahead."
Hours before the address, GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam issued televised condemnations of the president's policies and the "old Democrat muscle memory of tax increases," he expected to be a part of Obama's address. The Wheaton Republican, along with Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, stood as Obama called for a responsible pathway to earn citizenship and asked Congress to send him a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Following the speech, Roskam certainly had criticism of the president, whom he served with years before in the Illinois legislature. Following the Obama's calls to end political brinkmanship, Roskam noted Obama drew his own lines in the sand during the fiscal cliff debate and suggested Obama was "revising history."
But Roskam also praised the president's acknowledgment that the country's immigration system was "broken," and cautiously supported calls to keep college costs down and to reach out to Europeans to enhance trade relationships.
Fifth District Congressman Mike Quigley said that mutual response from both parties to the president's remarks on immigration was perhaps the strongest reflection of bipartisanship of the night.
While the president highlighted bipartisan gun trafficking legislation, introduced last month by Kirk and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Quigley noted that passing meaningful gun control legislation out of the Republican-dominated House would be a tough road. Still, he said, "at the very least the illegal trafficking gets to one of the core issues facing Chicago."
This was the third address the Chicago Democrat has watched, and he noted that the president's tone has evolved in those years.
"I think today was a gesture toward the middle," Quigley said. "A gesture saying this is my second term. This is where I speak to our legacy. Lets be a part of that together. A nation needs that."