When a Democratic congresswoman approached U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce and asked him to be her date at the State of the Union address Tuesday, he didn’t know what to say.
“I’m not sure how that would go over at home,” Joyce, who is married, told U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, chuckling.
He changed his mind, though, when he realized Bustos’ “date” involved sitting next to each other during the president’s speech in a rare show of bipartisanship.
“I told her, ‘I’d be glad to,’ ” Joyce said in a phone interview this week. “She’s a real nice lady.”
Joyce, 55, R-Russell Township, and Bustos of Illinois likely won’t be the only odd pairings during the speech that historically has featured Democrats and Republicans segregated on opposite side of the chambers. Some members of Congress have been pushing for “Date Night” during the State of the Union since 2011 after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. D-Ariz., was shot in a Tucson-area rampage, according to a recent USA Today story.
This will be the first State of the Union speech for Joyce and Bustos, who are freshman members of Congress, with Joyce winning the 14th district seat in November that retired U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette long held. LaTourette pointed to a lack of bipartisanship and gridlock as the main reasons for his unexpected retirement.
Joyce and Bustos met at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in which they painted a mural at a charter school.
Bustos urged Joyce to consider joining a No Labels group that is pushing bipartisan cooperation, while Joyce pitched her on a bill he’s introduced that would eliminate a tax on medical devices that was part of the national health-care bill.
Joyce is looking into the No Labels group and Bustos hasn’t yet signed onto his bill.
Joyce, the former, longtime Geauga County prosecutor, hit it off with Bustos’ husband, Gerry Bustos, the under-sheriff of Rock Island County in Illinois.
When Bustos asked Joyce to sit with her, he asked her if she was sure she wanted to, with him having been identified as one of the major targets of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“That doesn’t bother me at all,” replied Bustos, 51, a former reporter who is new to politics.
Bustos, who was tied up at a Democratic congressional retreat, said in a written statement this week that she is looking forward to her date with Joyce.
“While we don’t agree on every issue, Dave and I are both committed to working together to find bipartisan, common-sense solutions to our nation’s problems,” she said.
Joyce said he heard a lot during his campaign about people being tired of the infighting in Congress. He said he’s starting to understand the frustration that drove away LaTourette and hopes he, Bustos and other new members can work to improve the political climate.
He’s planning a pre-St. Patrick’s Day party for freshman congressional members with U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts, whose father, for whom he is named, served in Congress.
“We have to start working together,” Joyce said. “Gridlock is not acceptable.”