'Aisle Hogs' Camp Out Hours for SOTU Seats

It's a rare opportunity to shake hands, talk to the president

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 12, 2013 10:33 AM CST

(Newser) – As you read this, there are already lawmakers sitting in the House chamber, just waiting for President Obama to arrive for his State of the Union address tonight. The aisle seats in the chamber have become hot commodities in recent years, with less-well-known legislators clamoring for a rare chance to, literally, reach out and touch the president—and be on TV, the Washington Post reports. The aisle seats are so sought-after, in fact, that House leaders have laid down some ground rules: For one thing, you have to actually be sitting in a seat in order to reserve it, meaning that your elected members of Congress wait about 10 to 12 hours, one congressman estimates, for just a few seconds with the president as he walks down the aisle. They're known as "aisle hogs," the New York Daily News notes.

So what do they say to the president during those all-important few moments? Some, like Rep. GK Butterfield, keep it simple: "I said, 'Don't forget us in North Carolina!' ... And he would say, 'How could I?'" Others, like Rep. Eliot Engel (who's been hogging the aisle since 1989), have a specific topic in mind: "Stand by Israel, now," he used to tell George W. Bush. And staunchly anti-war Dennis Kucinich may have been a critic of Bush, but when he walked by during the Iraq war, Kucinich used his few seconds to tell the president, "I wish you peace." What's the payoff? A bit of recognition back home, explains former rep and longtime aisle sitter Dale Kildee. "People would say, 'Gosh, I saw you shaking hands with the president.' So you had that advantage." (Click to see some of the notable guests at this year's address.)

In this Jan. 24, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this Jan. 24, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
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