Washington is broken. Congress has failed to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. Gridlock over the debt ceiling led to the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s credit rating in August, the Super Committee failed to reach a compromise securing America’s long-term economic future in November and the American people are fed up -- only 9 percent still approve of Congress.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Washington dysfunction is nothing new, it has persisted for years. And even when we push out a wave of elected officials who fail, their replacements fall into the same well-worn traps. Switching elected officials is simply not enough. The system is fundamentally broken.
Partisan single-interest groups, entrenched politicians and a frenzied news media are all part of the problem. But there’s more to it. The main problem with Congress is not the people, but the outdated rules, procedures and traditions that govern the institution. Congress has become a place where even honorable, talented people get dragged down by a broken system, making problem-solving nearly impossible.
The Make Congress Work! action plan is a series of 12 rules changes designed to reduce hyper-partisanship and gridlock in Congress to get the country moving forward again. Through Make Congress Work!, we will change the rules and take a first step toward fixing what’s broken. Learn more about the plan at www.nolabels.org/work. Our action plan offers simple, straightforward answers that break gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Congress.
These are reforms like No Budget, No Pay, which would dock pay from elected officials for every day they fail to pass the budget and accompanying appropriations bills past the Oct. 1 deadline. Fixes like putting all presidential nominations to an up-or-down vote within 90 days. These common sense proposals would fix the outdated and counterproductive rules, traditions and procedures that have turned Congress into a broken institution. For a complete list of the reforms, check here.
This plan doesn’t require a constitutional amendment or a 10-year time line like congressional redistricting. Most of these proposals can be adopted immediately, within 24 hours, when the next Congress convenes in January 2013.
The action plan is the product of an open dialogue between No Labels and our members. We’ve added, removed and revised reforms when our membership showed a strong, widespread opinion on an issue. These proposals have been vetted by thousands of concerned Americans across the country.
We cannot take this first step toward fixing Congress unless we work together. Therefore, we need an army of dedicated people to join the No Labels campaign … people who will talk to friends and family, write their member of Congress and demand that Congress fixes itself so we can fix America.
Click here to sign No Labels’ petition to Make Congress Work!. Talk to your member of Congress, share with friends and help us build support to get things working again in Washington.
Throughout the coming year, we will pressure Congress to vote in favor of the rule changes when the new Congress convenes in 2013. And we will launch a congressional scorecard in 2012 to rate whether each member of Congress supports our action plan.
In addition, we will hold a 2,000 person national citizen’s gathering on Dec. 10, 2012 to make our leaders understand there is a powerful constituency of people who want an end to the hyper-partisanship and who want our government to get things done.
There are four different mechanisms that can be used to turn the No Labels Make Congress Work! proposals into reality:
Codes of Conduct: Members of Congress simply need to embrace this proposal as a norm of behavior.
Leadership: This proposal can be imposed unilaterally by House or Senate leadership.
Rules Change: This proposal requires a change of House and Senate rules, which can be made effective when the new Congress is seated in 2013.
New Law: This proposal requires a new law to be passed by the House and Senate.
Yes. There are two sections in the Constitution that pertain to this issue. Article 1, Section 6 requires congressional pay to be "ascertained by law." The 27th amendment requires that a law changing congressional pay can't go into effect until a new Congress convenes. The No Labels 'No Budget, No Pay' proposal is fully consistent with both these constitutional provisions.
There is no silver bullet to solving Washington gridlock. Each of the 12 points in our action plan represents an important step in the right direction to get Congress working again, and you don't have to agree with all 12 reforms to support the overall efforts of No Labels.
Our proposal will give the rank and file the incentive it needs to stand up to obstructionists—in the leadership and elsewhere—and demand action. The reality is that it is too easy for a small number of people to gum up the budget and spending process. Our proposal would help rectify the balance.
Plenty of members of Congress need their salary to pay living expenses, just like everyone else in America does. If congressional pay stopped, even those members who don’t particularly need their salaries would face plenty of pressure from their colleagues who do, and from a public that’s being reminded every single day that Congress isn’t getting paid because it's not doing its job.
The No Budget, No Pay legislation would not allow members to be paid retroactively.
Although there is a technical dispute about whether the Budget Control Act qualifies as a real budget, that dispute does not affect the No Budget, No Pay bill.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 applies only to fiscal years 2012 and 2013. But in fiscal year 2014, the budget process will once again be guided by the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, which requires a concurrent budget resolution, 12 appropriations bills and much more budgetary data.
If the No Budget, No Pay bill is passed this year, the earliest it would take effect is fiscal year 2014, and it would require that the 1974 law's requirements for a budget are met. These requirements are separate from the Budget Control Act requirements for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.