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Can problem-solvers control November?

By Linda P. Campbell

August 8, 2012

Are you a NObama voter?

Or will you say Mitt-No! in November?

You might not have heard, but the difference-makers in the presidential election this year will be PSVs: problem-solving voters. You know, people who'd like Washington and those we send there to actually work for a change.

So says Mark McKinnon, a political strategist who in his time has helped former President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

McKinnon blogged about PSVs back in June based on a poll of 1,000 voters conducted for a not-well-enough-known group he helped found with the engaging name of "No Labels." (

Polls, to me, are for sway-with-the-wind politicians. What intrigued me wasn't so much the results of that survey but the message No Labels is promoting.

I was introduced to the group recently through a huge envelope that I initially took for junk mail. Inside was a 10-by-10 booklet shouting "Make the presidency work!" on the cover, with tiny cartoonish characters holding signs that added "because it can!"

This actually is a follow-up to "Make Congress Work!" an earlier prescription for cutting down on some of the infernal nonsense practiced by elected representatives who demonstrate little evidence of actually earning what we taxpayers are paying them.

No Labels is reaching out to people who want politicians to put problem-solving ahead of point-scoring, to "stop fighting and start fixing." The group advocates more powerful incentives for our leaders to do the right thing, to counter the incentives (campaign donations, opposition threats) for them to choose destructive partisanship over the public interest.

Co-founders come from across the political spectrum, and they have experience as elected officials, Washington staffers, philanthropists, activists, academics and business leaders.

I can't say I embrace all their ideas, but these are some of the best:

Don't pay members of Congress if they don't pass spending bills on time. No more of this business of operating by continuing resolutions adopted at the last minute. They should make hard choices and meet deadlines, the way the rest of us have to live.

Make everyone operate from the same facts. Instead of Republicans and Democrats picking and choosing the numbers that back their own proposals for the nation's finances, have a nonpartisan authority like the Comptroller General give a televised public presentation to a joint session of Congress, then have a rational policy debate based on a common set of data.

Have the president stand regularly for "question time" before Congress the way the British prime minister does. It could get raucous and tense, but also be revealing. It also would allow the public to see the president and the people's representatives debate each other face-to-face instead of through dueling press conferences.

Improve the appointment process. With more than 1,000 federal positions requiring presidential nomination and Senate approval, even completely noncontroversial nominees can get chewed up by delays in the process. Senators too often hold up votes strictly for partisan reasons, leaving individuals in limbo without justification. Nominees should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days. If the Senate doesn't vote within that time, a nominee would be confirmed by default.

Here's a factoid: Democrats and Republicans in Congress worked together to streamline appointments by reducing the number of presidential appointments that require Senate approval, jobs such as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commissioner for education statistics and Housing and Urban Development's assistant secretary for public affairs. That legislation, S. 679, went to the president Aug. 2. (

No Labels says more than half of American voters are looking for problem solvers over party affiliators. If only November's results would prove that true.


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    Yesterday Rep. Danny Rehberg became a sponsor of the No Labels-backed No Budget, No Pay Act (H.R. 3643/S. 1981), which will withhold pay for members of Congress if they fail to pass a concurrent budget resolution and all 12 annual spending bills on time. Rep. Rehberg joins a group of 65 bipartisan co-sponsors of the bill.

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