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'No Labels' offers plan to break congressional gridlock

Did you catch Saturday's editorial? It's time to break the political gridlock inside the Beltway.

Congress isn't working. Its job approval ratings are pathetic. Members appear too entrenched in party politics and ideology to reach a compromise on basic problems like health care and balancing the federal budget.

No Labels offers a pragmatic plan to get our lawmakers to talk to each other again. This organization — backed and run by a vast network of (disillusioned) Republican, Democratic, and Independent political players and citizens — is promoting a vision that could "help move America from the old politics of point-scoring toward a new politics of problem-solving."

Check out the 12 reform ideas here. Seem pretty basic and doable to me. They include: not paying lawmakers if they don't balance the budget, forcing Democrats and Republicans to have monthly meetings and sit next to a member of the opposite party on the floor, ensuring they're working off the same fiscal facts, fixing the filibuster, making them come to work five days a week, etc.

What sets No Labels' cause apart from other movements like Occupy? The template being proposed is striking in its simplicity and specific enough to be implemented quickly.

Some will glance at the list and liken No Labels' mission to a bunch of kumbaya ho-hum, but something's gotta give. If the two main parties in this country can't work together, we need an independent force to shake things up. I'm not saying we should do away with the Democrats and the Republicans; I'm saying citizens should encourage them to use No Labels as a basis for building consensus and compromise.

On last Thursday's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, correspondent Al Madrigal "reported" on gridlock in America and interviewed a No Labels co-founder about the group's 12-point plan. The fake newsman challenged the virtues of those ideas by taking us to "a magical land of no gridlock." He goes to Arizona, where Republicans have a super majority in both chambers of the Legislature and have passed a series of controversial bills.

Watch. It's really silly, but the underlying message is serious.

In Madrigal's faux news world, we're presented with two extremes: gridlock — government inaction that's symptomatic of parties seeking to tip the balance of power — or one-party domination.

We're better-served by having something in the middle.

Since the make-up of the U.S. Congress is relatively balanced between Republicans and Democrats right now, I can't think of a better time for lawmakers to set aside party labels and take tentative steps to re-gain the public's trust.

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  • July 22, 2011
     
    A Newtown woman is one of the leaders of a national movement urging support for a bipartisan solution to the country's debt crisis.
  • June 25, 2013
     
    Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) joins No Labels' Problem Solvers coalition. "Granite Staters don’t expect members of Congress to agree on everything, but they do expect us to work together and put solving problems ahead of partisanship," she said.
  • February 7, 2013
     
    "Next week when Obama addresses the House of Representatives and the Senate in a joint session, 40 lawmakers from the two parties hope to add some beef: Under their official congressional lapel pins, they’ll wear orange buttons identifying themselves as Problem Solvers and displaying their pledge, “Committed to fix not fight.” With congressional approval ratings at historic lows, the 23 Democrats and 17 Republicans say they want to move beyond mere symbolism as they tell their peers that they’ve pledged to try to end hyper-partisanship and work across the aisle to solve the country’s most pressing problems."

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Problem Solvers

  • Andy Barr
  • John Barrow
  • Mark Begich
  • Ami  Bera
  • Sanford Bishop
  • Diane Black
  • Bruce Braley
  • Julia Brownley
  • Larry Bucshon
  • Cheri Bustos