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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.

Related Posts

  • January 13, 2013
    Honorary Co-Chairs Joe Manchin and Jon Huntsman talk problem solving on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley.
  • March 22, 2014
    At No Labels, an organization devoted to the politics of problem solving and consensus building that I co-chair with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, we’re examining bipartisan-backed policies to promote job growth. It’s the first step in our campaign to forge a new governing process in America – a national strategic agenda based on goals that both sides of the political divide develop together.
  • December 21, 2011
    Even in this winter of our political discontent and disunity, Americans are passionately united behind a simple idea: We're fed up with politics. And we want our government to work again.

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