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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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    There is a reason the comptroller general of the United States serves the longest term of appointment in government aside from certain judges, who have lifetime appointments. It's because the person who is responsible for heading the Government Accountability Office (GAO) plays an essential and nonpartisan role in assessing the federal government's performance and reporting on the government's financial condition and future outlook.
  • May 8, 2012
     
    PORTLAND - No Labels, the national organization determined to bring more constructive dialogue to government, recently came to town. The group held a meeting at the University of New England's Portland campus that featured Angus King, the independent former governor now running for Senate, and Eliot Cutler, the independent who nearly won the 2008 gubernatorial race.
  • August 9, 2012
     
    No Labels Co-Founder Dave Walker talks about No Budget, No Pay.

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