New data from the Vital Statistics on Congress shows that the 112th Congress was the least productive in more than six decades. It passed only 561 bills, the lowest amount since record-keeping began in 1947. And looking at what the 113th has accomplished so far reveals it may be on track to beat that record. Just recently, no deal was made to avoid a hike in student loan interest rates, a version of the farm bill passed in the House without food stamp funding, immigration reform stalled, the filibuster fight erupted in the Senate, and House Republicans made their 39th attempt to repeal or modify the Affordable Care Act.
Gridlock in Congress is nothing new, but one bipartisan group of 81 lawmakers is trying to find new ways to make progress.
The goal of No Labels is to create a platform where legislators can work together on solutions to make Congress effective. Co-founder Kiki McLean said “this is a long-term movement to change the culture of how our government's working. And the fact of the matter is, Congress doesn't work right now, we don't have an environment of trust, and this is a group of 81 leaders from both chambers, both parties, who want to make it work.”
On Thursday, “Problem Solvers” of the No Labels coalition gathered in the Senate Park to show their support for bipartisan collaboration and to promote the Make Government Work! package, which they describe as “nine common-sense bills” designed to make government more efficient, effective and less wasteful.” These include consolidating government agencies, eliminating automatic spending increases (“No Adding, No Padding”), cutting government travel (“Stay in Place, Cut the Waste”), and reducing energy waste. So far, they take credit for getting Congress to pass legislation that withholds members' salaries if they fail to pass a budget on time. Whether or not the bill actually withholds pay is up for debate.
No Labels needs numbers to pass legislation, so they regularly push for new members to join their coalition. “The most important thing that's going to happen is members of Congress are going to hear from constituents in their districts all across August recess telling them to get back, get back there and join problem solvers and be part of the solution,” said McLean.
At the rally various members of Congress stood up to say why they joined the coalition.
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., said: “Bottom line is to get things done. If not, get someone in my seat to do it.”
No Labels co-chair, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., added: “No Labels is simply this, putting our country above ourselves. Talking to each other, not about each other.”
And Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., reasoned that “no party has a monopoly of good ideas, we have to do it together.”
The group emerged in January with 24 members and has since grown to 81, made up of 37 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 43 Democrats. “At the end of the day this is really about building trust and the infrastructure of trust, so that you actually get problem-solving ahead of partisanship,” said McLean.