No Labels is a 501(c)(4) social welfare advocacy organization dedicated to activating citizens and organizing leaders around a new politics of problem solving. Specifically, No Labels has worked to cultivate a durable bipartisan bloc in Congress capable of pushing forward bipartisan legislation and pushing back on the extremes on both sides that are tearing the nation apart. No Labels took a big step toward achieving this goal when we inspired the creation of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus in 2017, which currently features 48 members, evenly divided between the parties.
The Speaker Project begins with the premise that no real change will come to Washington until congressional rules are changed in a way that forces the body Congress to be responsive to the will of the American people.
The House of Representatives is governed by rules and procedures that concentrate too much power in the wrong places, be it the speaker’s office or small, ideological factions that hold the rest of Congress hostage. When this happens, bipartisan ideas—even those supported by members in both parties—can’t get an up-or-down vote on the House floor.
The Speaker Project aims to change these rules by leveraging the uncertainty surrounding the election of a new speaker in January 2019. Because both parties know now that their party could be in the minority after the 2018 election, both also have an incentive to embrace rule(s)change(s) that will ensure that they don’t get shut out in the next Congress as most members of the minority are when the other party holds the speakership.
With that reality in mind, No Labels will spend 2018 mobilizing citizens to make their vote for any House candidate contingent on that candidate’s support for a speaker nominee who will commit to real rules changes that provide an opening for bipartisan ideas and legislation.
Because we realized that the outdated and archaic rules governing Congress are the single biggest impediment to Washington passing constructive bipartisan legislation.
Here is an example. Four times since 2017, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released or endorsed ambitious proposals dealing with health care; immigration and border security; infrastructure and gun safety. In each case, their proposals also had strong citizen support in public polling.
These are the kinds of ideas that at most times in American history would have become law.
But none of these proposals even received a vote on the House floor, because House rules—which are controlled by the speaker—make it virtually impossible.
This is why The Speaker Project is so important.
Because the next House speaker—who will be elected in January 2019—holds the key to everything.
The speaker of the House is one of the most powerful leaders in the country—sitting third in line to the presidency and having almost total power to determine how, when and if legislation gets considered on the House floor.
In the coming months, a relatively small group of House members could band together to demand significant rules changes as a condition of supporting any speaker nominee.
It is a battle they could take right to the House floor when the speaker vote happens next year—and it gives these bold leaders extraordinary leverage over the process. Congress can’t debate or pass legislation until a speaker nominee gets a majority of the votes.
In a narrowly divided House, a small (likely bipartisan) group demanding changes to the rules will have the leverage to open a new legislative lane for bipartisan problem solving. We need to make sure they use it.
No. A dramatic floor fight over the speaker election or a rules package isn’t the preferred option. It would be contentious and controversial. And ideally, speaker candidates could be persuaded to support rules reforms in advance. This is the carrot option. But the stick is available if it’s needed, a fact we know because it has been used before, almost 100 years ago, when a group of Progressive Republicans held up a speaker election for nine ballots in 1923 to force rules changes.
No Labels certainly doesn’t expect every idea in The Speaker Project to be implemented in the next Congress. And we aren’t asking candidates to commit to any specific platform.
But substantive reform of some kind should be non-negotiable for any American who cares about reversing this dysfunction in Washington.
The Speaker Project book, which we released in June 2018 explains the kind of rules reforms that can and should be considered.
One change would require would-be House speakers to gain at least some support from both parties in the speaker election that occurs at the outset of each new Congress, a radical break from current practice in which the majority of the majority party is elevated to the speakership without exception.
Another would eliminate a single House member’s ability to precipitate a gavel-stealing vote of no confidence (a “motion to vacate”) against the speaker. The mere threat of this maneuver has caused speakers to shy away from working with a president or lawmakers from the other party.
To view all of the proposed reforms in The Speaker Project, you can access the full book here.
No Labels is engaged in a full-court press to support solutions-oriented leaders whenever and however we can. The single most important component of our effort is the engagement and mobilization of our citizen members across America.Too often, members of Congress are inundated with calls and emails from the angriest and most intransigent voices back home, almost always telling them to say “no” to something. We must help these members understand that there is a larger and equally passionate group of citizens who will show up at town halls, call and write congressional offices and support members who are willing to reach across the aisle.
There are two things in particular you can do.
Help support and expand the Problem Solvers Caucus. If your member of Congress is a current member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, contact them and let them know how much it matters to you that they are collectively showing bold, bipartisan leadership. If your member of Congress is not a current member of the Caucus, contact them and encourage them to join.
Get Your Candidate or Members of Congress on the record about The Speaker Project: Call them up, attend a town hall, or find another way to ask them point blank who they plan to vote for in the next speaker election and whether they will demand a speaker nominee who supports the kind of rules changes that No Labels outlines in The Speaker Project. Bring a copy of The Speaker Project book with you so that, if they claim not to be familiar with the ideas, you can hand them all they need to know. And then follow up!
Prior to the launch of The Speaker Project, No Labels developed several policy and procedural proposals to make our government work better and solve pressing national problems. We have previously developed action plans to improve the workings of Congress (Make Congress Work!), the executive branch (Make the Presidency Work!) and federal agencies (Make Government Work!).
In 2014, relying on input from citizens across the country, No Labels developed a National Strategic Agenda focused on four goals for the country:
- Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years
- Secure Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years
- Balance the federal budget by 2030
- Make American energy secure by 2024
In the 114th Congress, over 80 members of Congress signed on to congressional resolutions (H.Res. 207 and S. 199) endorsing these four goals. In 2016, No Labels also released its Policy Playbook for America's Next President, which included 60 specific policy ideas that could move the country closer to these four goals.
No Labels also works to influence the policy debate whenever we see opportunity to advance bipartisan policy issues in Washington. For example, we strongly advocated bipartisan health care reform in the wake of the Problem Solvers Caucus releasing their health care plan in 2017.
Unlike most political organizations, No Labels is less focused on specific policy outcomes and more on the dynamics which we believe will lead to better policy solutions out of Washington. That said, we’ve been proud when ideas first proposed by No Labels, including a law that prevents members of Congress from being paid when they fail to pass a budget (No Budget, No Pay), are signed into law. Most notable of all, in early 2017, No Labels inspired the creation of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, which today includes 48 members, evenly divided between the parties, who are working to get to “yes” on key issues while the rest of D.C. is stuck on “no.” This was an unprecedented development as no caucus like this—with members of both parties explicitly focused on finding bipartisan solutions—had ever before been created in Congress. Four times since 2017, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus released or endorsed ambitious proposals dealing with health care; immigration and border security; infrastructure and gun safety.
We understand there are real philosophical differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents. And we don’t expect our leaders or No Labels supporters to check their principles at the door. But philosophy and principle have little to do with the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., where political games and pettiness increasingly drive the decision-making of our leaders. Too often, it’s not the quality of a leader’s ideas that matters, but the label—Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative—that he or she wears. You don't need to shed your identity to join the No Labels movement. You can be a proud liberal, a proud conservative, or a staunch independent. You just need to be open to the idea that people with different beliefs really can set aside the labels in service to making our government, and our country, work again.
No Labels has private donors from across the country, some big, some small, and all of them focused on cultivating and supporting political leaders who put country before party.
One battle at a time. While we are always turning up new talent and leadership working at the state level, for now we are focused on getting Washington back to work.