Members of Congress know how to disagree. So it is refreshing to see dozens of them come together to find ways to agree for the benefit of the nation. It is especially gratifying to see two local House members, Chris Gibson, the Republican from Kinderhook, and Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democrat from Cold Spring, in the middle of all this bipartisan cooperation.
The two, and several others, spent a hot day in the sun last week outside the Capitol raising the profile of the No Labels coalition, dedicated to making government work and promoting “common-sense” legislation.
“It makes a lot of sense to me to refocus us all on the fact that there are large areas of life that do not need to be some partisan food fight and in those areas, we can get some real results for people of the Hudson Valley,” Maloney said.
If these members of Congress can succeed with these practical goals, the hope is that the spirit will carry on to provide momentum for solutions to more thorny and divisive issues, the kinds that have made gridlock a way of life in Washington these days.
The co-chairs of the organization, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Jon Huntsman, former Republican governor of Utah, are especially well qualified to talk about the need for cooperation and the difficulty in getting it.
Manchin, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and a favorite of the National Rifle Association, was a leader in the recent failed attempt to expand background checks for the purchase of firearms. Huntsman, a Republican who distinguished himself as ambassador to China in a Democratic administration, had a brief run for the presidential nomination but proved to be far too moderate for the primary electorate.
As the two explain on the No Labels website, they realize that Congress can be and has been torn apart by special interests using money and access to promote legislation aimed at benefitting narrow segments of the nation while either ignoring the harm that does to the majority or, worse yet, not caring about those side effects.
Add up all items on the three No Labels lists of goals, one each for the president, Congress and government operations, and they provide an outline of the way the nation's elected leaders could and should be working for the benefit of everyone. Getting from here to there, however, is the real challenge for the No Labels coalition and obstacles are already mounting.
One goal says incumbents should not conduct negative campaigns against sitting members of the opposing party. It remains to be seen if any of the No Labels members will speak out to enforce that provision.
Two others call for up or down votes on presidential appointments within 90 days of nomination and a return to real filibusters, the kind requiring a senator to speak without pause instead of the modern practice of merely threatening to hold up action.
Both were the subject of loud and nasty exchanges in the Senate only last week, with little evidence that party leaders were willing to step back and shed their labels.