Washington • Save Social Security. Fix roads and bridges. Reform the tax code. Oh, and create 25 million new jobs.
Those are a few of the ambitious goals laid out by a bipartisan group headed by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Sen. Joe Lieberman who are urging the incoming president and Congress to actually work to solve the nation’s problems instead of using them as sound bites in political campaigns.
Thursday, No Labels, which touts an “army” of Capitol Hill members as well as various think-tank and policy gurus, unveiled a 184-page agenda, essentially a wish list of major issues awaiting action and ideas that could win support from the public and elected officials.
Huntsman said he knew that in the gridlocked, highly partisan environment, such an effort won’t be easy, nor will all the ideas find their way into law.
“We’re approaching this as an organization with eyes wide open,” Huntsman said. “I don’t think we’re naïve. Just because we have a policy playbook it doesn’t represent a great elixir for all of our ills.”
It is, though, a template that shows there are solutions at the ready should the new president and Congress be able to break down the walls that have kept both sides of the aisle from cooperating.
“Not all of it will be embraced but let’s say the next president says, ‘I want to do something about a new jobs agenda, or about energy or about entitlements,’ you’ll have a menu of options and people who have basically thought through it,” Huntsman added. “Not to mention a whole group of people on Capitol Hill who are ready to work on it with you.”
At the swanky Mayflower Hotel in Washington, Huntsman and Lieberman hosted reporters and policy wonks to talk up the No Labels agenda. Speaker after speaker extolled the one-time valued goal of bipartisanship, and argued that while the remaining five major presidential candidates continue to rally their supporters by identifying the country’s woes, they haven’t said how they’d fix them.
“OK, you say you’re for immigration reform,” Lieberman said. “You say you’re going to balance the budget. You say you’re not happy with the trade agreements. You say you want to wipe out ISIS. How? How are you going to do it? In this book, not only do we ask questions but we provide answers.”
No Labels, founded by a group of Republican and Democratic insiders, counts some 79 members of Congress on its “problem solvers” team. Its new playbook is aimed at the new president, sort of a policy guide to help the incoming administration that often finds itself in office with little more than talking points and suggestions.
The 60-point agenda includes creating 25 million new jobs over the next decade, securing Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years, balancing the budget by 2030 and making America “energy secure” by 2024. To be included on the list, a solution has to garner at least 60 percent support from Americans, including a majority of backing from Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Most ideas that didn’t meet that threshold were cut out, the group said.
While the group’s leaders said they know most of the ideas may never come to fruition, the effort is worthwhile.
“If we don’t try, we’ll never know,” Lieberman said, specifically of securing Social Security for the next generation. “This requires leadership – this has generally been the problem.”