Their numbers are growing, and that’s a good thing for the people they serve and possibly our country.
We’re talking about lawmakers who are members of No Labels’ Problem Solvers.
The No Labels movement wants to cut out the ideological fervor and partisanship that have ground our Congress to a halt. Therefore, those who have signed on to the group’s mission cross all political boundaries. They may not share the same background or political party, but they share the same goal of working together to solve problems.
And they’re growing, from 24 Problem Solvers in January to 81 on Thursday, when many of them gathered outside the U.S. Capitol and unveiled nine legislative reform bills.
Among the problem-solvers is a Wisconsin contingent of Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood; Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac; Sean Duffy, R-Weston; and Mark Pocan, D-Madison. As Problem Solvers, they’ve agreed to meet regularly this year in a trust-building exercise.
While it’s easy to look skeptically at this group and discount any effect it might have, it would be unwise to ignore them.
Forty-three Democrats, 37 Republicans and one Independent comprise the 81 Problem Solvers, 73 of whom are in the House.
They’re politicians, and while some, or many, of them might truly want to reach across the aisle, others are also trying to appease their constituents who are not happy with the job Congress has been doing.
The job approval rating for Congress for the year so far is 15 percent, according to polling organization Gallup. That’s 18 points below the overall average of 33 percent since 1974. The all-time low is 10 percent, set in August 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed the low rating on partisan gridlock and an inability to get anything done in Congress, according to Gallup.
Those are exactly the ills No Labels aims to cure with its mission.
In announcing the rally held Thursday, No Labels said it would unveil its Make Government Work package of “nine common-sense bills designed to make government more efficient.” When appealing to constituents, every candidate and incumbent at some time talks about his or her “common-sense” solutions.
But after examining the proposals, they do make a lot of sense. A two-year budgeting cycle, like we have in Wisconsin, makes sense on the federal level, too, instead of the annual charade Congress puts on. Withholding pay to lawmakers until they pass a budget also seems right — do your job and get paid.
Others make so much sense that it’s kind of remarkable they haven’t been done before. For example, one proposal would get rid of, or combine, duplicate agencies and programs, saving billions of dollars, according to No Labels. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office identified 162 examples.
The No Labels movement and its motto to “stop fighting, start fixing,” resonate with a public tired of the acrimony in Washington, D.C., and sick of an inability to agree on anything.
As the number of lawmakers signing up to be Problem Solvers grows, so does the chance of real legislative reform.
Ultimately, though, these politicians have done the easy part — they’ve signed on for an initiative that has growing support. Now comes the tough part, fulfilling that pledge.
We’ll be watching and hoping that they do.