Six members of New York’s congressional delegation have joined a bipartisan organization that aims to reduce political gridlock in Washington.
The group, No Labels, holds twice monthly “problem-solver” meetings for members of Congress.
The six New York lawmakers — Democrats Sean Maloney and Bill Owens and Republicans Tom Reed, Richard Hanna, Chris Gibson and Michael Grimm — are among 53 House and Senate lawmakers who have agreed to attend the meetings in a quest to find bipartisan solutions to national problems.
“Friendships are emerging,” Gibson said. “We are trying to find the common ground, respecting each other on all views, realizing that on a number of issues we may not find common ground, but on a good number of issues we will.”
Maloney, D-Cold Spring, and Gibson, R-Kinderhook, cite their co-sponsorship of a crop insurance bill that would benefit farmers who grow small specialty crops as an example.
The two also talk about using a Government Accountability Office report on duplication and waste in federal programs as a basis for formulating bipartisan legislation to improve government efficiency.
“What I hear from people is, they are willing to make sacrifices, but man, they want to cut the waste, they want us to stop doing dumb things and they want us to get our priorities straight,” Maloney said. “And this is an excellent way to do it. And you’ve got to have a bipartisan effort here or it’s going to be one of these food fights and nothing’s going to get done.”
The 16 founders of No Labels launched their organization in December 2010 with a meeting in Manhattan that drew 1,500 people from across the country.
Mickey Edwards, one of the founders, said he has drawn large audiences in cities such as Miami and Atlanta who want to find a way to end the gridlock in Washington.
Edwards is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma and vice president of the nonpartisan Aspen Institute.
He is encouraged that the Congress that took office in January is progressing better than the Congress that preceded it.
“It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s immigration or guns or gay rights or whatever it is,” Edwards said. “People are saying, ‘Let’s at least see if there’s a way to shape it so we can find something to stand on together.’ In the last Congress you never had that.”
Part of No Labels’ success has been the engagement of citizen activists like Ron and Deborah Tobias of Armonk. They have formed a local chapter with about 450 members who have encouraged members of Congress to join the group.
“We felt, enough of this complaining,” Ron Tobias said. “We have to try and do something. Even if we don’t succeed, we at least have to make the effort. Because it’s the old story, you deserve what you tolerate. If you tolerate bad behavior by Congress, then that’s what you deserve.”
Tobias said he is “crossing my fingers” with the new Congress.
“I am an eternal optimist,” he said. “But I think more and more people have to push the pressure on Congress to do the right thing.”
Maloney joined No Labels earlier this month.