Nine months ago, No Labels, a bipartisan political reform organization, began a campaign to change the rules of our dysfunctional Congress and to create an opening for bipartisan legislation to get a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote.
That effort culminated today when Nancy Pelosi, the presumptive House speaker, and other Democratic leaders agreed to the request of nine Problem Solvers Caucus Democrats to include several of the ambitious rules reforms in the Caucus’ Break the Gridlock proposal in the rules package for the new Congress that will begin in January.
The nine Democrats announced they will now support Pelosi’s candidacy for speaker.
“The day after the election, Nancy Pelosi promised to run the House differently and to create space for bipartisan ideas to get a fair hearing. With this agreement today, she, along with Rules Committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern, delivered on that promise. They showed real leadership, and we commend them,” said No Labels Co-Chair Joe Lieberman. “We are so proud of these nine members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, who made a promise to voters that they would only vote for a speaker who supported real rules changes. And they kept that promise.”
Today’s achievement was a long time coming. In February 2018, No Labels Co-Founder Bill Galston, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said that the House of Representatives is the place “bipartisan proposals go to die” and laid out No Labels’ strategy to fix our broken Congress. He wrote that after the November elections, a small group of members in a narrowly divided Congress could:
Use their leverage by withholding their votes for the majority’s candidate for speaker until the candidate agrees to support reforms in the way the House does business.
On June 21, No Labels released The Speaker Project reform booklet, which laid out a series of specific reforms that would force Congress to be responsive to the will of the American people. On July 25, the Problem Solvers Caucus heeded the call with the release of its own Break the Gridlock reform package, which featured many of the same core goals and ideas similar to those offered in The Speaker Project.
In September, several Caucus members—both Democrats and Republicans—went a step further and said they’d only vote for a speaker candidate who would support these rules changes. This was months before the midterm elections before anyone knew which party would control Congress or who would be speaker.
“Like most great ideas, Break the Gridlock was born of necessity,” said Lieberman. “Throughout 2017 and 2018, the Problem Solvers Caucus aligned several times behind bold bipartisan solutions to health care, immigration and border security, infrastructure, and gun safety. But arcane House rules allowed leadership to ignore these solutions and prevent them from getting an up-or-down vote on the House floor. Now, in this next Congress, good bipartisan ideas will finally have a chance.”
Although today’s agreement did not include all the specific ideas in Break the Gridlock, it incorporates several reforms consistent with the Problem Solvers’ initial proposal, including their most consequential idea to ease the way for legislation with 290 co-sponsors (a House supermajority) to get an up-or-down vote.
“With the House controlled by Democrats and the Senate controlled by Republicans, bipartisan legislation is the ONLY kind of legislation that will pass for the next two years. Break the Gridlock opens the door for Congress to deliver bipartisan solutions to America’s toughest problems,” said Lieberman. “Now it is up to our leaders to walk through that door and to enact solutions on issues like infrastructure, health care and immigration where there is common ground if our leaders are willing to work together to seize it.”