Last night, I was one of about 40 people at the home of former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman where I was thrilled to hear four former White House Chiefs of Staff and other political luminaries discuss the future of our country. All of us in attendance have embraced the “No Labels” movement, which is designed to change American government so it focuses on solutions rather than party bickering. As one attendee said, “Party labels have become chapels and obstacles. Leaders feel compelled not to cooperate with each other.”
The “No Labels” movement, with which I am proud to be associated the last few years, is intent on fixing our nation. It is composed of Republicans, Democrats and Independents who believe that party labels are less important than solving the big problems facing our nation. Any sentient American observing our political leaders’ inability or refusal to address our most pressing national problems knows we must change or we will be the first generation of Americans to cede our children a declining nation.
This bipartisan group has indeed attracted the youth of our nation as more than 1,000 student applicants vied to be among the 50 interns helping this group forge a bipartisan agreement on the way forward to solving our nation’s problems.
The No Labels solutions begin with making the next presidency work. These common sense proposals, which any American would love, include such things as regular presidential news conferences, frequent meetings among the President and Congressional leadership, and a regularly scheduled Congressional question time for the President (somewhat like the British do with the Prime Minister). More, both the President and Congressional leaders would have to agree to and sign on to the same set of financial statements so they can debate policy with the same set of facts.
Other common sense changes from No Labels include requiring political parties, not the taxpayers, to pay for presidential fund-raising trips, allowing the President a form of line item veto, and giving the President power to re-organize government agencies. Also the presidential appointment process would be changed to reduce the number of appointees subject to confirmation, identify a slate of critical nominees for expedited confirmation (to preserve continuity in government when Presidents change) and require an up or down vote within 90 days on presidential appointments.
Under the No Labels suggestions, the President would have the right twice a year to propose legislation to Congress that would have to be voted up or down without amendments, provided that it had a minimum number of sponsors from each party in both Houses of Congress.
These are not partisan proposals but rather common sense ideas fully within our Constitutional structure. They are designed to enable the government to address the problems that until now our political process has been unable to resolve. Our government is paralyzed as our nation spirals into a quagmire of growing entitlements and larger deficits. Neither party has been able to show the courage to address these issues – or even less pressing problems.
Our children’s future is too important – and our veterans’ contributions too great – for us as a nation simply to stand by and accept the status quo. My fervent hope is that both President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney will embrace these proposals.
In the bipartisan, patriotic spirit of a better nation, it would be heartening if our contenders for the top job can at least agree to a process by which November’s winner can help set our nation on a course of greatness rather than continue our path to mediocrity.