There are few rooms on Capitol Hill where the two of us regularly see each other. In fact, one of the only rooms on Capitol Hill where Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate meet to talk about the policy issues of the day is the room where the 54 No Labels “problem solvers” meet.
Sometimes, it’s a basement room in the Rayburn Building. Sometimes, it’s a conference room in Cannon. But no matter where it is, the “problem solvers” are building the kind of trust across party lines that offers a glimmer of hope in the dysfunctional world of Capitol Hill.
The “problem solvers” began with two dozen members on January 14th at the No Labels’ Meeting to Make America Work!. Since then, our ranks have more than doubled as word has spread about what we are all about – “Fix Not Fight,” as we declared with the lapel pins we wore to the State of the Union address.
Why are colleagues gravitating towards the “problem solvers” group? Because they recognize that partisan bickering prevents us from solving our nation’s complex problems.
Moreover, Washington’s partisan divide erodes Americans’ faith in their government and creates uncertainty in the marketplace that prevents businesses from hiring, investors from investing and hardworking Americans from finding good-paying jobs.
The fiscal cliff and sequestration debacles only reinforce the public’s sense that Washington is broken, that it kicks the can down the road again and again, creating one manufactured crisis after the next, rather than addressing our long-term fiscal crisis and getting our financial house in order.
Disagreement in our nation’s capital is nothing new. In fact, that’s how our forefathers designed our government to work. Fierce debates, differing viewpoints and contrasting ideas are welcome. However, when decisions need to be made on tough issues to move this country forward, fiery disputes should take a back seat to reasoned negotiations and bipartisan agreements. That’s the pathway forward that No Labels’ “problem solvers” are pioneering.
There is no ideological litmus test to join. We simply require a positive attitude and a willingness to put policy above politics. We work for what’s best for our country. We welcome everyone – so long as they are willing to seek commonsense solutions to the challenges that face America.
We may not have had any miraculous breakthroughs yet. But for the first time in a long time, Democrats and Republicans are trying to find common ground. And in Washington today, that qualifies as a giant step forward.
Although the “problem solvers” are changing Washington from within, we’re getting help from the enthusiasm from citizens outside of Washington. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are mobilizing through NoLabels.org to support our efforts and are encouraging their elected representatives to join our group. Someday soon, with their help, we’re going to need a bigger meeting room.
We do not agree on everything — or even most things — but we do agree that America is not going to move forward until Democrats and Republicans find a way to work together. We may be from different political parties, but we are Americans first and foremost. It is time for us to come together in whatever room on Capitol Hill we meet and do what needs to be done for this great country of ours. There is no time to waste.
Joe Manchin is a U.S. Senator from West Virginia. Lynn Jenkins represents Kansas's Second congressional district.