Letter to the Editor
The Cincinnati Enquirer
We know Washington is broken. According to polls, approximately 90 percent of Americans agree that Congress isn’t doing its job.
The problem with Congress is not the people. It’s the outdated rules, procedures and traditions that govern the institution and make it impossible to get things done. Any rule changes will require a push from the outside. Congress won’t fix itself. But citizens can do something to end the gridlock.
In December, my wife and I went to Washington to the ceremonial start of No Labels. It is a group of 400,000 Republicans, Democrats and Independents, a citizen movement from across the country dedicated to a simple proposition: We want our government to work again.
No Labels proposed a 12-point rule plan in December offering straightforward answers to break the gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Congress. All but one of these proposals can be adopted immediately.
1. No Budget, No pay – If Congress can’t make spending and budget decisions on time, members shouldn’t be paid on time.
2.Up or Down Vote on all Presidential Appointments – All nominations should be confirmed or rejected within 90 days of the nomination.
3.Fix the Filibuster – Require real (not virtual) filibusters and end filibusters on motions to proceed.
4. Empower the Sensible Majority- Allow a bipartisan majority of members to override a leader or committee chair’s refusal to bring a bill to the floor.
5. Make Members Come to Work – Make congress work on coordinated schedules with three five day work week in DC and one week in their home district.
6. Question Time for the President – Provide a monthly forum for Congress to question the President and to force leaders to come together to debate each other and defend their ideas.
7. Fiscal Report to Congress: Hear it. Read it. Sign it. – A nonpartisan leader should deliver an annual televised fiscal report in-person to a joint session of Congress to make ensure everyone is working off the same facts.
8. No Pledge but the Oath of Office – Member should make no pledge but the pledge of allegiance and their formal oath of office.
9. Monthly Bipartisan Gatherings – The House and Senate should institute monthly off-the-record and bipartisan gatherings to get members talking across party lines.
10. Bipartisan Seating – At all joint meetings or sessions of Congress, each member should be seated next to at least one member of the other party.
11. Bipartisan Leadership Committee – Congressional party leaders should form a bipartisan congressional leadership committee to discuss legislative agendas and substantive solutions.
12. No Negative Campaigns Against Incumbents – Incumbents from one party should not conduct negative campaigns against sitting members of the opposing party.
But nothing can be accomplished unless we work together and take this first step toward fixing Congress: Email, call, or write your congressional representatives and ask them one simple question: Do you favor the 12 rule changes No Labels has proposed, and if so, how will you be supporting these reforms?
The group called “No Labels” is pushing two bills – one in the Senate and one in the House – to require Congress to come up with a budget each year. The crafting of budgets is an essential congressional responsibility in these days of ballooning deficits.
Even so, over 1,000 days have passed since a national budget – any budget – has been passed. The “No Budget, No Pay Act” would prohibit members of Congress from receiving pay after missing the Oct. 1 deadlines for budget appropriations and regular appropriations bills, and it would not allow for that pay to be recouped retroactively.
Senator Portman is on the committee. Let’s build some momentum and see if we can get a functioning government again. I encourage all Americans to go to Nolabels.org to learn more.