In the summer of 2011 — following my first year at college — I was contacted by a non-profit group that was looking to start a generation chapter at the University of Maine. The group had an inspiring political aspiration: halt recent increased partisan antics. I knew all too well that political reform movements like Unity08 and Americans Elect popped up every so often, only to fall rather quickly due to a lack of purpose and specificity.
Just like any new endeavor, it was difficult to commit to a grassroots movement that hadn't yet garnered much support. Nevertheless and even with some initial criticism, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and start an organization on campus — one of the first of its kind in the country. I had never felt so connected to a political cause in my life, and I wanted to make sure students understood the true importance of this message. It was clear from the beginning that this organization wouldn't be long-term. My hope was that by the time I left college (or shortly thereafter), the political environment would improve and there would be no need for an organization like this anymore.
Just a year and a half later, the national reception of No Labels has gone from a frivolous hopelessness to an encouraging, plausible reality.
When the organization introduced its dozen proposals to "Make Congress Work!" in December 2011, most Americans and congressional aides found it's ambiguity and simplicity to be comical. So focused on the day-to-day battles of partisan wins and losses, it was no surprise they were scoffing at proposals seeking to fundamentally reform the inner workings of an esteemed and well-rooted political system. There were bigger things to worry about.
All it took was time.
A year later, following the group's "Meeting to Make America Work" event in New York City, three years of hard work and patience is finally starting to pay off. A "problem solvers" coalition comprised of members of the House and Senate is growing in popularity and on Wednesday, No Labels' "No Budget, No Pay" proposal was adopted in legislation that passed in the House (HR325), which proposes to momentarily raise the nation's debt ceiling in exchange for a budget requirement. If members in the House and Senate don't pass a budget by April 15, they don't get paid. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated this bill will likely pass the Senate.
On Thursday, there was some stirring hope that filibuster reform would be the next bipartisan feat. Instead, a small standing order is all that came of it. The deal passed in the senate makes a makes a major concession to Republicans, allowing the minority party two amendments on each bill while decreasing the amount of debate time following a cloture vote from thirty hours to four.
This is a step in the right direction, even though its a rules change and will expire at the end of the term. To have filibuster reform on the table already — this early — is profound.
There are other aspects to this growing bipartisan trend in the 113th Congress. With the economy on the uptake, tension in the House and Senate is slowly beginning to dwindle and as the tide rises, members of each party are more willing to compromise, act civil, and work together, especially when their constituents aren't breathing down their throats in the midst of harsh economic times. This bodes well for everyone. It's been a long recession, but things are finally starting to get better.
In addition to the economy, the composition of the 113th Congress is the most diverse in the history of the United States. It also brings together some new faces that represent the populace's' demand for committed, pragmatic, solution-oriented thinkers. Not only will such a diverse Congress have newly found reason to work together, but they diverse backgrounds will force them to.
The freshman class of the 113th Congress fought through campaigns in a political environment focused on problem-solving rather than partisan spirits. And they won because of their appeal to this message. Those who didn't? Well, they lost. With that being said, the 113th Congress is in a nice position whereby it has nowhere to go but up after the Do-Nothing 112th.
Two years ago, I never would have guessed positive change would come this fast, but it's certainly on its way soon. Present issues are simply too crucial and urgent to pass up for partisan gain. Political party values must be present, but they must not impede on the America's progress. It's all about moderation, just like anything.