Partisan gridlock in Congress is preventing progress in many areas. This is not news to anyone. What may be news is that there is a group of over 360,000, including members of Congress, who are committed to doing something about it.
Started in December 2010 (two of the co-founders are also the co-founders of PolicyMic), No Labels is energizing a grassroots effort and working with members of Congress to change the rules, break the gridlock, and return Congress to a functioning body.
The center of this effort is a 12-point plan of proposed changes to congressional rules. This plan was formally announced on December 13 in Washington, D.C. at a press conference attended by members of both parties. Only one point requires legislation. I address that point below. The other 11 points require only the members of each chamber to accept the changes and show they are serious about doing the job they were sent to do.
Did you notice the mixed seating in the House chamber during last week’s State of the Union Address? This is No Labels’ Point #10.
During the address, President Barack Obama said, “Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything - even routine business - passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.” This is No Label’s Point #2.
Point #1, “No Budget, No Pay,” is the only point requiring legislation. Simply stated, if Congress fails to pass a budget and all related appropriation bills by October 1 of each year, they do not get paid until this is done (and receive no retroactive pay when it is accomplished). Before you say Congress will never do that to themselves, both the House and Senate have bills in committee to implement this provision. Of equal importance, both bills have bipartisan sponsorship. The House bill is sponsored by Rep Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and has 12 co-sponsors; six Democrats and six Republicans. The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and has four co-sponsors; three Republicans and one Democrat.
The other nine points address eliminating the virtual filibuster, allowing a bipartisan majority to override the leadership, changing the work schedule of Congress to better serve constituents, adopting question time with the president, implementing a non-partisan annual fiscal report to Congress, one pledge-the oath of office, holding monthly, off-the-record bipartisan meetings, creating a bipartisan leadership committee, and no negative campaigning.
Partisan gridlock must end. No Labels may be the way to do it.
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