Will These 9 Bills Actually Help Make Government Work Again?

On July 18, the No Labels Problem Solvers took a giant step forward formally announcing a package of nine bills they will use to break the gridlock on Capitol Hill.

Except for one, these bills are not controversial. They are designed to encourage across-the-aisle dialog to make the federal government more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.

For those who may not know, No Labels was formed in December 2010 to bring members of both parties together to break the hyper-partisanship that has gripped Congress for too long. Current co-chairs are Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). Their initial effort was called Make Congress Work, focusing on congressional rules changes and personal relationships. This was followed by Make the Presidency Work, a list of ideas to improve the relationship between the president and Congress. Now, Make the Government Work is meant to put what has been learned to work in the legislative process.

1. No Budget No Pay (HR 310 / S 124): Originally introduced in the 112th Congress, this bill would stop lawmakers’ pay if a concurrent budget resolution was not passed by both chambers by the end of the fiscal year. Pay would not resume until this was done. The bill received a hearing in the Senate but not the House. A weakened form of this bill was adopted at the end of the last session resulting in both the House and Senate passing a budget resolution. As of now, the current bill has 81 co-sponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate.

2. Biennial Budgeting (HR 1869 / S 554): With 85 co-sponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate, this bill would put the federal government on a two-year budget cycle. The president would be required to submit a budget review in the off year.

3. Duplication Elimination (HR 2506 / S 1231): This is an amendment to the Pay As You Go Act of 2010. This amendment would expedite actions to eliminate duplication of functions in the federal government. Under this amendment, the president is required to submit a proposed joint resolution to both the House and Senate within 90 days of receiving annual recommendations from the General Accounting Office (GAO). This joint resolution would be given priority with limited debate and no amendments. The joint resolution will not be assigned to committee and the motion to proceed would be considered highly privileged in the House and privileged in the Senate with no debate allowed. In other words, elimination of duplicated functions, once identified by the GAO, will be given an up or down vote without delay. This bill currently has 36 co-sponsors in the House and one in the Senate.

4. Buy Smarter and Save (HR 2694 / S1304): If enacted, this proposal requires the president to set goals for total strategic purchasing and total savings from such purchases. It puts in place mechanisms to ensure a "structured and collaborative process of critically analyzing an organization’s spending patterns to better leverage its purchasing power, reduce costs, and improve overall value and performance." The House bill currently has 34 co-sponsors.

5. President’s Budget Submission (HR 2686 / S 1321): These bills end hidden agency spending increases by requiring the president to include current fiscal year spending level and any proposed spending increases as separate items in his budget submission. The House bill has 36 current co-sponsors while the Senate bill has one.

6. Electronic Military Medical Records (HR 2590 / S 1296): This proposal is an amendment to the Wounded Warriors Act. It required the secretary of defense and secretary of Veteran Affairs to create a system and shared database for medical records within 180 days of enactment. The lack of a single database has been a major obstacle for veterans in receiving medical care following separation. The House bill has 44 current co-sponsors.

7. Stay In Place (HR 2643): This bill is in response to Executive Order 13589 and OMB Memorandum 12-12-12. In this order, President Obama instructed federal agencies to look at how they are spending and look for ways to save. This bill targets travel expenses by requiring the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop plans to reduce the federal travel budget by 50% or the greatest feasible amount through the use of video conferencing. At this time there is no corresponding Senate bill. The House bill currently has 32 co-sponsors.

8. Energy Savings Through Public/Private Partnership (HR 2689 / S 1308): This proposal is an amendment to the National Energy Conservation Policy Act. It requires the use of public / private partnerships to improve energy efficiency in all federal buildings. It is viewed as both a money saver and job creator. 42 House members have signed on as co-sponsors at this time.

9. Government Transformation (HR 2675 / S 1297): How to make government more effective and efficient? That is the question these bills attempt to answer by creating the Government Transformation Commission. This commission will be tasked to view all government processes and agencies to identify areas where saving and /or efficiencies can be achieved. This would be a permanent commission to ensure the federal government continuously looks for ways to improve. Currently 32 House members are co-sponsors.

Except for No Budget / No Pay, these proposals are not controversial All are common sense actions meant to solve the larger problem of effective lawmaking. No Labels is hedging their bets that by coming together on these proposals, lawmakers will find it easier to break down the barriers that are preventing action on the major issues.