The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 11, 2013

No Labels has right ideas

Why it matters: Bipartisan group of elected leaders aims to make government work


The Mankato Free Press

---- — For all the gridlock in Congress we see on TV and elsewhere, many Americans might be surprised to know there is a group of about 90 members of Congress making efforts to find bipartisan solutions to the real problems facing the country.

They deserve more recognition and support. They offer a sensible, credible and viable way to break Washington gridlock and provide solutions to America’s problems in the bipartisan way that the vast majority of Americans say they want. Most importantly, they agree to work together and compromise.

No Labels is a bipartisan group of elected leaders that has been quietly pushing an agenda that is aimed at breaking down the barriers to gridlock and proposing common sense solutions to America’s fiscal challenges. It has recently designated some members of Congress as part of a “Problem Solving Coalition” if they agree to some simple principles like working together, being accountable, and governing for the future.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan, both Democrats, have signed on as members of the group.

It seems simple – meeting with people you work with to solve problems – but this kind of cooperation has been sorely missing in Washington.

No Labels is a refreshing approach to governing. With 43 Democrats, 37 Republicans and one independent, No Labels “Problem Solvers Coalition” group has been meeting regularly with members of the other party to hear ideas, build relationships, talk about common goals and find solutions to some of the nation’s toughest problems.

Its efforts don’t garner a lot of media publicity like the conflict industry that derives its payola by fostering acrimony from most of the rest of Congress. But No Labels has captured public support for its way of doing business and some specific efforts. It now boasts membership of hundreds of ordinary people across the country. Major newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have mentioned the group’s efforts favorably.

It was behind the “No budget, No Pay” legislation that passed both houses of Congress this year. That legislation required that members of Congress do not receive pay unless they complete a budget on time.

The No Label Problem Solvers proposed a nine point legislative agenda that is aimed at getting Congress and the government working. In July some 70 members of the No Labels coalition introduced their package of proposals that would institute the No Budget, No Pay policy, require a budget every two years instead of every year, consolidate duplicative government programs, require smarter bulk purchasing by government, cut federal travel by 50 percent and create bipartisan groups to evaluate the efficiency of federal programs.

Klobuchar and Democrat Kurt Shrader of Oregon authored as part of the package a “No Adding, No Padding” proposal that would require federal agencies to remove the automatic calculation of inflation from their spending budgets and instead justify all increases in their budgets.

No Labels co-founders include former Republican Gov. John Huntsman of Utah and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia. It was established in 2010 prompted in part by the partisan divide in Congress that came with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The No Labels website highlights the fact that there were no Republican supporters of that effort as an impetus for their formation.

The group also notes on its website that since that time Republicans have attempted risky and dangerous tactics for derailing the law and Democrats have remained unwilling to consider modifications.

But it’s clear the No Labels coalition has a bigger purpose than making sure the Affordable Care Act is amended – even Democrats have proposed amendments to the law.

The No Labels coalition aims to create an atmosphere in Washington that nurtures the sensible bipartisan solutions to many of our problems. The effort is solid and deserves the support of all Americans who want to see Washington work and get beyond the gridlock that threatens our prosperity as a nation.

More information can be found on the group at nolabels.org.