By Christopher Goins
Rep. John Delaney (D-Maryland) joined about 70 other congressmen in 96 degree heat at the Capitol Thursday to showcase their membership in a bi-partisan group that is working to “make Congress work” and to “make government work,” unveiling nine bills to help do that.
“This great nation was built based on transformative ideas and bold and extraordinary actions,” Delaney said on stage. “And every one of those ideas and every one of those actions was done at the intersection of principle and compromise,” he continued. “That is our way forward.”
The freshman congressman says that he joined No Labels because he’s looking for “every opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner.” And because that’s what he and at least 70 other congressmen believe need to be done.
“So any opportunity, any kind of venue, any convening function that puts people together and allows us to work on the problems of the day I’m supportive of,” Delaney said.
Promoting a new politics of problem solving
No Labels got its start in December 2010, and is now headed by former Republican Gov. Jon Hunstman of Utah and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The idea is to promote “a new politics of problem solving” as the group’s website puts it, and members of the group on stage today often referred to their colleagues as “problem solvers.”
“I believe solving problems is more important than partisan politics,” said Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio. Georgia Congressman John Barrow, D, told the crowd that “in Washington, compromise has become a dirty word.”
Part of the 12-part Make Congress Work plan, listed in full at bottom of story, is to introduce a “No Budget, No Pay” act which will withhold pay from members of Congress if they can’t timely pass a budget or all annual spending bills.
They also want legislation allowing members of Congress to question and debate the president in a monthly forum — like the British prime minister’s question time in the House of Commons. They also have a “fix the filibuster” plan which would force senators to actually come to the U.S. Senate floor to debate and not just indicate the intent to filibuster.
The “No Budget, No Pay” act in the last Congress had 90 co-sponsors and received a Senate hearing last year. This session, the U.S.House and Senate passed a similar version of the “No Budget, No Pay” plan — not exactly like the No Labels plan — as a part of legislation that would temporarily raise the debt ceiling. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama Feb. 4.
All 12 parts are designed to break partisan gridlock, create more bipartisan discussions, and mitigate polarization in Congress. The group also has a nine-part plan for the executive branch to Make Government Work.
Bills in congress “too partisan”
Delaney said that he hopes the group creates an environment where members of Congress are open-minded, cooperative, and voice their solutions.
As for influencing his votes, he said members will still vote based on their particular stance on the legislation.
“I think No Labels will have the most effect on the creation of bipartisan legislation,” he said.
“I think when legislation is up for votes people are going to vote based on their views on a particular piece of legislation,” Delaney continued. “The problem is the legislation that comes up for votes is too partisan and we need to be developing and designing legislation that is more bipartisan in nature.”
What he and other members of No Labels have in common is a “commitment to work for the common good,” he said, and put partisan talking points behind them.
“No Labels is simply this: putting our country above ourselves,” said No Labels Co-Chair Joe Manchin. “Our country comes first,” he said, adding that all 81 members of the group “talk to each other, not about each other.”
Here are their nine proposals “to make government work”
1. No Budget, No Pay S. 124, H.R. 310
If Congress cannot pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members should not get paid.
2. Take the Time, Save the Dime S. 554, H.R. 1869
Move to a two-year budgeting process.
3. Don’t Duplicate, Consolidate S. 1231, H.R. 1869
Get rid of duplicate agencies and programs identified in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office.
4. Buy Smarter and Save
Enforce strategic sourcing so that separate divisions within a single federal agency do not make independent contracts for common items.
5. No Adding, No Padding H.R. 2686
Stop assuming automatic year-to-year spending increases in agency budgets.
6. 21st Century Healthcare for Heroes S. 1296, H.R. 2590
Merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veteran Affairs.
7. Stay in Place, Cut the Waste H.R. 2643
Cut half of agency travel and replace it with video conferencing.
8. Wasted Energy, Wasted Dollars
Reduce energy waste in federal buildings by incentivizing private companies to identify energy savings. The contractors would be paid with dollars saved instead of taxpayer dollars.
9. Plan for Efficient and Effective Government
Create a new Commission for Government Transformation to oversee and effect the transformation of various federal government programs so they will be more economical, efficient and effective.
Here are the 12 proposals “to make Congress work”
1. No Budget, No Pay
If Congress can’t pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members of Congress should not get paid.
2. Up or Down Vote on Presidential Appointments
All presidential 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 weeks a month in DC and one week in their home district.
6. Question Time for the President
Provide a monthly forum for members of Congress to ask the president questions to force leaders to debate one another and defend their ideas.
7. Fiscal Report to Congress: Hear it. Read it. Sign it.
A nonpartisan leader should deliver an annual, televised fiscal update in-person to a joint session of Congress to ensure everyone is working off the same facts.
8. No Pledge but the Oath of Office
Members 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.