Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

'No Labels' Adds Washington Muscle to Reform Washington

ARCHIVES
Republican presidential candidate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finishes speaking during a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Republican presidential candidate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman finishes speaking during a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The grassroots advocacy group No Labels on Monday threw more Washington muscle behind its bid to reform Washington.

Two years after launching as a centrist-minded counter to hyper-partisanship, No Labels is also shifting its focus away from ideology and toward a pragmatic agenda to get Washington leaders working together to solve problems. Partisan Democrats and Republicans, as well as independents, are now welcomed into No Labels.

Several hundred activists from across the country paid their way to attend the daylong convention in New York’s Times Square. Joining them were two newly minted No Labels leaders: former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a failed 2012 GOP presidential candidate, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

In addition, 24 members of Congress have joined the New Labels' “problem-solving caucus,” committing themselves to the group’s agenda. No Labels cofounder Mark McKinnon predicted the caucus will grow to 75 by year’s end.

“If you get that kind of bloc, you’re going to have a pretty powerful coalition in the Congress,” he told activists squeezed into a hotel ballroom. “That’s something you can do: ask your congressman why they’re not part of the problem-solvers bloc.”

On Sunday night, nine of the lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, met in a New York restaurant for drinks. Loosening his tie, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told his colleagues: "We are all here because Congress is broken."

On Monday, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., gave the activists a glimpse at the level of dysfunction on Capitol Hill. "No Labels is the only opportunity, believe it or not, for your representative to sit down and talk," he said.

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, a potential Senate candidate, roused the crowd with a call to remain optimistic despite all the reasons to be skeptical that change can occur. "No Labels calls on us not to surrender to the cynicism,” Booker said. “That is a cancer. Cynicism weakens the soul of our country.”

He said this generation of Americans may not be called to fight a world war, end slavery, or put a man on the moon but it has a historic challenge nonetheless. “We have to take responsibility to say we will take back control of our politics, that we will move toward pragmatism," Booker said.

"I'm hope unhinged!"

The group’s proposals include:

  • Denying pay to Congress until a budget is passed.
  • Requiring an "up or down vote" on presidential appointments.
  • Filibuster reform.
  • Five-day congressional workweeks.
  • “Question Time” for the president, similar to what a British prime minister does with Parliament.
  • Regular fiscal reports to Congress.
  • Monthly bipartisan meetings of Congress.
  • Bipartisan seating in Congress.

Two years ago, a group of high-powered political activists from both parties formed No Labels to encourage centrist problem-solving in an era of ideological gridlock. Mocked as naive and patronizing, the "Kumbaya Caucus" lacked a clear agenda and grassroots support. No Labels leaders believe they have addressed that problem and are poised to capitalize on the public's frustration with Washington.

UPDATE: Will No Labels will make a difference? I'm not sure. But I do think it's indicative of something brewing in the nation: "Writin' About Revolution: 6 Reasons Why Both Parties May Become Obsolete" 

Ron Fournier

Ron Fournier is the Senior Political Columnist and Editorial Director of National Journal. Prior to joining NJ, he worked at the Associated Press for 20 years, most recently as Washington Bureau Chief. A Detroit native, Fournier began his career in Arkansas, first with the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record and then with the Arkansas Democrat and the AP, where he covered the state legislature and Gov. Bill Clinton.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.