No Labels: A refreshing step in right direction

By Editorial Board

Amidst the noise, the posturing and the bitter partisanship, one hopeful sign has begun to emerge in Washington, D.C.

Pledging a new attitude about meeting our nation’s challenges, No Labels formed in 2010 with goals of mobilizing Americans, building trust across the political divide and encouraging bipartisan cooperation in our nation’s capital. To date, more than 80 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats who call themselves The Problem Solvers, have joined the cause and meet regularly on Capitol Hill. No Labels hopes to expand its numbers to more than 100 (or nearly one-fifth the membership of Congress) by the end of this year.

Honorary co-chairs of No Labels are former Utah governor, ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Last month, No Labels released Make Government Work, a package of proposed federal government reforms related to budgeting, duplication, consolidation, merging records, purchasing, and reducing costs, including travel and energy costs. In particular, we like this one: If Congress cannot pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members should not get paid.

No Labels also advocates reforms within Congress related to filibusters, work schedules, bipartisanship, floor procedures and votes on presidential appointments.

We understand these reforms alone will not cure all of America’s fiscal problems or erase all of the problems related to Washington’s political divisions, but it’s a start and it’s a refreshing step in the right direction.

“You’re playing small ball with legislation, fair point,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. “… Is the world going to change tomorrow? Absolutely not. But maybe by re-establishing some personal relationships we’re setting the stage where there’s more of an opportunity for compromise.”

“At the end of the day, there are some philosophical differences that we have and that’s not going to change,” said U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. “But we need to sit down and talk about what we do agree on … and figure out how we can move the ball forward on these things.”

Have some members attached their name to No Labels simply for cosmetic reasons so they can claim during their next election campaign to be seeking solutions to problems? Without doubt. Do actions speak louder than words? Yes, they do. Has No Labels helped navigate one major, comprehensive piece of legislation through Congress? To this point, no.

Is it naive to believe it might, over time, make a difference? Perhaps.

Still, because we believe No Labels is on to something, we will be watching the movement with interest.

As a nation, we have nothing to lose by giving No Labels the benefit of the doubt. After all, what we have in Washington today isn’t working.

Saddled with an abysmal job approval rating and seemingly polarized to the point of paralysis, Congress needs someone to press the reset button.

Maybe No Labels can.