Legislators join group to break Washington gridlock


Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Leiberman (I-CT) have joined with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) as part of a group called No Labels. It’s said to include Democrats, Republicans and independents, and its goal is to break Capitol Hill gridlock, and to that end, it has offered a 12-point plan.

Here’s what the trio had to say:

“From my earliest days in Congress, I’ve been a proud supporter of what No Labels is trying to accomplish,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). “The people of West Virginia don’t want Democratic solutions or Republican solutions. They want American solutions.  I’m proud to be part of No Labels’ work to bring people together and make Washington work better.”

“No Labels has a very important role to play by offering the strong platform of ideas to ‘Make Congress Work,'” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  “I really do believe that more bipartisan approaches in the way we do business around here can have a profound impact on what we are able to accomplish as an institution.”

“It’s time to put politics aside and put our country first,” said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN).  “We need Washington to work again for the people. This action plan is a first step toward necessary reforms to put trust back in government.”

And here are the proposals:

Breaking Gridlock
1. Members of Congress will be docked pay for each day that they fail to pass the budget and all appropriations bills for the next fiscal year before the prior fiscal year ends.
2. All presidential nominations for executive and judicial positions must be confirmed or rejected within 90 days after the Senate receives the completed nomination.
3. Fix the filibuster: If senators want to halt action on a bill, they must take to the floor and hold it through sustained debate; end filibusters on motions to proceed to debate.
4. Empower the sensible majority by reforming House and Senate procedures to fast-track legislation with majority support.
5. Change the congressional work schedule so that Congress can get the American people’s work done.

Promoting Constructive Discussion
6. Institute a regular “question period” that brings Congress and the president together.
7. Institute an annual report to a joint session of Congress on America’s fiscal condition, coordinated and delivered by a high-ranking non-partisan official such as the Comptroller General.

Reducing Polarization
8. Members of Congress should be bound by no pledges except the Oath of Office.
9. Institute monthly nonpartisan gatherings in each chamber (off the record).
10. Eliminate partisan seating in all joint meetings or sessions and on committees and subcommittees.
11. Form a nonpartisan Congressional Leadership Committee.
12. Incumbents of one party should not conduct negative campaigns against members of the opposing party, but members are free to campaign in support of candidates from their own party. (Open seat elections would be exempted.)

RBR-TVBR observation: These are ideas, but we don’t think they would necessarily amount to anything – for example, they mention returning to the old way of executing filibusters – holding the floor for hours on end. Doing that would actually add to gridlock – the current cloture-vote method is used precisely because the same effect can be reached in the time its takes to call roll, rather than tying up all Senate business while some windbag reads out of the phone book.

Some of these are kind of playgroundish, to our eyes. Change the work schedule? Make the parties mingle more? Is that really what we need?

We would say that the biggest reason for gridlock isn’t even mentioned here – gerrymandering that has created supersafe congressional seats that support the continual reelection of candidates. It creates the perverse situation in which the vast majority talks about how terrible Congress is and then keeps sending the exact same people back there. With their jobs thus unthreatened, there is no existential reason not to play partisan politics to the max.