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When you’re a mayor, you don’t have Republican potholes or Democratic schools that are failing, you just have problems that you need to fix.

– U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) on the productive virtue of non-partisanship, during the Problem Solvers Hangout, an internet video chat that was held yesterday by No Labels. Three other Problem Solver Congressmen joined Cicilline and No Labels co-founder Jonathan Miller along with several members of the No Labels community for a free exchange of ideas and a frank and honest discussion about problems, solutions, and the country’s future.

Information about the event, including video of it in its entirety, can be found here.

Reposted from the No Labels blog – all are pretty good examples of what can be accomplished with compromise and a reach across the aisle:

KIND WORDS ACROSS THE AISLE: As part of the TIME 100 series, President Barack Obama wrote a piece about Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had kind words for Vice President Joe Biden. “We’ve bonded over family and faith. And we’ve harnessed our friendship and mutual respect to find places where we can agree and work together to move this country forward,” Obama said of Coburn. “His list of accomplishments is impressive, but most impressive to me is his ability to build bridges, bring people together and get things done. Even though we disagree on many issues, he creates opportunities for future collaboration,”Cantor said of Biden.

GRIDLOCK IS NO WAY TO GOVERN: After economist Larry Summers suggested gridlock could be a good thing for Washington, writers Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann quickly point to the negative effects of gridlock. “This level of partisan polarization, veering from ideological differences into tribalism, has not been seen in more than a century. The U.S. system has always moved slowly, but in times past major advances were achieved with some level of cooperation or restraint, if not consensus, between the parties. No more,” they write: Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann for The Washington Post: Gridlock is no way to govern

NO MOVEMENT ON CYBER SECURITY: The House passed the Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Protection Act with significant across-the-aisle support, but it does not look likely to make it through the Senate. This stems from hyper-partisan debates over the role of government in protecting the power grid, banking sector and other key industries from attack, but also the best way to safeguard Americans’ civil liberties. Problem Solvers Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Scott Peters worked together to get the bill passed. “We come from two very different political parties and disagree on many issues, but we both believe this bill is critical for our nation and hope to see is become law very soon,” they write.

SIMPSON-BOWLES REDUX: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are back urging lawmakers to consider a new deficit reduction plan they have released. The deal represents more of a compromise than the previous one with less spending cuts and less tax revenues. “I think this is our last chance. I don’t think there’s any chance after the end of the fiscal year because we’ll be back into politics again,” Bowles said, adding that lawmakers have completed the easy parts: Lori Montgomery for The Washington Post: New Bowles-Simpson plan takes aim at deficit

The No Labels blog continually gathers current, news-worthy instances of bipartisanship, and posts them daily.

Who-We-AreI’ve recently decided to take up the cause of the No Labels movement – or, more accurately, I have in some ways always supported this cause, but have now decided to identify it as such. No Labels has no specific policy agenda, just a desire to promote moderate, pragmatic, reasonable, and most importantly bipartisan solutions to the country’s current problems, and to remove power and influence from the hands of extremists. This is something I can totally get behind, and I’m letting you know in case you would like to get behind it too.

From “Who We Are” on the No Labels website:

No Labels is a growing citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans and everything in between dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving. 

 We are unlike any organization in America. The most powerful interest groups in our nation’s capital work to push our leaders and our political parties apart. No Labels is working to bring them together to forge solutions to our nation’s problems. We welcome people left, right and everything in between as long as they are willing to collaborate with one another to seek a shared success for America. This new attitude is what No Labels is all about. 

No Labels promotes its politics of problem solving in three ways: by organizing citizens across America, providing a space for legislators who want to solve problems to convene and by pushing for common-sense reforms to make our government work.

Since our launch in December 2010, No Labels has consistently grown in size and in influence, with hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country. We entered 2013 with two new national leaders, former Republican Governor Jon Huntsman and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. 

Within Congress, No Labels has already recruited 59 members to become Problem Solvers and agree to meet regularly in 2013 to build trust across the aisle. 

One of those 59 members is Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), a conservative Democrat who boasts a perfect approval from the NRA, and who, along with Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey, reached an agreement on background checks for gun buyers this week, which is to be attached as an amendment to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s gun control bill. Reid’s bill is the one that will now be brought to a vote after the 68-31 vote in favor of allowing it to move forward on Friday. Despite the threat of a Republican filibuster, sixteen Republicans joined all but two Democrats to allow the bill to be voted on.

And that’s exactly what we’re trying to make happen.

Again from No Labels:

Finally, we have a third action plan, Make America Work!, which argues that achieving a new politics of problem solving will require our elected leaders to embrace No Labels’ five key principles of political leadership: 1) Tell the full truth, 2) Govern for the future, 3) Put the country first, 4) Be responsible, and 5) Work together.

No Labels does not expect anyone to shed their identity when they join our movement. We are a community of proud liberals, proud conservatives and everything in between who are united by the conviction that people with different beliefs really can set aside the labels and come together to solve problems.

One of their most interesting cheer-worthy proposals is No Budget, No Pay, which is exactly what it sounds like:

If Congress can’t make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn’t get paid on time either. Every government fiscal year begins October 1. If the congressional appropriations (spending) process is not completed by that date, congressional pay ceases as of October 1, and isn’t restored until appropriations are completed. This is the only No Labels solution that requires a new law, which could be passed in 2012, and would take effect when the new Congress is seated in 2013.

Encouragingly, I leave you with this:

UPDATE: On February 4, 2013, President Obama signed a debt ceiling extension bill that included a modified No Budget, No Pay provision that would withhold member pay in escrow if their respective chambers fail to pass a budget by April 15. No Labels supported this legislation as a critical step towards more accountable government. However, we will continue to push for implementation of our stronger No Budget, No Pay proposal, which would require timely passage of both a budget and annual spending bills and would also not allow lost member pay to be recovered once it was withheld.

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In the current print issue of The Economist, Lexington’s Notebook has noticed something that makes me think Christmas may have come early: several recent attempts by the great silent rational majority to drag us back to sanity.

Revolts of the reasonable are hard things to pull off, not least because zealots and partisans have catchier slogans. Yet that does not dismay a growing number of America’s not-very-strident. Pointing to record levels of public disgust for the political classes, moderates fizz with innovative schemes for grabbing power from extremists of the left and right. Some are wiser than others.

This is exactly what we need, and is also where I stand personally. Nothing has been more damaging to the political reality of this country in the past couple decades than the rise of extremists, caused by the rest of us allowing them to seize the reins of influence, and in some places power. They exist on both sides of the aisle, though I think one has been far more damaging than the other (again, power). The country needs moderates in power, and seems to want them in power – the backlash against the GOP after their comprehensive and widespread defeat in November has said as much, including the reelection of Obama itself, a man whose pragmatism was the central theme of his argument to elect him and his claim to the presidency.

More than 50 members of Congress have joined the bipartisan No Labels group, chaired by Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from struggling West Virginia, and Jon Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah whose 2012 presidential ambitions were undone by wonkishness and a general lack of belly-fire. Members are called “Problem Solvers” rather than centrists, and insist that staunch conservatives and liberals are welcome.

I took a look at No Labels and if they are what they appear to be, I’m signing up.

Books and newspaper columns talk of an “insurgency of the rational” and of the “sane, pragmatic majority” taking charge. A political action committee founded by New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, plans to spend millions backing moderates and independents in state and federal elections, with a nicely balanced focus on promoting gun control (angering the right) and school reform (which makes teachers’ unions seethe). The Common Sense Coalition, set up by entrepreneurs and fund managers, wants an online “Army of Moderates” to lobby candidates and elected officials. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is said to be poised to launch a group pushing education and immigration reforms, using Republican and Democratic strategists.

The same arguments are cited, repeatedly, to explain why the time is ripe for a centrist insurgency. First, Americans are fed up with both big parties, especially in Congress, a body with an 11% approval rating in one recent poll. Self-styled “independents” account for up to 40% of the electorate by some measures. Finally, great faith is put in the power of technology to help new groups out-organise and out-campaign incumbent party machines, like small furry mammals scampering beneath dinosaur feet.

And if this small, scampering approach could become a full-fledged movement, maybe something could actually get done. But this is a good start. As it stands, the obstinancy, intractability, and obstructionism in Washington has turned the nation’s capitol into a place where momentum and progress goes to die. The 112th do-nothing Congress has turned into the 113th do-nothing Congress – most notably on the recent issues of immigration, about which there is little to be optimistic from what I’m hearing, and gun control – because of the extremists gumming up the works.

Some innovations have already sputtered out. Americans Elect, an online project to find a third-party presidential challenger for the 2012 election, failed to attract either voters or heavyweight candidates. The White House was the wrong goal, argues “The Centrist Manifesto”, a new book with a different plan to sell. The book’s author, Charles Wheelan, a teacher at Dartmouth College (and former Economist journalist), argues that a Centrist Party should focus on the Senate, aiming to win just four or five seats in moderate states. Thanks to quirks of Senate arithmetic, a handful of centrists could hold the balance of power.

This is apparently true. In the first chapter of the book Wheelan writes:

The Centrist electoral strategy revovles around the U.S. Senate. The party will ofcus on winning an handful of U.S. Senate seats in states where moderate candidates traditionally do well. With a mere four or five U.S. Senate seats, the Centrists can deny either traditional party a majority. At that point, the Centrists would be America’s power brokers. Nothing could happen without those swing votes. And when those swing votes represent sensible, moderate voters – rather than the non-compromising extremists of the Left and Right – good things can start happening again.

Sounds like a plan.

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