A New Bipartisan Agenda
This week, No Labels held a cocktail reception at the Library of Congress. The purpose was to honor the members of Congress who have received the organization's "Problem Solvers Seal of Approval" -- and to promote a four-part outline the group calls the National Strategic Agenda.
Founded in 2010 by veteran Democrats and Republicans, No Labels seeks to move America to a "politics of problem solving" and away from constant gridlock. Former senator Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. (R.) serve as co-chairs, and the group has state- and university-level chapters as well.
The reception featured a line of prominent speakers, including Lieberman and Huntsman, No Labels vice chairs Al Cardenas and Mack McLarty, and freshman senator Cory Gardner (R., Colo.). Senator Gardner said that receiving the No Labels Seal of Approval was pivotal in his race last November against incumbent Democratic senator Mark Udall. "If you run as a problem solver and talk about the Seal of Approval, then you start governing that way and leading that way," he said.
The National Strategic Agenda comprises four goals: First, create 25 million jobs over the next ten years; second, secure Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years; third, balance the federal budget by 2030; and fourth, make America energy-secure by 2024. Embracing these goals, which enjoy bipartisan support, is intended to be the first step toward finding common ground.
"There is currently no framework for decision-making in this country, and what No Labels is advocating for is a new framework where leaders first start with agreeing to goals and then to policy," No Labels co-founder Nancy Jacobson told me. "That's why both Gingrich and Clinton agree to our approach. It's exactly what they did in the '90s -- first, they agreed to the goal of a balanced budget, and then they got to deciding on specifics." Following the 1994 Republican Revolution, despite partisan gridlock and government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, President Clinton signed the bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Welfare reform was another achievement both parties embraced during this time.
Fifty-eight National Strategic Agenda supporters -- 34 Republicans and 24 Democrats -- won their congressional races on Election Day 2014. Only four lost. This large number of victories could be a sign of voters' tiring with the stalemate that has defined Congress over the past few years.
Although voters generally want a government divided across party lines to ensure no single party has too much power, a December 2014 Pew poll shows that 71 percent of Americans think a failure of Republicans and Democrats to work together over the next two years would hurt the nation "a lot" and 16 percent believe it will hurt "some." Those who have embraced the mission of working across party and ideological lines have formed the Problem Solvers Caucus, currently chaired by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) and Rep. Reid Ripple (R., Wis.).
No Labels hopes the National Strategic Agenda can influence the debate in 2016. The group will award Problem Solver Seals of Approval during the primaries to candidates committed to the goals.
"We think the first 100 days of the next president's term is the best chance to get to serious problem solving," said Jacobson. "We also believe the next president will be that person who can articulate better than his or her competitors why he or she is the true problem solver."
Pat Horan is a research associate at RealClearPolitics and a contributor at RealClearHistory. He is a recent graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.