Yesterday in a park across from the Capitol, I witnessed an event that signaled real hope and change in Washington. And it had nothing to do with President Obama’s famous/infamous 2008 campaign slogan.
Standing on a stage in the scorching sun, the heat index was 100 degrees of bipartisanship, as members of the House and Senate who comprise the No Labels Problem Solvers Coalition stood together to eliminate government waste.
Mark McKinnon, cofounder of No Labels — which bills itself a “non-profit organization dedicated to bipartisanship, civil discourse, and problem solving in politics” — is calling this group of leaders the “Gang of 81.” As reportedin yesterday’s Daily Beast:
Eighty-one members of Congress, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans (and some independents), have signed up as members of the No Labels Problem Solvers Coalition, and most of them showed up in front of the Capitol to announce a legislative package they’ve been working on called Make Government Work!, which includes nine House bills and eight Senate bills.
Potentially, this legislative package has wide public appeal, no matter where you stand on the right/left ideological spectrum because it is designed to address waste and inefficiency in government immediately.
McKinnon details the specifics of the No Labels “Make Government Work!” package that the “Gang of 81” (and growing daily) hopes to help pass through Congress:
- No Budget, No Pay: If Congress cannot pass a budget and all annual spending bills on time, members should not get paid.
- Take the Time, Save the Dime: Move to a two-year budgeting process.
- Don’t Duplicate, Consolidate: Get rid of duplicate agencies and programs identified in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office.
- Buy Smarter and Save: Enforce strategic sourcing so separate divisions within a single federal agency do not make independent contracts for common items.
- No Adding, No Padding: Stop assuming year-to-year spending increases in agency budgets.
- 21st-Century Health Care for Heroes: Merge the electronic health-care records of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Stay in Place, Cut the Waste: Cut 50 percent of agency travel and replace it with video conferencing.
- Wasted Energy, Wasted Dollars: Reduce energy waste in federal buildings by incentivizing private companies to identify savings. Contractors would be paid by dollars saved, not with taxpayer dollars.
- Plan for Efficient and Effective Government: Create a new Commission for Government Transformation to oversee and remake various federal government programs so they will be more economical, efficient and effective.
All these potential pieces of legislation are not only “No Labels” but no-brainers while our country is flat broke and our national government is dysfunctional.
It will be interesting to watch if this bipartisan problem-solving group from both chambers can actually push through such a package of common-sense legislation.
But what if the “Gang of 81” No Labels Problem Solvers are thwarted by their respective party leadership and this package of bills fails to make it to President Obama’s desk?
Then I suggest No Labels should change its name to “No Hope” because that will more accurately describe our government’s ability and desire to expel waste and inefficiency in a system that is utterly broken and absurdly expensive.
Here are the names of Senators/Congressmen and women who are the “No Label’s Problem Solvers” if you care to contact their offices and weigh in on what they are trying to accomplish.