No Labels

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No Labels
Motto Stop fighting, start fixing.
Formation December 13, 2010; 5 years ago (2010-12-13) (public launch)
Type Political
Legal status 501(c)(4)
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
Region served
United States
Founders
Nancy Jacobson
Tom Davis (R)
National Leaders
Jon Huntsman (R),
Joe Lieberman (D)
Website www.nolabels.org

No Labels is a centrist American political organization based in the United States, composed of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, whose mission is to "usher in a new era of focused problem solving in American politics."[1][2]

No Labels aims to create a movement—in Congress, among the public and presidential candidates and with influential business, labor and advocacy groups—in support of a National Strategic Agenda based on the following four goals:

  • Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years
  • Balance the federal budget by 2030
  • Secure Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years
  • Make America energy secure by 2024[3]

Inspired by the No Labels message, 70-plus members of Congress have already formed their own “problem-solver” caucus, with caucus members having signed a congressional resolution calling for the creation of a National Strategic Agenda and having co-sponsored 18 different pieces of bipartisan legislation, including two – No Budget, No Pay and Healthcare for Heroes - signed into law.[4][5]

In October 2015, No Labels held its first Problem Solver Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH), with participation from eight presidential candidates across both parties and over 1,500 No Labels members.[6]

The group is registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.[7][8]

Mission and leadership[edit]

No Labels is a movement that includes citizens, current and former members of Congress, state and local officials, and business, union, nonprofit and student leaders from across the political spectrum who advocate a new politics of problem solving.[9]

The group’s core mission is to organize leaders and citizens across America who want elected officials in Washington to give up their all-or-nothing partisan approach to politics and focus on solving the nation’s most pressing challenges.

Early Initiatives, 2011 - 2013[edit]

The inaugural meeting of No Labels was held in 2010 at a home in Houston, Texas,[8] and the organization was officially launched six months later in New York City.[8][10] More than 1,000 people representing all 50 states gathered at the launch conference.[11] The event included speakers and panelists of elected officials, journalists, and business leaders.

Make Congress Work, 2011[edit]

In December 2011,[12] during an event in the U.S. Capitol including 400 activists and volunteers, No Labels released an action plan entitled Make Congress Work! The goal of the plan was to break congressional gridlock by implementing reforms to the legislative process. The reforms included:

  1. No Budget, No Pay, which stipulates that members should not get paid if Congress does not pass the federal budget on time
  2. An up-or-down vote on all presidential appointments within 90 days of their nomination
  3. Reduce the use of the filibuster by forcing members to actually speak on the chamber floor to sustain a filibuster and by eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed
  4. Allow anonymous discharge petitions
  5. Implement a five-day workweek in Congress
  6. Institute Question Time between Congress and the President
  7. Require an annual fiscal report delivered to a joint session of Congress
  8. Hold off-the record bipartisan meetings for members of the House and Senate
  9. Establish bipartisan seating in committee hearings and joint meetings of Congress
  10. Establish a Bipartisan Leadership Council to be made up of congressional party leaders to discuss legislative agendas and substantive solutions
  11. Ban incumbents from taking part in negative campaigns against other incumbents [13]

In 2012, No Labels also made a number of efforts to compel Congress to complete the budget process, including calling on Congress to work during the summer recess and encouraging business leaders to withhold campaign contributions until the gridlock over the budget had ceased.

Fast Track Presidential Appointments[edit]

One of the Make Congress Work! reforms - the up-or-down vote within 90 days for all presidential appointments, was included a month later in Barack Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address.[14][15]

Bipartisan seating[edit]

In January 2012, No Labels called for Congress to have bipartisan seating at the State of The Union. No Labels kept track of data on the members of Congress who agreed on their websites to sit in a bipartisan fashion.[16] By the time of the address, 208 members agreed to sit with a member of the opposite party.[15]

No Budget, No Pay[edit]

At the unveiling of the Make Congress Work! action plan, Senator (Sen.) Dean Heller (R-NV) and Representative (Rep.) Jim Cooper (D-TN) announced that they would introduce legislation for one of the Make Congress Work! proposals - barring legislators from receiving a salary if they fail to pass a budget resolution and all appropriation bills before October 1, the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year.[17] Both the House and Senate bills were entitled the No Budget, No Pay Act. No Labels then proceeded to run a campaign in favor of the legislation.[18]

On March 14, 2012, a hearing was held in front of the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, entitled "Raising the Bar for Congress: Reform Proposals for the 21st Century" on the particular subject of the No Budget, No Pay Act. No Labels' witnesses also discussed filibuster reform, the up-or-down-in-90-days proposal, and having a financial report to Congress.[19] In addition, Senator Johnny Isakson discussed a proposal of his own for biennial budgeting.[20]

On February 4, 2013, President Obama signed H.R. 325 “No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013” into law mandating the pay for lawmakers be held in escrow starting April 16 until their chamber has passed a 2014 budget resolution. This was a modified version of No Labels’ original proposal, which had called for member pay to be lost permanently during any period in which they had failed to meet the budget deadline.[21]

Make America Work, 2012[edit]

In December 2012, No Labels released a booklet called Make America Work! which details "leadership principles" for lawmakers to follow. There are five listed.

  1. Tell the truth
  2. Work together
  3. Govern for the future
  4. Put the country first
  5. Take responsibility [22]

On January 14, 2013, No Labels held the Meeting to Make America Work in New York City. No Labels unveiled a congressional group of "problem solvers," who agreed to meet together in order to build trust across the aisle. Speakers included Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV) as well as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R). More than 1,300 citizens from across the country attended the event, and it was covered by The Daily Beast,[23] The Washington Post,[24] The New York Times,[25] The Wall Street Journal,[26] Associated Press, Yahoo! News[27] and more.

Make the Presidency Work, 2012[edit]

On July 13, 2012, No Labels released a follow-up action plan to Make Congress Work! entitled Make the Presidency Work!, which included proposals for structural reforms to the presidency.[28] The reforms include:

  1. Regular news conferences for the president
  2. Fast-track legislative authority on a set number of priorities that there is bipartisan agreement on
  3. Making the political parties pay for presidential fundraising
  4. Expedited recission authority
  5. Reducing the number of presidential appointees subject to Senate confirmation
  6. Identifying a slate of critical appointees who would receive expedited consideration and confirmation
  7. An up-or-down vote on all presidential appointees within 90 days of their nomination
  8. Institution of Question Time between the president and Congress
  9. A return to the Reorganization Act of 1939 to make it easier for the president to reorganize the executive branch
  10. An annual fiscal report delivered to a joint session of Congress, after which everyone present must sign the report
  11. Regular meetings between the president and congressional leadership

Make Government Work, 2013[edit]

On July 18, 2013, No Labels unveiled an action plan entitled Make Government Work! [29] which included nine legislative ideas that were subsequently co-sponsored by members of No Labels congressional problem solvers. The ideas include:

  1. No Budget, No Pay: If Congress cannot pass a budget, members should not get paid.
  2. Take the time, save the dime: Move to a two-year budgeting process
  3. Don’t Duplicate, Consolidate: Get rid of duplicate agencies and programs identified in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office.
  4. Buy Smarter and Save: Enforce strategic sourcing so that separate divisions within a single federal agency do not make independent contracts for common items.
  5. No Adding, No Padding: Stop assuming automatic year-to-year spending increases in agency budgets.
  6. 21st Century Healthcare for Heroes: Merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  7. Stay in Place, Cut the Waste: Cut 50 percent of agency travel and replace it with videoconferencing.
  8. Wasted Energy, Wasted Dollars: Reduce energy waste in federal buildings by incentivizing private companies to identify energy savings.
  9. Plan for Efficient and Effective Government: Create a new Commission for Government Transformation.

The Problem Solvers in Congress announced this plan at a messaging event in Upper Senate Park on Capitol Hill on July 18, 2013. The event featured 70 members of Congress—Democrats and Republicans—who each spoke for 15 seconds to talk about why they are No Labels “Problem Solvers.”[30][31]

Healthcare for Heroes[edit]

Language from the 21st Century Healthcare for Heroes bill was adopted into the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that was passed and signed by the president in December 2013.[32]

National Strategic Agenda, 2013–Present[edit]

Goals[edit]

Following a nationwide survey conducted in the fall of 2013, No Labels began to develop its National Strategic Agenda, which is oriented around four goals that No Labels wants the next president and Congress to commit to achieving together.

  1. Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years
  2. Balance the federal budget by 2030
  3. Secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years
  4. Make America energy secure by 2024

No Labels co-chair former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) has described the National Strategic Agenda as having a simple premise: “To solve a problem – any problem – you need to set goals, get people to buy into those goals and put a process or plan in place to achieve them."[33]

No Labels often cites the examples of former Republican President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Democratic President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich as leaders who were able to set big goals, and despite their differences, work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve them.

No Labels' stated goal is for the country's next president—regardless of political affiliation—to adopt the National Strategic Agenda and pledge to work with both parties to make government work.[34][35]

Meetings[edit]

On September 17, 2014 No Labels convened the National Ideas Meeting at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C. The meeting, which opened with remarks from No Labels Co-Chairs Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), featured a bipartisan group of over a dozen members of Congress, more than 50 state and local leaders, and a handful of other high-profile speakers.

The program called for three panel discussions to address the implementation and importance of the No Labels National Strategic Agenda. The morning kicked off with a panel of members of Congress moderated by CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash. Focus then moved to the state and local relevance, as Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) moderated a panel consisting of state and local elected officials from across the country. Rounding off the afternoon was a panel moderated by former Meet the Press host David Gregory.

The National Ideas Meeting began a year of focus on the National Strategic Agenda, as No Labels worked with citizens and lawmakers to formulate common goals for America’s future.[36]

On October 18, 2014, No Labels gathered more than 200 citizens at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire to discuss the importance of a National Strategic Agenda, the upcoming presidential election in 2016 and how to get more involved. The panel included two congressional members aligned with No Labels, U.S. Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Charlie Dent (R-PA).[37]

Resolutions[edit]

On April 16, 2015 a congressional resolution (H. Res. 207) dropped in the U.S. House of Representatives with 53 Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in support of establishing the National Strategic Agenda.[38] A similar resolution (S. Res. 199) was introduced in the Senate on June 11 by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Thune (R-SD).[39]

Hearing[edit]

On June 17, 2015 No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda was heard in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

“I’m so encouraged by what you’re trying to do here,” Johnson told the witnesses. “You’re trying to set up [a] process of agreement.”

Co-Chairs Gov. Jon Huntsman and Sen. Joe Lieberman testified before the committee to encourage the establishment of the National Strategic Agenda. In his concluding statement, Mr. Huntsman noted that ”The National Strategic Agenda is an idea whose time has come. This is how any well-run organization makes decisions and solves problems."[33]

Problem Solvers, 2013–Present[edit]

No Labels Problem Solver Seal

Problem Solver Caucus[edit]

In January 2013, No Labels announced that 25 members of Congress who it described as "problem solvers"[40] had committed to meeting regularly to build trust across the aisle.[9] The members subsequently created the Congressional Problem Solver Caucus, featuring 70-plus members, evenly divided by party.[41] Members of this caucus cosponsored the House and Senate resolutions calling for the creation of a National Strategic Agenda. Members often wear pins that identify them as “problem solvers."

Problem Solver Convention[edit]

On October 12, 2015 in Manchester, New Hampshire (NH), No Labels began the 2016 election cycle by holding its first National Problem Solver Convention, which included over 1,500 No Labels members, representatives from over 100 college and university satellite chapters, and a number of 2016 presidential candidates.

Participating presidential candidates included Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mr. Donald Trump (R), and Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA).[42]

The event, held at the Radisson Hotel, also included speakers such as No Labels Co-Chairs Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), congressional problem solvers, and policy experts.

A key focus of the event was No Labels’ National Strategic Agenda—and its role in the 2016 primaries and general election.[43]

Problem Solver Promise[edit]

All Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have been offered the opportunity to make the Problem Solver Promise, which expresses their support for the No Labels National Strategic Agenda. Presidential candidates who make the Promise are committing to begin work with both parties in Congress on at least one of the Agenda’s four goals within the first 30 days of the next administration.

Media[edit]

Reception[edit]

No Labels' "Make Congress Work" and others campaigns were received mostly positively.[12][44][45] Ezra Klein wrote that the group "released an agenda that did the impossible: proposed a plausible path for moving in that most elusive direction: forward. They did it, unexpectedly, by refusing to suggest that they themselves knew which direction ultimately is forward. The group’s essential insight is that the American political system has stopped working for the left and the right -- not to mention for the middle, wherever that may be."[46] Eleanor Clift wrote that the group's goal of getting presidential contenders to "agree on broad goals about the country’s future" was "an audacious experiment that candidates and voters, sick of politics as usual, may welcome."[47] Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post wrote that No Labels would not "change many of the factors that are driving partisanship" but provided a valuable idea in its promotion of "a mechanism that could generate results even in a partisan environment." Hiatt wrote: "Agreeing that the country should have strategic goals is a first step; for a newly elected president and Congress, coalescing around one or two of those goals could be the next. And the commitment to find a solution would force members to start talking across party lines.”[48]

Other have doubted the group's effectiveness. Frank Rich, writing in the New York Times in 2010, stated: "The notion that civility and nominal bipartisanship would accomplish any of the heavy lifting required to rebuild America is childish magical thinking, and, worse, a mindless distraction from the real work before the nation."[49] A Boston Globe profile in 2013 stated: "No Labels has been unable to advance, in any meaningful way, a single item from its relatively modest list of goals. Critics dismiss it as window dressing, with some congressional staffers comparing it to a high school civics project and going as far as drafting memos to their bosses urging them not to join."[50]

No Labels has been criticized by the right and the left. On the left, Ben Adler, writing in the American Prospect in 2011, referred to No Labels as a "supposedly nonpartisan group that seems to exist to promote Alan Simpson's austerity agenda," and criticized the group as "ideologues masquerading as nonpartisan truth tellers" for pushing cuts to Social Security.[51] Katrina vanden Heuvel, writing in the Washington Post in 2012, wrote that No Labels and similar groups are borne of a "misbegotten elite consensus" and disregards "the simple reality that the Republican Party has been captured by an extreme-right wrecking crew, who have not the slightest interest in compromise."[52] On the right, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post wrote in 2013 that No Labels was irrelevant and that "one gets the sense the group is not so much interested in getting rid of labels as in getting rid of conservatives."[53] Gene Healy wrote in Reason in 2013 that No Labels engages in "self-congratulatory, schoolmarmish earnestness and warmed over Beltway pap" and that many national problems "stem from past occasions when 'problem solvers' got together in chummy bipartisan fashion."[54]

Funding sources and expenditures[edit]

No Labels has been criticized for a lack of transparency in funding. As a registered 501(c)(4) group, No Labels is not required to release its donor information.[49][55] According to an internal document obtained by Yahoo News, No Labels raised approximately $12 million from 2010 to mid-2014, with another $4 million pledged for 2014.[55] According to a Yahoo News report based on the document, "much of the group's budget goes toward sustaining or promoting itself," with 22 paid staffers and eight consultants as of May 2014.[55] Its projected yearly budget for 2014 was $4.5 million, of which 30% was for digital growth and press, 14% for fundraising, 5% for travel, and just 4% for "Congressional Relations."[55] No Labels listed several of its $500,000 and $100,000-level donors, including billionaire John D. Arnold and his wife and real estate tycoon Alfred Taubman.[49]

Frank Rich, writing in the New York Times, wrote: "This is exactly the kind of revolving-door synergy between corporate power and governance that turns off Americans left, right and, yes, center. Oblivious to this taint, No Labels named a few fat-cat donors who have ponied up $1 million-plus...What America needs is not another political organization with a toothless agenda and less-than-transparent finances."[49]

No Labels anthem[edit]

Akon wrote an anthem for No Labels in 2010 after hearing about the organization from Lisa Borders. The song was later covered by Deborah Cox in 2012. Both versions are often played at No Labels events and in their media.[56]

Signage controversy[edit]

At the National Founders' Meeting on December 13, 2010, red and blue animal artwork was displayed on signage, on the No Labels website, and on T-shirts offered for sale, all of which was produced by the New York advertisement agency Fly Communications. It was noted that the artwork was similar to a design created by Thomas Porostocky in 2005 and also featured in the book The Design of Dissent by Milton Glaser.[57][58] Fly Communications later apologized to Porostocky and accepted responsibility for unauthorized use of his design.[59]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "The Future of the American Center". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
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  4. ^ "The Only Bipartisan Game in Town". The Daily Beast. April 11, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Working together to take care of our service men, women and returning vets". The Hill. February 25, 2014. 
  6. ^ Tuohy, Dan (October 12, 2015). "Rivals look for common ground at 'No Labels Problem Solver Convention'". New Hampshire Union Leader. 
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  25. ^ Peters, Jeremy (January 14, 2013). "Group From Congress Asks, Why Does America Hate Us? (Answer: See Congress)". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
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  33. ^ a b "Committee Discusses National Strategic Agenda". Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. June 17, 2015. 
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  37. ^ "No Labels political group visits Granite State | New Hampshire". Retrieved 2015-06-04. 
  38. ^ "H.Res.207". Congress.org. April 16, 2015. 
  39. ^ "S.Res.199". Congress.org. June 11, 2015. 
  40. ^ Ribble, Welch, Reid, Peter. "Words for Congress to Live By: Stop Fighting, Start Fixing". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
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  42. ^ "No Labels and The Hill Announce Schedule for Presidential Candidates Addressing First-Ever New Hampshire Problem Solver Convention". The Hill. October 12, 2015. 
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  45. ^ "Congress owes US an apology". The Nashua Telegraph. December 22, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  46. ^ Klein, Ezra (December 21, 2011). "'No Labels' Stops Whining, Offers Political Agenda". Bloomberg. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
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  50. ^ Tracy Jan, Bipartisan group finds bridges hard to build, Boston Globe (December 1, 2013).
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  55. ^ a b c d Meredith Shiner, No Labels? No results? No problem, Yahoo News (July 28, 2014).
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  57. ^ Newman, Andy (December 13, 2010). "In 'a New Way of Looking,' Something Familiar". The New York Times. 
  58. ^ Del Signore, John (December 13, 2010). "Did No Labels Rip Off Design From More Party Animals?". Gothamist. 
  59. ^ Newman, Andy (December 14, 2010). "Oh, That's Why It Seemed Familiar". The New York Times. 

External links[edit]