By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Although they come from different political parties, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman appear united in their desire to expand a group of “problem solvers” in Congress charged with breaking the toxic bipartisan divide in Washington.
Manchin and Huntsman, a former Republican governor who launched an unsuccessful bid in 2011 for the GOP nomination for president, spoke with area reporters Tuesday to help formally introduce the “No Labels” movement, a grassroots national organization that is currently supported by 25 members of Congress. The group is currently evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans.
“There is a relationship we build, and when you build relationships you can really move the needle,” Manchin said. “As a U.S. senator, in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve not been invited or asked, nor has anything been organized as a bipartisan caucus where we sit down as Democrats and Republicans and talk about our differences. We spend more time back and forth traveling all across the country. Something is broken when you are not building relationships, and you don’t really know people.”
That lack of cooperation and compromise must change if Congress is to effectively govern, and deal with issues such as the looming debt ceiling debate, Huntsman said.
“When you stop and think that the 112th Congress was the most unproductive in history, something is wrong,” Huntsman said. “The problem isn’t ideology. The problem is a lack of focus. A lack of culture in Congress that speaks to problem solving and doing the work of the American people. Now here we sit where the disfunction of Congress makes our nation dysfunctional.”
Manchin and Huntsman are hoping to see the No Labels group expand by about 80 members in Congress. Manchin is also hoping to recruit U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. to the movement.
When asked by the Daily Telegraph about freshman U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Manchin said his Virginia-side colleagues also will be encouraged to support the No Labels effort.
“Tim is just coming in new,” Manchin said of Kaine, the former governor of Virginia. “We talked to him. So I anticipate those (Kaine and Warner) will be two really valuable candidates who we would hope to be involved.”
Huntsman said expanding the number of lawmakers in Congress committed to the No Labels movement will be the key to promoting positive change in Washington.
“We don’t have that critical mass of problem solvers,” Huntsman said. “We only have 25 today. If you have 80 it would completely change the dynamic. My hope personally, and I think Joe shares this, is we are going to work very hard to get this group of problem solvers up and running.”
Huntsman said a kick-off meeting of the movement drew a crowd of more than a thousand youthful activists from New York City. Huntsman said the movement will seek to actively recruit such young people.
“Our comment yesterday is we need to more effectively and aggressively nominate No Labels on college campuses,” Huntsman said.
“This is brand new,” Manchin added. “To get from the infancy stages to see where we are today. It is the only organization working from inside the structure of Congress. That gives Congress a bipartisan basis way to meet.”
Manchin said the key to the No Labels campaign is building relationships and putting one’s nation above their political party.
The No Labels movement advocates a number of changes in Washington, including requiring Congress to work five days a week instead of the normal Monday through Thursday schedule; withholding congressional pay if lawmakers fail to pass a budget; forcing an up-or-down vote on presidential appointments within 90 days of a nomination; and changing the rules for filibuster in the Senate that allow the minority party to stall the process on bills and nominations that have fewer than 60 votes, according to an earlier Associated Press report.
Manchin will be bringing the “No Labels” discussion, and his “Standing up for the next generation” tour to Mercer County on Friday with a 3:30 p.m. meeting at Concord University in Athens.
The meeting will be held in the state room of the student union area where Manchin will participate in a roundtable discussion with administrators, faculty, students and veterans.
Manchin’s “Standing up for the next generation” campaign highlights the importance of cutting out-of-control government spending but sustaining investments in the future, keeping children safe in school, advancing research and technology and improving efforts to hire unemployed veterans. It is being launched simultaneously with the “No Labels” campaign.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org