Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 18, 2013

‘No Labels’

Common-sense idea merits support


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — First it was the fiscal cliff crisis. Now it is the looming debt ceiling showdown. Simply put, the government could run out of cash to pay its bills by early February without a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. And once again Democrats and Republicans are miles apart when it comes to reaching an agreement. It’s more of the same bitter partisan gridlock that we’ve seen over the last year, and a growing number of citizens living outside of Washington are becoming fed up with this pitiful example of dysfunctional politics.

But at least a few well-intended lawmakers are still fighting for common sense in Washington. Among them are U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has crossed the political aisle on several occasions to vote with Republicans. Manchin, along with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, are now working to promote a common sense “No Labels” movement in Washington. The grassroots campaign calls for a series of reforms in Congress to address partisan gridlock.

Manchin and Huntsman, who launched an unsuccessful bid in 2011 for the GOP nomination for president, rolled out the idea Tuesday during a conference call from Washington with West Virginia reporters. There are currently 25 members of Congress — about an even divide among Democrats and Republicans — who are committed to the No Labels movement. Manchin and Huntsman are hoping to see the group grow by about 80 lawmakers. 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., U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to the No Labels movement. We see no reason why any of the aforementioned lawmakers should refuse to support and join this good, common-sense cause.

“There is a relationship we build, and when you build relationships you can really move the needle,” Manchin said Tuesday. “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.”

The No Labels movement is being launched ahead of the looming debate in Washington over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, along with fights over delayed cuts to defense and spending programs, and the need for a new spending plan to avoid a government showdown. Republicans are demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. However, President Barack Obama says he won’t negotiate on the issue. In other words, we can expect another prolonged debate — just as we saw with the fiscal cliff mess late last year.

The No Labels movement advocates a number of common-sense measures, including requiring Congress to work five days a week instead of the normal Monday through Thursday schedule; demanding an annual address to Congress on the fiscal condition of the nation; 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.

All of these are good ideas that should be implemented sooner than later. Manchin and Huntsman are to be commended for making an effort to break the toxic partisan divide that is crippling Washington.

The No Labels movement is a good first start.