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No Labels In House Caucus

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On Tuesday December 13, 2011 "No Labels," "a group of Democrats, Republicans and Independents dedicated to a simple proposition: We want our government to work again;" On Capitol Hill, with an array of impressive Congressional guests and printed poll numbers proving " the  vast majority of Americans agree with us," "No Labels" announced its 12 Ways to make Congress work" Action Plan: all wrapped up in a slick bright orange Madison Ave .  brochure guidebook with much oversized lettering, their 12 steps plan includes measures like "No Budget, No Pay" for Congress, votes for Presidential appointments, and even Filibuster reform.  "No Labels" clearly was founded by serious can-do professionals. 

I first heard of  the  new "grassroots" organization called "No Labels," a year ago, and once informed of its Mission, was so impressed with its potential to usher in a Happy New 2011 Year for America, I expressed my support with both You-Tube video and online articles, promising to try to embrace their corner stone of, not applying negative labels to those with whom we disagree politically -- a sentiment that was most optimistically refreshing after two years warring exchange of labels both for and against  the  Tea Party.   

For  the  record, I'm all for any American who feels so strongly about  the  preservation of our Country, Government and Constitution that they exercise their right to Free Speech -- as long as it is a reminder as well as embodiment of "Peaceful Assembly" as guaranteed by our Constitution's First Amendment.     

Still in December 2010, especially after Conservative Blue Dog Democrats lost and ultra Conservative Republicans won U. S. House races, "No Labels" seemed to be remarkably timely ingredient for mending  the  crevice that has divided our American house, if not since 1980, then certainly since 2000. So wondering if "No Labels" prove to be "too little too late," or  the  perfect solution to, as they put it, "getting our government to work again," I waited, to hear.  

The  call came in December this year inviting me to attend and report on "Breaking  the  Gridlock: National Grassroots Movement  No Labels  Unveils Sweeping Action Plan to Make Congress Work!"  Tuesday December 13, 2011.  Then there I was, in the  Caucus Room of  the  Cannon Building of  the House of Representatives, along with over 400 hundred "No Labelers," an impressive show of and for Media coverage for a Tuesday morning (registration started at 7:30am) event.  

While there was a certain air of pep rally, most ably pumped by  The  Honorable Lisa Borders (President of  the  Grady Health Foundation), to get the  troops fired up and ready to accomplish no less than altering  the  M. O. of  the  United States Congress, it was a day long series of nuts and bolts sessions featuring, as Press Secretary Sarah Feldman put it:  "Current and Former Members of Congress, Prominent Opinion Makers and Thousands of Citizen Leaders from Across Country Join Campaign to Change Culture of Gridlock and Make Solutions Possible."  

Clearly, during  the  year of relative decline in  the Tea Party and under coverage of  the  rising uprising of Occupy Wall Street across  the  country, unlike the  TP & OWS, "No Labels" has been in  the  wings doing its structural, organizational and foundation laying homework.  However, "No Labels" is no protest group on or for either Left or Right, preferring instead to move "Forward" by, initially at least, Making Congress Work and on this day of official December launch, they made just under a dozen current and former members of Congress do just that: work with their constituents for solutions.

Even attending such a meeting public goes against the  prevailing wind of  the  current Congressional "Leadership" of both political parties.  Sitting atop the  provided high chairs, guests answered questions that provided  the  latest updates on pending legislative votes, explanations of  the procedural system that most in  the  Caucus Room yesterday felt is broken and generally delivered calls for action from American voters, just as "No Labels" makes  the  same demand of  the  Congress. 

If most typical of  the  goals of  the  occasion was  the presence input from  The  Honorable David Walker, CEO of  the  Comeback America Initiative assisting key policymakers on a non-partisan bases, then what was most a-typical of "No Labels" hopes was Senator Joe Lieberman less than two minute spouting of familiar platitudes before an unceremonious, even abrupt  departure.

Others in attendance included Indiana Democrat Senator Evan Bayh, who stayed around for a Q&A session long after  the  impressive panel of lawmakers had departed; Democrat Rep Bruce Braley; Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Blue Dog Democrat; former seven term Republican and Chairman of  the  House Government reform Committee Tom Davis; Mickey Edwards former Chairman of  the  Republican Policy Committee; Senator Dean Heller (R-NV); former Governor, now Senator Joe Manchin who evaluating current Congressional leadership of both parties, offered, "I'm not used to this kind of leadership," which allows, indeed encourages progress with Filibuster; Florida Democrat Senator Bill Nelson who insisted what those in our political system need, "is some walking around common sense;" and Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri. 

Though not a protest group by any means, "No Labels" is less "grassroots" in its top down structure, having been founded by a number of well connected and respected DC political insiders, like Mark McKinnon and Brookings Institution senior fellow Dr. Bill Galston -- how else would they have been able to get so many former and current members of Congress to attend -- It is however, well on its way to accomplishing its goal of growing current membership of 180,000 to one million. 

The  Good News:  Vote for Transparence of Super PAC Donors came within one vote of breaking  the Filibuster that prevents its debate. "No Budget, No Pay" potential vote received  the  greatest ovation of  the  day. Senator Byyh reminds us that Democracy's greatest weapon is an "informed public and involved people." 

The  Bad News:  Each time one of  the  400 attendees mentioned OWS or its activities, No Labels hosts, noticeably steered  the  conversation away from any such acknowledgement of that American reality.    

In hoping for  the  best for all who join  the  good fight, dare we hope for some sort of marriage between those waving signs marching through  the streets against  the  offenders and those who know people in high places who are charged by "We  the People" to protect, preserve and defend, not only the  Constitution, but at least 99% of all Americans? 

Just imagine, a world in which "No Labels" became the  bridge between a Tea Party and OWS philosophy, gluing Red vs. Blue back into Red, White and Blue, recapturing our essence: "Out of Many, One."


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Marcello Rollando is both seasoned political writer and critically acclaimed Performing Arts Director. Taking a sabbatical from his beloved NYC to work on a number of political campaigns as communications director and/or consultant in 2008, he (more...)
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