The non-partisan 501c4 group aimed at promoting more bipartisanship, No Labels, has struggled in its fight to be seen as a relevant part of the political class in Washington.
But, this week, thanks to the House GOP leadership, No Labels became a lot more relevant.
In a surprise move, the often faulted for being obstructionist House GOP adopted the first tenet of the No Labels Action Plan: “No Budget, No Pay”, as a chief negotiation tactic for debt ceiling negotiations that will dominate the first months of the new Congress. On Wednesday, they passed a three month debt ceiling extension 285-144. Eighty-six Democrats voted yes, which was more than enough to let some Republicans vote no, which made overlords and activists on both sides of aisle angry.
The House GOP leadership’s original announcement of the No Budget, No Pay plan came with some internal opposition, stemming mainly from confusion over its constitutionality. Without clarification, the plan seemed to conflict with the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.
The connection between No Label’s 12-point plan to “Make Congress Work” and the House GOP’s new mantra is unclear and could very well be sheer political coincidence, but, based on the immediate response on the group's Twitter account, “House leaders tore a page out of the #NoLabels playbook and are supporting #NoBudgetNoPay,” it is obvious the group plans to capitalize on the House GOP’s use of the tactic.
No Labels, with the “Stop Fighting, Start Fixing” motto, launched two years ago and recently held the Meeting to Make America work and citizen’s activism training in New York City. The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib wrote an informative history of bipartisanship piece prior to the event, and the group's spokesmen Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin engaged in a media blitz in the days and hours leading up to the big meeting.
While there is so much that could be said about the No Labels campaign describing itself as a “movement,” many citizen activists echoed Manchin's remark that No Labels is "the only movement I know of that provides a venue to work through a difference."
The citizens’ training was a lot like any activism training: basic instruction on using Twitter, and how to write a letter to the editor. In a tenser moment, a few participants asked about the organization’s funders, a question that remained a gray cloud over the meetings until, in its final hours, Huntsman promised full disclosure of the organization's thousand plus donors.
During the event, the organization ironically labeled two dozen members as part of its congressional “Problem Solvers” block and hopes to bring that total to 75 by the end of the year. The "Problem Solvers" all came from very different political backgrounds, and offered diverging comments about how to fix problems facing the country’s political system, but most of the discussion among citizen leaders focused on more benign topics about why gridlock exists.
That said, No Labels, No Budget, No Pay is great populist politics, but the jury is still out on whether or not it will translate in to good policy.
The House's debt ceiling plan that includes No Budget, No Pay was endorsed by the White House and senate leadership, and the senate is expected to move on the deal soon. That will delay the bigger debt fight until mid-May, about a month after the congressional budget deadline set by No Budget, No Pay.