Who says Democrats and Republicans can't work together?
On July 18, U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson announced he has joined more than 80 of his fellow legislators in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a member of "No Labels".
"No Labels" is an initiative started in 2010 to form a legislative problem solvers bloc made up of bipartisan legislators 37 Republicans, 43 Democrats and an independent at present who have committed to meeting regularly across party lines.
"I'm very proud to be a part of a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators," Thompson said on Thursday. "Specifically we call ourselves the problem solvers bloc and that's exactly what this is about, solving the problems facing the nation. I think the overall goal of problem solvers is to make government work. This was an easy decision to join. Every bill that I've introduced has been bipartisan."
Also on July 18, the Problem Solvers introduced a package of nine pieces of legislation called "Make Government Work".
Make Government Work includes legislation to reign in travel expenses for government agencies, consolidate purchasing of office supplies between agencies to reduce cost by buying in bulk, reduce duplication of services across agencies, increase energy efficiency in federal buildings, support and strengthen a congressional "No Budget, No Pay" provision, make veterans' records compatible between the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, switch to a two-year congressional budget cycle, create a commission to examine government program efficiency and need, and remove automatic budget increases tied to inflation.
"I think the overall goal of the problem solvers is to make government work," Thompson said. "Most of these bills have been introduced and I'm co-sponsoring most of them."
Thompson also explained why he is only co-sponsoring some of the legislation and it's not because he opposes others.
"Before you sign on to a bill... you need to see the language," he said. "You need to read the bill first and most of these I have. The ones I'm co-sponsoring I have. This is a philosophy... that I've followed throughout my service."
Thompson highlighted pieces of the legislative package he is especially supportive of.
He said a "no budget, no pay provision" was signed into law this year, but a No Labels booklet on the Make Government Work package noted it only keeps pay in escrow until a budget passes rather than suspending it altogether.
"The one (bill) about monitoring travel... especially in light of the scandals that have come to light recently with abuse of conferences," he noted. "The bill about records... It's just common sense. We have a completely different set of records used by the Department of Defense and the VA. That makes no sense. It's the same customer. The biennial budget... There's good sides and bad sides. The House is elected on as two-year cycle. One of the drawbacks is things can change over two years... but I think that's something that processes can be put in place to address. They all have merit and are well thought out. They all make government work better."
Thompson shared how he found out about the initiative, and it wasn't through the beltway grapevine.
"Like many good ideas, the whole concept... really was brought to my attention by constituents at home," he said.
While Thompson did acknowledge a need for this type of bipartisan cooperation, he cautioned people to keep in mind some gridlock is designed into the way the federal government operates.
"I don't think our legislative branch was designed to be fast track," Thompson said. "This was designed to be a deliberative process... It takes time. I think what compounds things today is the way the media has leaned into the legislative process. There's motivation for political theater by members (of Congress)... part of the movement is to reground ourselves... to return to a bipartisan, deliberate process."