The Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress

For the most part, we avoid politics on this blog, though it does occasionally come up. In my view, we overestimate what politics can do for us, and should be focusing on forming civic society in non-political ways. Occasionally something happens that is worth looking at, and this is one of those moments.

A bi-partisan caucus, all funded by No Labels (, are tipping point for the speaker vote, and want to use the leverage to improve the House rules. There is a parallel between politics and origins:

Virtually every incentive in our politics – the money, votes, grassroots energy and enthusiasm –pushes our leaders apart and punishes those who aim to work together. To win elections, politicians need party and interest group support and contributions, and that too often deprives them of their independence.

A recent investigation by ProPublica found that power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of leadership, which in turn depends on the support of the most extreme members of their parties to stay there. Committees play less of a role in shaping legislation than ever before. And this Congress set a record for the number of “closed rules,” when leaders eliminate any chance for rank-and-file amendments to legislation.

It looks like, however, institution building in the center, as we are trying to do here, is opening a new way forward.

That was, until this past Tuesday. Over the past two years, supporters of No Labels – a national movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents working to unite our divided country –raised more than $15 million to independently support several current and aspiring members of the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, in both primary and general elections.

It was the first effort of its kind, and it worked: 23 of those 28 candidates supported by the No Labels-allied campaign won their elections on Tuesday and they did so on the strength of a message that was focused, above all, on their willingness to work with both parties to solve our country’s toughest challenges.

This summer, the Problem Solvers Caucus released a reform plan called “Break the Gridlock” to fix this disastrous state of affairs. The reform package calls for a number of rules reforms – such as forcing priority consideration of any bill with super majority support and eliminating the “motion to vacate” provision that gives undue influence to the extremes – that would once again empower rank-and file members who want to work across the aisle and give bipartisan ideas a fighting chance in the next Congress.

We are not a political organization, and I can’t imagine that ever changing. We are, however, trying to find a new way forward. I suspect in many domains, the same desire for a new way is strong. It is good for us to watch closely what happens, and find ways to build society together where we can.


I think the “no-labels” group is a charade.