No budget, no pay – a grassroots success story

You might have heard that last week, Congress, as part of its bill to suspend the debt ceiling for three months, included a provision called “No Budget, No Pay.” The idea is that, if Congress fails to pass a budget by Oct. 1, members won’t be paid until the country has a budget.

The idea originated with a group called No Labels, which was founded in December 2010 and has been growing rapidly ever since. No Labels is a growing citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving. Its message is simple: Politicians (and citizens) need to set aside party and ideological labels to find workable solutions to the serious problems faced by the United States. Politicians started paying serious attention to the idea once they saw the strong support it had in their districts and states.

“No Budget, No Pay” is one idea to force Congress to get serious about its job. The Constitution requires that a budget be in place each year by Oct. 1, the start of the government’s fiscal year. This hasn’t happened in four years, and “No Budget, No Pay” embodies the idea that if members of Congress can’t do their jobs and get this done, they shouldn’t be paid.

The provision that was sent to the president for his signature was a watered-down version of the No Labels proposal, and in fact, it had to be. The Constitution says that any law affecting congressional pay can’t take effect until the next session of Congress, which keeps Congress from raising its pay immediately. “No Budget, No Pay,” in its purest form, would cut off all pay, for good, until a budget is passed. This would affect pay by eliminating a portion of it. The version passed in this session of Congress would delay pay until a budget is passed, but the pay would be distributed once the budget is enacted. In this way, only the timing of compensation, not the amount, would be affected during the present session of Congress.

No Labels is picking up a great number of supporters nationwide, and it has a leader from each major party – former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

At present, No Labels is working on creating a group of senators and congressmen called the Problem Solvers. The group is meant to be a coalition of legislators who are committed to working together to address the nation’s problems.

If you want to learn more about or become part of No Labels, go here. If you want to encourage your legislators to become a Problem Solver, go here.

What do you think? Will we be able to get our legislators to work together?

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