WASHINGTON — Our nation faces some daunting challenges. Congress no longer seems capable of solving the very real problems facing America. Before every election, we hear candidates make campaign promises to fix our tax system, revise our immigration laws, improve our schools and address our budget problems. But after every election, these promises are crushed under the weight of poisonous rhetoric and partisan posturing. We have had enough.

No Labels wants to break the stranglehold of extremes that currently dominates our political process. We feel that by supporting leaders and legislation dedicated to civility and compromise rather than partisan politics, we can arrive at common-sense solutions to our national challenges. We know that our government is capable of doing so via civil and pro-active discourse. We are afraid Washington will not find these solutions without a concerted push from the American people. Good policy must become good politics again.

Where should we begin? One of the fundamental responsibilities of Congress is deciding how much money the government takes in and how much it spends. In the last 14 years, annual congressional spending bills have been submitted, on average, about four months late. (Our federal government’s fiscal year begins in October.)

The result is a more wasteful and inefficient government. When Congress delays how it allocates federal funds, it relies on temporary spending measures called Continuing Resolutions, or CRs. These CRs provide the operating money for federal agencies based on the amount they spent the previous year. What CRs don’t provide is any chance for Congress to debate the most fundamental question of all: Why are we spending this money or exempting these revenues? It would make more sense for Congress to establish a budget after thoroughly examining feasibility of programs and tax exemptions.

Instead it avoids the difficult work and delays the day of reckoning to some later date. In addition, this constant stop-and-go budgeting habit of Congress creates havoc and uncertainty for government agencies and for citizens who depend on them.

No Labels has offered a plan, called Make Congress Work!, consisting of 12 proposals aimed at changing the attitudes of many of our national elected officials. The proposal that we feel is most important to furthering this goal is an actual bill called “No Budget, No Pay.” It is a legislative way to hold our officials accountable to both the Constitution they pledge to uphold and the citizens who put them in office. It would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to receive a salary for the work they are paid to do. It is a first step. We urge you to contact Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Michael Michaud and thank them for co-sponsoring the No Budget, No Pay Act.

The remaining 11 proposals require further congressional action. For example, congressional rule changes are required for Proposals 2, 3 and 4. They are: Requiring that presidential appointments must be voted on within 90 days; reducing the number of filibusters by requiring senators to have sustained debate if they want to halt action; and allowing for secret voting to avoid fear of congressional leadership punishment.

Congressional leadership action is required for five proposals, such as spending more time at work in Congress, instituting a “question period” in which the president meets with both the House and Senate monthly for a televised Q&A session, and holding more bipartisan meetings and gatherings.

Finally, one very important proposal restricts members from signing partisan pledges that prevent them from reaching consensus on important issues.

In fact, recent national polling on behalf of No Labels found that Americans’ support for these 12 proposals ranged from 74 percent to 88 percent, with eight of the 12 polling in the mid- to high 80 percent range. Leading the polling is support for the No Budget, No Pay Act, at 88 percent.

To learn more about No Labels and its 12 proposals to make our government work again, please go to our website at www.nolabels.org.

No Labels is a national organization of Republicans, Democrats and independents dedicated to a simple proposition: We want our federal government to work again. Members of the Maine No Labels Steering Committee:  Michael Ehringhaus, Leslie Hyde, Thomas Kelley, Beth Moyer, Gerard Pare, Malcolm and Nancy White, Krista Meinersmann, Greg White, Helen Meserve, Tony Brinkley, Kim Volk, Donald Macomber, Gary Sinden and Roger Beeley.

— Special to the Press Herald