August 30, 2013

Manchin, Huntsman working on building bipartisanship | Charleston Gazette

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —  Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman first met at The Greenbrier nearly a decade ago as freshman governors. Now, they are cultivating bipartisan leadership and participation through their work as co-chairmen of No Labels, a political movement intended to get Washington politicians to stop fighting each other and work together to fix problems. Manchin and Huntsman addressed the state Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit at The Greenbrier Thursday, where they talked about the U.S. economy and political gridlock.

“I’ve never been more depressed about the state of politics, which makes the economic growth prospects increasingly few,” said Huntsman, a Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

Founded in 2010 as a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit organization, No Labels has about 80 to 90 Democratic, Republican and independent members of Congress involved. Both Manchin and Huntsman agree the political atmosphere of the past eight years is unsustainable.

Huntsman said he believes that voices in politics say the country has been angry over the past eight years, and that in turn angry politicians of both parties were sent to Washington to essentially destroy the system. But now, Huntsman said, we’ve got to put pieces back together and move forward as Americans together.

“There are not that many of us in the middle any more,” Manchin said. “We have a hard time recruiting in the middle.”

Manchin said now is the time to better position elected officials and government to move in the right direction. He added the U.S. is the only country in the world that can fix its own problem. Americans must look to Americans for support, compromise and answers.

Through No Labels’ “Problem Solvers” coalition, members of Congress meet regularly with their counterparts across the political aisle to build trust and engage in open, respective and civil negotiations. To help the problem solvers, No Labels crafted two comprehensive action plans calling for a more efficient Congress and presidency.

The first plan, “make Congress work,” suggested that if Congress can’t pass a budget, members would not be paid. The idea had more than 90 cosponsors in the 112th Congress and was signed into law last February.

Huntsman said the political divide that’s becoming the norm in Washington has to change.

“Something happens when people get to Congress and Washington,” Huntsman said. “It’s almost like you pick a side and pick a team and conclude never then to work the issues.”

Too many people are making money off of Washington’s divide like never before in America’s history, he added.

“It’s how you transcend all that nonsense and get back to the work of the people,” Huntsman said. “It’s about creating trust.”

Among No Labels’ members from across the country, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. is one.

The organization is funded entirely through donations. In 2012, No Labels operated on a $2 million budget. The most important part of the project, as Huntsman sees it, will be the grass roots component.

Manchin said No Labels brings common sense solutions that benefit all Americans.

“If you’re an American, we’re all living in the same great country with the same problems,” Manchin said.

Both Manchin and Huntsman echoed an urgency to put country before political party.

By:  Caitlin Cook