Insights About the Government Shutdown from No Labels

Insights About the Government Shutdown from No Labels

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Maha Neouchy
November 14, 2013

The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) hosted its second Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series (SMLS) of the fall 2013 semester. Students had the opportunity to hear from Clarine Nardi Riddle, chair of government affairs at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP, and Ron Christie, founder and president of Christie Strategies. Both speakers are also co-founders of No Labels, which is a citizens' movement of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents dedicated to common-sense problem solving at local, state and national levels of government. TWC alumna, Nancy Jacobson, is the founder and CEO No Labels and she has spent three decades working in Washington, D.C. as a political entrepreneur, advisor, fundraiser, and network cultivator.


Ron Christie Discusses No Labels


The theme of this SMLS was "Government Shutdown: The Causes and Effects and How to Prevent a Reoccurrence." The event started off with a discussion about No Labels. Christie presented a breakdown of the goals, initiatives, and major milestones of the grassroots organization that now has over 87 "problem solvers" made up of Republicans, Democrats, senators, representatives, conservatives, and liberals. They meet regularly at the Capitol to discuss legislation and find ways to present solutions to their respective leadership. No Labels does not separate the problem solvers by party or affiliation: "We said no, enough of this. Enough identifying each other by party rather than recognizing that we are all in the business of trying to find solutions to the problems that befall our country. It's a national movement. It's Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We're saying stop fighting and start fixing the problems in the U.S."


Christie also took time to discuss various topics that No Labels addresses on a day-to-day basis including:


  • Identifying the problems
  • Finding solutions
  • Goals of the No Labels problem solvers
  • Next steps

Students Pose Questions to No Labels Experts


Tanya Flink, intern at The Can Kicks Back and student at Emerson College, asked about what kinds of reactions to their work they've received from the different generations. Specifically, Flink said, "I know that my generation, the millennial generation, may be more receptive to your ideas but older generations may be more set in their ways, which is a huge issue because they are the largest voting demographic."


Christie: I have been overwhelmed by the folks in your generation who not only educate themselves on the issues but who are also involved in government. I think a lot of people in my generation may have had a more cynical view of government. But the millennial generation really is more actively engaged. As it relates to No Labels, I think we have a great opportunity not only to engage the millennial generation but to also go to their parents, people of our generation, and ask them not to be so dead-set in their ways of thinking. It is also an opportunity for us to present different approaches and new ways to view the way the government operates."


Josh Catanzaro, intern at Peace Corps and student at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, presented a question about a specific No Label clause: "Do you believe the existence of this two party system is morally corrupting the fabric that America was founded on as well as the Constitution itself? Do you believe that many of these issues could be solved by a strong third party?"


Riddle: I'm not saying it isn't a possibility, but it is a steep hill. What we have to do is try to work on the problems and solve them. We need all of you and other constituents telling members of Congress, I don't want a party line. I want you to get in there and solve it. Don't get distracted by the bickering or the talking points of your party. I'm not unsupportive of a third party, but I just don't necessarily think that's the answer.


Christie: Third party candidates can play a very important role in an election. If we look at the governor elections tomorrow in Virginia, a third party candidate may very well get double digits, which could have a very strong impact on the race. When I look at my home state of California, they have a citizen board and the two top vote getters in the district go to the final election. Candidates are recruited and they are running. We need to look at the way congressional districts are drawn, especially the ones that are extremely hyper-partisan.


John Curiel, intern at International Economic Development Council and student at Ohio Northern University, asked the panelists about the No Budget, No Pay Act: "Given that members of Congress may not need congressional pay or they religiously adhere to what they're advocating, could this act be a tactless measure that doesn’t result in any outcomes or reforms?"


Riddle: It's interesting how many of them were actually so concerned about the No Budget, No Pay Act when it was first announced. We were trying to figure out how to shake up the fact that we didn’t have a budget. The act was a symbol of a problem. The House had to pass the budget and the Senate had to pass the budget, and if they didn’t their salaries would be put in escrow. What we're trying to do is incentivize regular order. It's trying to put in plain language, for members of Congress, what their core job is: passing the budget.


The Washington Center would like to thank Riddle and Christie for speaking to students. The presentation and moderated panel were a great way to facilitate discussion and provide reflections about an unpredictable time in the federal government.


About The Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series


The Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series is founded in the spirit of the lifelong friendship of two extraordinary leaders from opposite sides of the aisle. Norman Y. Mineta and Alan K. Simpson met during World War II when Simpson’s Boy Scout troop met with Mineta’s in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming where Secretary Mineta’s family was then interned with over 10,000 other Japanese-Americans. Despite their differences, both their friendship and their commitment to leadership and public service endured. The Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series aims to create a forum in which students from around the country and the world can engage with extraordinary leaders, explore issues of contemporary public concern, and articulate their own views about the meaning of leadership and citizenship in today’s society.

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