Saying it's time to "make Congress work," Rep. Tom Petri participated in a press conference Tuesday announcing a package of reforms designed to end congressional gridlock. The gathering was organized by the "No Labels" group, whose slogan is, "Not Left. Not Right. Forward."
"This is an effort by concerned citizens who gathered from across the country to say America's not working very well, certainly Congress is not working very well - and we would like to see Congress get down to the hard but important job of working for the American people and doing its job in a more effective way," Petri said.
"The group has come up with a series of ideas. I think they are worthy of debate and discussion. Some may work and some may not, but where we have been going by pointing fingers at the other side rather than building and making the country a better place - that former approach has not been working, and I think we need to try something different," he said.
The press conference participants, including Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and others, discussed the 12 planks on the "No Labels" platform. These are:
* Members of Congress do not get paid unless they pass the budget on time;
* Presidential appointments for executive and judicial positions must receive an up or down vote within 90 days;
* Reducing number of filibusters by requiring senators to take a bill to the floor and hold it through sustained debate if they want to halt action on it;
* Allow a majority of representatives or senators to force legislation to the floor by signing a discharge petition whose signers would be kept secret until a majority has been reached - this, to reduce pressure by party leaders on members who sign;
* For each four-week period, Members of Congress should spend three weeks in Washington followed by one week in their district/state, with five full working days per week in Washington;
* Formation of Bipartisan Congressional Leadership Committee to discuss the nation's most pressing issues on a weekly basis;
* Annual fiscal update to a joint session of Congress delivered by non-partisan leader, such as the Comptroller General.
* Institute monthly bipartisan gatherings in each chamber of Congress;
* Restricting members from signing partisan pledges that prevent them from reaching consensus on important issues;
* Institute a "question period" in which the President meets with both the House and Senate monthly in a televised question-and-answer session;
* Requiring mixed-partisan seating in chamber gatherings and in committee meetings;
* No negative campaigning in another representative's district or senator's state - this to lessen acrimony in the legislature. Positive campaigning for one's party's nominees would be allowed.
Petri emphasized that he is not endorsing every proposal, but that he wants discussions leading to sensible changes in congressional procedures.