wo years ago, when nonpartisan
coalition No Labels asked Con-
Jim Himes (U.S. Rep.
D-4th) and his peers to sit with mem-
bers of the opposing political party at
the State of the Union Address, Himes
"The problems go beyond learning the
words to `Kumbaya,'" he laughs.
Now in his third Congressional term,
though, the outlook of the member
of the House Committee on Financial
Services and former Goldman Sachs &
Co. vice president has shifted.
This January, Himes signed on as one
of the first No Labels "Problem Solv-
ers," a group of House and Senate
members committed to meeting regu-
larly to build trust across the aisle.
And his seat at the 2013 State of the
Right next to Congressman Scott Rigell
(U.S. Rep. R-2nd), a Virginia Republican
Himes met at a No Labels breakfast
and now considers a good friend.
"As somebody once said at a No La-
bels meeting, it's hard to say no to a
friend. You may, but it's hard," said
Himes. "I think the establishment of re-
lationships across the aisle will change
the tone in Congress in a meaning-
ful way. Instead of people who don't
know each other and stereotype each
other, you'll have people who want to
get to `yes.'"
Started in late 2010 by a number of
concerned citizens spanning the po-
litical spectrum (including former U.S.
Comptroller General and CTCPA mem-
David Walker), No Labels boasts
a simple tagline: "Stop fighting. Start
fixing." Armed with simple plans like
"12 Steps to Make Congress Work"
and "11 Steps to Make the Presiden-
cy Work," the grassroots movement
is catching fire via www.nolabels.org
and its active social media channels
among a population that's "so sick" of
In order to facilitate conversation, No
Labels regularly invites its Problem
Solvers (now up to 50 House and Sen-
ate members) for breakfasts, dinners,
and receptions featuring speakers like
renowned New York Times columnist
David Brooks. The point of the gather-
ings is simple: Just engage with people
situated on the other side of the aisle.
"Obviously, partisanship has become
a destructive force in Washington, and
not so much partisanship in and of it-
self, but simply the attitude of unwill-
ingness to compromise," Himes said.
"Partisanship has gotten a bad name
and it has certainly boiled over, but the
reality is, it's good to have two parties
with different views of the world. Ar-
guing and then and this is the piece
that's missing compromising. It is
that ability to compromise and to ne-
gotiate that is gone."
"I think the establishment of relationships across the aisle
will change the tone in Congress in a meaningful way.
Instead of people who don't know each other and stereotype
each other, you'll have people who want to get to `yes.'"
Congressman Jim Himes (U.S. Rep. D-4th)
Rep. Himes a
`Problem Solver' in Congress
By Caitlin Q. Bailey O'Neill, Assistant Editor