A group of 80 lawmakers, including Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, have announced a bipartisan slate of bills to improve government efficiency.
On Thursday Matheson teamed up with 37 Republicans, 46 other Democrats, and one independent lawmaker in Washington, D.C., to announce the No Labels Congressional Problem Solvers Coalition's list of nine bills that is aimed at getting lawmakers to put aside their partisan labels and supporting legislation that will improve the government.
"They all have to do with making government more efficient, productive or cutting spending," explained Matheson.
Matheson said the coalition is one of the only bipartisan coalitions that regularly meets when Congress is in session. He said the group's goal is to fix the problems facing the nation not fight against one another to score political points.
The nine bills announced are mainly aimed at reducing the amount of money the government spends to do regular operations. Matheson highlighted one piece of legislation that would merge the health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a bill that would increase government efficiency. The merge would reduce redundancy and keep D.O.D. health records all in the same location instead of transferring them to the V.A. and causing a confusion of where a member of the military should turn to when they need access to their health records.
Another piece of legislation being proposed by the group is not a new idea, but perhaps with this group's support would have a better chance in Congress, is the No Budget, No Pay bill. Under this proposal Congress would not be paid their annual salary of $174,000 unless it passes a budget and all annual spending bills on time.
Another proposal Matheson favored was the Buy Smarter and Save bill; he called it the "Costco bill." Essentially the bill calls for divisions within government agencies to get together and purchase needs, or issue contracts, in mass. The goal is to lower costs as deals are done on a bulk scale for an agency instead of by separate divisions within the agency.
Matheson admits the bills will all have a long road ahead of them before they could become law. In a town riddled with gridlock and elected officials who are jockeying for position in the next election instead of solving problems, he realizes the proposals of the coalition aren't going to be sail through and pass unanimously in the coming weeks. Matheson said the group is working with leaders in both bodies of Congress to see that the nine bills are eventually considered.
While the coalition is supposed to be aimed at getting things done and not promoting partisan politics, it won't hurt Matheson politically to be a part of such a group. For Matheson, the coalition shows he is willing to be someone who wants to reach across the aisle to get things done, a move that aids him politically as a moderate Democrat who needs Republicans to vote for him in order to win reelection in 2014, but University of Utah Political Science professor Matthew Burbank stated this is Matheson simply being himself.
"In my view, he can fit in with this group without raising any questions," said Burbank.
Burbank noted that for years, Matheson has always been more of an independent than a Democrat as he has stood with Republicans on some issues and Democrats with others.