Among the proposed reforms: Requiring Congress to work five days a week instead of the typical late Monday-Thursday schedule; demanding an annual address to Congress on the fiscal condition of the nation; withholding congressional pay if lawmakers fail to pass a budget; forcing an up-or-down vote on presidential appointments within 90 days of a nomination; and changes to the rules for filibuster in the Senate that allow the minority party to stall the process on bills and nominations that have fewer than 60 votes.
"We realize this is not going to be easy. There are real philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans that can't be papered over with mere pledges of civility," said Jonathan Miller, a No Labels co-founder and former Kentucky state treasurer. He quipped that Congress' approval ratings was "somewhere below Brussels sprouts and Lindsay Lohan although it is slightly above root canals and Duke basketball."
The meeting, held at a large ballroom in a New York hotel, felt like a bipartisan pep rally at times. Photographs of past presidents like Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy dotted the entrance and young ushers wore orange T-shirts resembling the garb of a political campaign.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, addressed the group by video because he said he was attending the swearing-in ceremony of his son-in-law, a Democrat, to the Arizona state senate. "We're a No Labels family," Heller quipped. Sen. Angus King, who was elected to the Senate last fall as an independent, recounted a man in northern Maine telling him: "All my life I've wanted the chance to vote for 'none of the above' and you're it!"
In many ways, the movement is an outgrowth of the frustration over the paralysis in government. Its success will measure whether targeting political gridlock is good politics at a time when congressional approval ratings remain low.
Politicians of all stripes said the main message from the 2012 election was setting aside differences and tackling longstanding problems. But hopes of a broad agreement on taxes and spending cuts to avert the so-called fiscal cliff failed to materialize, with many decisions being delayed into this year.
Others have voiced frustration with Washington, accusing members of Congress of losing sight of what remains most important.
As Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., put it: "We've had enough yelling and screaming."