NEW YORK -- Fiscal cliffs and debt ceiling fights are out. Problem-solving is in.
Members of Congress, governors and mayors from across the political spectrum joined more than 1,000 political activists Monday under the No Labels banner, calling for a series of reforms in Congress to address fed up voters and dysfunctional politics. Only weeks after a polarizing election and big fight in Congress over taxes and spending, they said Washington needs a new attitude.
"There's a huge mistrust back there. There's a feeling that we all don't want to do something that is constructive, the only way we're forced to act is with these man-made crises," said Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif. "That's no way to govern the country."
The gathering reflected a push from lawmakers in both parties to claim the political middle as voters increasingly view government as bitter and paralyzed. It came ahead of grappling in Congress over raising the nation's debt ceiling, which is expected to be reached in February, along with fights over delayed cuts to defense and domestic programs and the need for a new spending plan to prevent a government shutdown.
Digging in over debt, Republicans in Congress have demanded spending cuts in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling but President Obama has said he won't negotiate, raising the possibility of another showdown.
About a dozen members of Congress, wearing orange No Labels lapel pins, joined with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican who unsuccessfully sought his party's presidential nomination last year, to decry a poisonous atmosphere in Washington. Organizers said they hoped to attract about 70 members of Congress from across the political spectrum to agree to meet regularly and try to work with each other.
"The dysfunction of Congress makes our own nation dysfunctional," said Huntsman, who was joined on stage by Manchin under an orange banner emblazoned with the words, "Problem Solvers." Huntsman and Manchin, who worked together as governors, each heaped praise on each other in an appearance that almost looked like the makings of a presidential ticket.
Organizers said presidential politics is not in the offing here, pointing instead to a number of reforms to make government function more properly.