New Caucus Seeks Bipartisan Path to Avert Fiscal Ruin

A group of freshman Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats have embarked on a quest to mend Congress from the inside out, from accountability to civility.

The Fix Congress Now Caucus launched last month with a goal to get members around the table -- even one caucus leader's dinner table -- and an inaugural legislative effort to see that lawmakers won't take home pay if they don't pass a budget and appropriations bills on time.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) told PJM that the idea to band together sprang from discussions with the other caucus leaders, Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.). The No Budget, No Pay Act is Cooper's bill, and its co-sponsors include caucus leaders and some of the other members of the fledgling caucus, who are Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), Jeff Landry (R-Fla.), Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), and Bill Flores (R-Texas).

Rigell called the caucus a "deliberate effort focused on one thing, and that is to strike at the heart of what is threatening the future of our county -- our dysfunctioning Congress."

As the owner of a car dealership turned lawmaker, the congressman said he's been bothered by the tendency in Washington to "shut down and stop communication" when impediments arise. "People who are successful in business, who are successful in other areas, know that's precisely when you do need to talk," Rigell said.

He and his wife keep a Washington home specifically to bring Republicans and Democrats together around good food and good company, "so we could begin to help in our own way to heal this country."

"It's so severe, we can't stay on this path," Rigell said. "We've got to start talking with each other. We need to spend less time at the podiums and more time at a kitchen table."

Besides enjoying the Rigells' home cooking, the caucus has another credo: "civility is not weakness."