Amid the rush to avert a government shutdown last week, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-headlined a No Labels Zoom call, just months after denouncing the centrist political organization’s plans to field a third-party presidential ticket in 2024.
Gottheimer appeared alongside Problem Solvers Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., to offer “an exclusive congressional update” about their efforts to achieve “a commonsense bipartisan framework” to prevent a government shutdown, unlike “partisan actors on both sides of the aisle.”
The Friday morning event came as the New Jersey Democrat is reportedly considering a run for state governorship. His name has also been floated as a possibility to replace Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who is facing calls to resign, including from Gottheimer, in the wake of his indictment on bribery and corruption charges.
“As he did with many groups last week, Rep. Gottheimer spoke to [No Labels] members, many from New Jersey, about a government shutdown and how it will hurt our military, first responders, veterans, seniors, and families,” a spokesperson for Gottheimer told The Intercept in a written statement. “With divided government, a bipartisan proposal was the only way to stop the far-right from holding Congress hostage, get a bill out of the Senate and signed into law by the President.”
No Labels is fielding possible ticket leaders for a 2024 third-party presidential candidacy, including conservative West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. A third-party run would almost certainly boost former President Donald Trump’s election odds, and the effort has drawn criticism from even those generally aligned with No Labels, including Gottheimer and other members of the Problem Solvers Caucus.
Gottheimer reiterated his opposition to the effort in a written statement to The Intercept. “This is not an effort I’m personally involved with or supportive of because the worst thing that could happen is that we inadvertently elect an extremist like Donald Trump,” he wrote.
But Gottheimer’s attempted balancing act is not convincing everyone. “Gottheimer’s actions embracing No Labels right now — and cashing their donors checks — speak volumes louder than his empty words,” a New Jersey Democratic operative, who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal, told The Intercept.
Nearly six years into his tenure as a member of Congress, Gottheimer is reportedly preparing to take a leap at higher office. Earlier this year, Gottheimer hired a veteran national campaign strategist to run his congressional office, signaling his interest in a statewide position. After Menendez’s indictment, a source close to Gottheimer’s camp denied that he is considering a run for senator but told NJ.com that “Josh is 100% in for governor and done with Washington.”
The embattled senator’s leadership PAC donated $10,000 to Gottheimer (and other New Jersey Democrats) in the last election cycle. Initially, Gottheimer did not respond to questions from the press about whether he would return the money, but his spokesperson told The Intercept that “Rep. Gottheimer has donated those contributions to the Democratic Party to help Democrats win up and down the ballot this November.” (Gottheimer contributed $3,300 to the congressional campaign of Mendendez’s son, Rep. Rob Menendez — who has emphatically defended his father — days after the indictment and said he will host a fundraiser for him in the coming weeks.)
Gottheimer is the Democratic co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which No Labels first announced in 2014 to promote “innovative bipartisan solutions to key national challenges.” At the time, Manchin said that the “caucus represents members taking real ownership of the problem-solving concept.” Manchin’s own recent legislative accomplishments include pushing to harden the Senate dress code and helping Republicans eliminate the child tax credit, leading to skyrocketing child poverty, including in his home state. “Problem solving is not just a slogan. It’s a real idea that members are willing to organize around and make a priority,” he said.
The caucus was formalized in 2017, when Gottheimer first entered Congress. “I created the Problem Solvers Caucus. I named it, I created the whole thing, and we put Congressman Gottheimer in there, in fact, but I created the Problem Solvers,” said No Labels founder Nancy Jacobson in a 2022 interview. “We raised so much money for all these members, and I think that’s my biggest accomplishment — creating No Labels and the Problem Solvers Caucus.”
The organization’s support has continued. Wealthy executives and investors have funneled hundreds of thousands through No Labels’s Problem Solvers PAC to members of the caucus.
Gottheimer and the caucus, meanwhile, have coordinated with No Labels to weaken the Democratic agenda. In 2021, for example, No Labels applauded Gottheimer and eight other House Democrats for watering down the bipartisan infrastructure law push, leading the charge to decouple social safety net expansions from it, and preventing the law from including tax increases on the wealthy. They were subsequently rewarded handsomely by some of the nation’s wealthiest donors — including ones connected to No Labels.
Even as Gottheimer distances himself from the group’s plans for the 2024 election, his alliance with the group appears to be unshaken. On its website, No Labels proudly declares Gottheimer as one of its “leaders in the House.”
“Gottheimer is legitimizing No Labels as they plot to tip the 2024 election to Trump,” the New Jersey Democratic operative said. “How does he think that’ll play in a Democratic primary? It’s nearly a worse look than gold bars.”