Flipping a District Is More Than Switching an “R” to a “D”

On his second day in Congress, Rep. Josh Gottheimer was just one of four Democrats to vote to expand Congressional authority allowing Congress to overturn regulations issued in the last 60 session days of the previous session. This is not filibusterable in the Senate.

The move makes vulnerable many of the regulations the Obama administration has advanced in recent weeks, including those that would reduce carbon emissions, regulate for-profit colleges, and a Labor Department rule that more than doubled the salary threshold for full-time employees to get overtime compensation.

From Roll Call, the “law has only been successfully used once in its 20-year history.”

Gottheimer’s vote in favor of the rarely used Congressional Review Act, an artifact of Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America (or was it “for”?) could be seen a practical politics. His district is PVI +4 Republican and he ran on a message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.

But this quote following his vote gave us pause:

“For too long, unnecessary and out-of-date regulations have been able to pile up on the books, burdening businesses large and small, and passing hidden costs along to families. I also think it’s critical that Congress is always a check on regulation, regardless of who is in the White House. I will support efforts to cut unnecessary and out-of-date regulations and help New Jersey’s businesses and families grow and prosper.”

Does that sound like a Democrat? More, does that sound like what we demand a 2017 Democrat to sound like?

We’re reminded that on the campaign trail Gottheimer promised that for every new regulation passed he would look to roll another back. But what makes any one think any new regulations — whether they’re related to the environment, protecting consumers, or promoting fairness in any arena — will actually occur?

Gottheimer needs to use his new position to help protect policy that matters to New Jersey. “Flipping the 5th,” at least to me, doesn’t mean going from R to D. It means that we now have a large expanse of the state comprising nearly 700,000 voters with a median income in line with the state average that is now represented by a young, experienced, Democrat and an overall good guy who defeated a staunchly conservative ideologue by 4 percentage points.

Gottheimer should not pretend he represents the district Scott Garrett held on to for seven terms. Flipping a district is not about one man. It’s about a new path and he needs to seriously rethink his stances on what it means to protect the environment and what it means to his constituents, partisan or otherwise.

Things like environmental regulations do not need to be framed as some liberal thing that makes people like Rep. Gottheimer kowtow to conservatives. He needs to think differently about protecting the environment. Why not just be a Democrat and rally your constituency that way, while making the case to conservatives (who are wiling to listen) that protecting the environment is all-people policy?

Flipping a district means you vote different. Demand that Rep. Gottheimer votes different: (202) 225-4465

Comments (4)

  1. ken bank

    Two years from now if Democrats regain control of Congress they may want the same powers to limit Trump’s executive authority which may include regulations to restrict immigration, establish a Muslim registry, arbitrary deportation of undocumented immigrants, regulatory restrictions on the media and free press, etc. The same powers Obama used to promote progressive causes can also be used to impose a neo-fascist dictatorship. We should be careful what we wish for. Three years ago, when Dems still controlled the Senate, they eliminated the filibuster for Cabinet appointees. How’s that working out?

  2. vmars

    Josh was interviewed on NPR yesterday, and repeated the falshood (I’ll be generous) that the US has the highest corporate taxes in the world. We don’t, even as a matter of marginal rates, but even worse we have so many giveaways and writeoffs and other ways to avoid taxes that they can often make billions in profits and pay no taxes.

    Like Trump. He didn’t make that money and pay no taxes. That was his corporations.

    To me, Josh is starting off as a better Republican, which is a win.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    This is John Adler 2.0. If I was Josh Gottheimer and I was staring down the barrel at a near-impossible re-elect in 2018, instead of trying to appeal to the center-right voters in the district who are undoubtedly going to vote for Holly Schepisi or some other reasonably sane Republican, I would be as visibly and vocally progressive as I possibly could, raise as much money as possible through progressive organizations, and come January 2018, I would announce that I am not going to run for re-election, but instead am going to challenge Bob Menendez for his Senate seat (assuming that he is running for re-election).

    If Menenedez survives all of his legal problems and decides to run for re-election, he will be as vulnerable as he ever will be and it is unlikely that any other incumbent Congressman is going to risk their safe seat to run for the Senate. So why not? Gottheimer has a much better chance of beating Menendez in a primary election in 2018 than any Republican challenger in CD5 not named Scott Garrett.

    Running for Senate in 2018 and being able to vote like a liberal Democrat seems like a much better way to exist over the next two years than running for re-election in CD5 and voting like a Republican for two years.

    What is the downside? He loses to Menendez in 2018 and either runs for Congress again or runs for the Senate again in 2020 since Cory Booker is most likely going to run for President. Either of those options is still better than running for re-election and losing in 2018.

    1. Matthew Brian Hersh (Post author)

      Exactly. A Democrat who votes with Republicans 60 percent of the time is going to be viewed unfavorably in a district that is +4 Republican. A Democrat, however, who won the district against the Trump tide needs to view his district as among the first outposts in advancing a progressive agenda.

      I would say that we have a real chance to have a strong progressive in the U.S. Senate. Why are we different from so many states with strong (or fairly strong) progressives like Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and others?


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