LEONIA – There is something happening in New Jersey politics not named Bob Menendez.
Josh Gottheimer tried hard to make that point Tuesday when he spoke about the possible shutdown of the federal government by the end of the month. The CD-5 congressman was joined by representatives of firefighters and law enforcement at a very symbolic location – the 9/11 Memorial in Bergen County’s Overpeck Park.
Gottheimer ticked off what could happen if no agreement is reached.
Essential personnel – like the military and police and emergency service workers employed by the feds would work, but would not get paid. That’s not good.
Then, there are the programs many citizens – including our most vulnerable – depend on. They’re at risk of shutting down if the impasse is long-term.
That includes such things as the Head Start preschool program and the SNAP, or Food Stamp program.
A shutdown would hit close to home for Gottheimer. He prides himself on “clawing back” federal funds that often go to the “moocher states” to help local governments throughout the district. A shutdown could put a halt to that.
Important stuff to be sure, not to mention the embarrassment of the United States government not being able to function and the adverse impact of that on the economy.
Nonetheless, after Gottheimer finished speaking, a question from the press was Menendez-related. The congressman was asked if he would “rule out” running for the Senate himself.
Gottheimer said his only focus is on avoiding a shutdown.
So, he’s not ruling out a Senate run?
To that, the congressman repeated that he is solely focused on the threatened shutdown.
By any standard, the U.S government and its economy is more important than one Senate race – even one involving the scandal-plagued Menendez – but speculation over the topic, if anything, will only increase. After all, the filing deadline for the 2024 Senate race is a “mere’ six months or so away.
As for the topic at hand, Gottheimer mentioned a solution put forth by the Problem Solvers’ Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members that he co-chairs. This plan would keep the government running into next January.
The problem is, this is really out of the hands of both Gottheimer and his caucus.
Republicans control the House, but are anything but united. So far, right wingers are not going along with Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempts to keep the lights on – figuratively speaking – when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
At the moment, that gives Dems little leverage unless …
Unless, that is, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans join together for the common good. That has happened before, but McCarthy would have to allow such a vote. That could make him a target of conservatives.
One problem is that for a combination of philosophical and political reasons, some on the far right want a shutdown. As does, apparently, Donald Trump.
Gottheimer put it this way:
“If the far right, ultra-extremists in Congress have their way, the federal government will shut down.”