Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.) on Saturday faced backlash from progressives in his congressional district in response to his support of a bill sending $4.6 billion in emergency humanitarian relief to help thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children at the southern border.
Gottheimer hosted a town hall in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., where he received scrutiny from progressive activists and constituents when the issue of immigration policy was brought up. As co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which consists of 23 Republicans and 23 Democrats, Gottheimer decided the best strategy was to vote in favor of the Senate appropriations bill, the New York Times reported.
Recent Stories in Politics
Less than 24 hours after House Democrats passed a measure last Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected it with a 55-37 vote and approved their own measure with overwhelming bipartisan support with a 84-8 vote. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) was initially asked whether House Democrats would support the Senate bill, prompting her to say, "No."
"They passed their bill, we respect that. We passed our bill, we hope they will respect that. And if there's some improvements that we think can be reconciled," Pelosi said.
While Pelosi and some of the more liberal members of the House opposed the Senate version of the bill, calling for tougher restrictions and higher standards for facilities that hold migrant children, Pelosi later caved and sided with the moderate members of the House. She said she was blindsided by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Senate Democrats voting overwhelmingly for the measure.
"The question was, would you rather just obstruct and delay, as some wanted to, or were we going to get humanitarian aid to children at the border right now?" Gottheimer said.
"What actually happened: Josh Gottheimer helped ensure the same bill would be passed by both chambers – one that could actually be signed into law – to send $4.6 billion to help stop the crisis on the border now, rather than waiting even longer…" tweeted Gottheimer's spokesperson James Adams last week.
During the town hall, several constituents yelled at Gottheimer for his vote before he was escorted out of the event.
"I am a constituent, a mom, and a lawyer," a woman yelled. "I represent hundreds of families every day that are facing deportation. Your vote this week was shameful. You're using our tax payer dollars to separate families. Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame."
Some of the people in the crowd appeared to be coordinating their messages and reading from the same scripts. It is unclear which group they were with, but the local chapter of Indivisible, a liberal resistance group, was advertising the town hall and encouraging people to attend and speak out against Gottheimer.
Indivisible's co-founder Ezra Levin tweeted twice about Gottheimer and noted how "it looks like he's getting a primary challenger."
In today's edition of "Actions Have Consequences," Gottheimer helped lead the fight for Trump's border bill last week, and now it looks like he's getting a primary challenger. https://t.co/LgIG2xoUUJ
— Ezra Levin (@ezralevin) July 1, 2019
Roots Action, a liberal group led by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), is targeting Gottheimer along with 14 other Democratic incumbents that they believe are not progressive enough. It is likely Justice Democrats, a progressive grassroots organization known for endorsing freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), will also be targeting Gottheimer.
Justice Democrats spokesman Waleed Shahid told the Huffington Post last week that the moderate Democratic targets of Roots Action "should be looking over their shoulder."