Newest Blue Dog Sides with GOP on Repeal of Midnight Rules

Democrat Josh Gottheimer campaigned as a fiscal conservative

New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer was one of only four Democrats to vote for legislation allowing for the repeal of recent regulations finalized by the Obama administration. (Courtesy Josh Gottheimer Facebook page)

The three Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the Republican-backed Midnight Rules Relief Act last November had some new company Wednesday night, when the House again passed California Rep. Darrell Issa’s reintroduced legislation.

The House voted 238-184 to allow Congress to repeal en bloc multiple regulations approved in the last 60 legislative days of President Barack Obama’s administration. 

Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson all bucked the Democratic Party to support the measure. But their trio grew to a quartet with New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, who, on just his second day as a congressman, also sided with Republicans on this vote.

“For too long, unnecessary and out-of-date regulations have been able to pile up on the books, burdening businesses large and small, and passing hidden costs along to families,” Gottheimer said in a statement Wednesday night.

“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 I will support efforts to cut unnecessary and out-of-date regulations and help New Jersey’s businesses and families grow and prosper,” he added.

Gottheimer received the Blue Dog PAC’s endorsement during his campaign against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett last summer. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he campaigned as a fiscal conservative and social moderate.

In one of the Democrats’ few bright spots on election night 2016, he upset Garrett by 4 points in northern New Jersey’s 5th District, which both Donald Trump and Mitt Romney narrowly carried. He over-performed Hillary Clinton, who lost by 1 point here, according to Daily Kos Elections

But Garrett suffered from self-inflicted wounds, and without him on the ticket, Republicans may be itching to take back the seat in 2018.

Garrett’s comments about not wanting the National Republican Congressional Committee to support gay candidates made his defeat a cause celebre for Democrats. In one of the most brutal ads of the 2016 elections, House Majority PAC suggested Garrett’s views aligned better with Alabama than with New Jersey, where his district includes both rural areas in the West and commuter suburbs outside New York City.

Peterson is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, and despite joking about having an underfunded challenger who received little help from Washington Republicans, the longtime Democrat prevailed by just 5 points in Minnesota’s 7th District last year. Peterson, Sinema and Cuellar all supported Issa’s bill when it passed the House in November.

“As a former small business owner, I know the difficulties of conducting efficient business under the pressure of heavy-handed federal regulations,” Cuellar said in a Wednesday night statement. “Congress is the branch of government charged with setting policy for our nation and should have a say in all rules and regulations impacting our constituents. This bill puts that power back within the legislative branch where it belongs.”

But these four Democrats were in the minority of their Blue Dog Coalition on Wednesday. Other new members endorsed by the Blue Dog PAC during the 2016 campaign, including Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, California Rep. Lou Correa and Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider, voted with their party against the GOP legislation.

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