The political organization No Labels preaches bipartisan compromise and is seeking a third-party ticket for the 2024 presidential election. But the group also appears to be at war with itself.
The fissures in the organization boiled over Wednesday night during a conference call after the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The speaker’s removal came when eight renegade Republicans found common ground with all 208 Democrats to get the necessary votes for his dismissal. As many as four Democrats affiliated with No Labels voted for McCarthy to get the ax, which led to an intense conference call that night attended by as many as 700 donors and supporters of the organization, FOX Business has confirmed.
The contentious call, with lots of finger-pointing and verbal jousting over the circumstances surrounding McCarthy’s defenestration, underscores the tenuous No Labels alliance and throws into question the organization’s ability to mount a serious third-party candidate in 2024, political consultants and No Labels donors tell FOX Business.
During the call, which hasn’t been reported, GOP No Labels members blamed Democratic members for the odd circumstances of McCarthy’s removal as speaker; McCarthy faced criticism from far-right members of his caucus after crafting a bipartisan budget compromise to avert a government shutdown. No Labels members pointed out that all the lawmakers affiliated with the group joined with Democrats and the renegade Republicans after McCarthy reached across the aisle to do a budget deal.
The ouster of McCarthy, they argued during the call, violated the core bipartisan principles of No Labels. Plus, the Democrats sided with some of the most partisan Republicans in Washington. The Republicans, dubbed the “Hateful Eight,” were led by controversial Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Democrat members, meanwhile, said McCarthy’s undoing was unavoidable, given his low standing within his party.
Among the Democrats who voted for McCarthy’s removal was New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer. No Labels has had a long relationship with Gottheimer, who was listed on the website as the organization’s “co-chair” along with Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. Gottheimer, in an interview with FOX Business, said he isn’t a co-chair of the No Labels group, but the co-chair with Fitzpatrick of something called the “House Problem Solvers Caucus.” No Labels takes credit for creating that organization as well. According to its website: “With No Labels’ leadership, the Problem Solvers Caucus was born.”
Political operatives in New Jersey say Gottheimer is eying a run for governor when the current governor, Phil Murphy, vacates the office in 2026 because of term limits. They say his vote to remove McCarthy was to shore up support in the party for that run.
Other Democrats affiliated with No Labels, its website says, are Texas Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez and Maine Rep. Jared Golden.
“It definitely shows that we have a lot of work to do to be a real political party,” said one No Labels donor who was on the call.
The No Labels donor added: “The Gaetz idiot opened up a can of worms and No Labels is trying to hold the whole thing together. They still plan to have a ticket, but this threw them for a loop, and now they’re waiting for everything to calm down.”
A spokesman for No Labels, Ryan Clancy, said in a statement to FOX Business: “No Labels often hosts forums for our members to share their thoughts. (Wednesday) night, many of our members were understandably frustrated about the dysfunction in D.C.”
Clancy described No Labels-affiliated members in the House and Senate as “problem solvers” who have shown “exceptional bipartisan leadership in the past, passing key legislation, and they helped avert the recent shutdown this past weekend. We believe they can rise to the occasion again.”
Political infighting is not a new phenomenon, of course, or McCarthy would still be the House speaker. Yet for an organization that is founded on the basis of bipartisan compromise and ending the partisan bickering in D.C., the rift is telling, political observers say.
They say it underscores the intense growing pains the group is going through that could doom its chances in 2024. No Labels, for instance, is currently struggling to field a presidential ticket that appeals to its diverse membership.
“What this says is that at least thus far, it appears No Labels doesn’t have much traction,” said veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “It’s an indication that they can’t come up with a nonpartisan means to get business done in Washington.”
Meanwhile, the group has been assailed by top Democrats as a front for the GOP; they believe potential No Labels candidates in 2024 such as moderates like Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan would siphon votes from President Biden, and help elect the GOP front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
No Labels has said in the past that it would mount a third-party candidate only if it’s a Biden-Trump rematch, because of the intense partisanship both candidates have exhibited in office. The group’s leadership — former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Ben Chavis, the former head of the NAACP — recently asked the Democratic National Committee to call off attempts to “subvert No Labels’ ballot access efforts that are on the razor’s edge of violating federal law.”
Democrats, however, remain fearful of No Labels and point to its fundraising: Tens of millions of dollars raised from wealthy Wall Street types, and C-suite executives who normally vote for the GOP. It plans to raise a total of $70 million to gain ballot access in 2024.
Wall Street executives tell FOX Business the organization has recently targeted the financial industry for more money and support.
“I get an email just about every day from these people,” one senior investment banker said.
Editor’s note: The original story has been modified after an interview with New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer and his spokesperson.
This article originally appeared at FOX Business.