Congress’s Problem Solver: DSA Interview with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)
Most people can agree that we need more problem solvers in Congress to break the partisan divide and solve some of our nation’s most complex problems. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is one of the leaders of these problem solvers. In 2017, during his first term in Congress, Rep. Gottheimer founded the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and serves as its co-chair. The group is comprised of an even number of Democrats and Republicans whose goal is to work across party lines to support policy solutions good for all Americans.
Rep. Gottheimer answered some questions for DSA about his leadership in Congress and support for direct selling:
DSA: You’re no stranger to Washington, DC having worked in the White House and Federal Communications Commission. But what made you want to run for Congress?
JG: Since I was young, my parents instilled in me a deep respect for service. I have always felt strongly about helping people, and that is truly what draws me most to this job. The ability to do things including helping a veteran receive earned benefits and a fire department attain a new truck, are the most important to me and certainly the most rewarding aspect of being a Member of Congress.
DSA: As a freshman, you started the Problem Solvers Caucus. What inspired you to start the Caucus, especially as a freshman? Did you feel like you were uniquely positioned enough as a new member to work across party lines?
JG: We’ve seen, year after year, small groups of extremists hijack Congress and stop us from getting anything done. Coming from the private sector, I know that we can only achieve meaningful progress by talking with each other and working together. There many areas where we can work together to achieve strong outcomes including infrastructure, healthcare, and cutting taxes. Retreating to our respective wings will never be the answer.
DSA: What do you see as the main goals and priorities of the Caucus?
JG: The Problem Solvers Caucus represents what’s good about our politics today: Members of Congress from both parties, and every corner of our country, are actually trying to find common ground. I was especially proud when our bipartisan Break the Gridlock package was adopted into the House rules earlier this year. That package included commonsense reforms to make Congress work better and prevent small groups of extremists from obstructing for the sake of it. We’ve already used those rules to pass legislation to get foreign influence out of American elections. Now, we’re working to find a bipartisan solution to America’s infrastructure challenges.
DSA: What major issues are your constituents concerned about? Are you planning to propose any legislation this Congress that addresses these concerns?
JG: In New Jersey, our taxes are too high. My District has historically received only 33 cents back for every dollar we send to Washington, compared to Moocher States like Mississippi which receive $4.38. This is unacceptable. My constituents want lower taxes and a better return on investment. To add insult to injury, last year’s Tax Hike Bill severely capped the State and Local Tax deduction, or SALT, which significantly impacts my District. That’s why I am introducing legislation to truly cut taxes by reinstating this crucial deduction. We need to make sure that it is affordable to raise a family, run a business, and retire in New Jersey.
DSA: Your first term the Democrats were in the minority and now you are in the majority—what major changes do you anticipate (or have you already seen) due to the changeover?
JG: Regardless of which party is in charge, we must always work together to get things done for our country, especially in this era of divided government. I think we have the opportunity to do some very good things this Congress. We just passed H.R.1 which will strengthen our democracy and help root out corruption and dark, undisclosed money in our politics, regardless of party.
DSA: Describe the changes you and the Problem Solvers Caucus personally advocated for.
JG: The Problem Solvers Caucus has advocated for several bipartisan priorities from immigration and health care reform to criminal justice reform to changes to the House rules. Our Break the Gridlock platform, which we tirelessly fought for and was incorporated into the House rules this year, helps make the House operate in a more bipartisan manner. Our changes include creating a Consensus Calendar to expedite consideration of measure with broad support, and other commonsense changes that will prevent extremist Members from hijacking Congress.
DSA: Outside of the Problem Solvers Caucus you are a member of multiple Caucuses for more moderate Democrats, specifically the New Democratic Coalition and the Blue Dog Caucus. How do your views and positions fit in with these groups?
JG: I strongly support pro-growth policies in Congress. We need to foster an environment for small businesses and entrepreneurs to be able to succeed. That’s why I am also a member of the Direct Sellers Caucus. While government certainly has a role to play, we need to be cutting red-tape and ensuring that free enterprise and entrepreneurship can thrive.
DSA: Did you have any personal experience with direct selling prior to becoming a member of Congress?
JG: From a young age, I helped my dad out at his five and dime store, and have always had an appreciation for entrepreneurship. In my District, we have plenty of direct sellers who I’ve had the opportunity to meet and I am always impressed by their can-do attitude. I have great interactions with people who’ve made a career in direct selling, moms and dads doing it on the side for supplemental income, and everyone in between.
DSA: You met with a constituent Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant in your district last year. What are some of the things she told you?
JG: I learned so much from her. She told me about not just the positive source of income and economic impact it has for her family, but of the community ties Mary Kay helps strengthen. Being a Beauty Consultant allows her to meet new neighbors, stay in touch with her friends, help support her family, and generally improve the social fabric of her community.
DSA: You co-sponsored HR 3409 last Congress and are a member of the Direct Selling Caucus. Why do you support direct selling?
JG: Allowing entrepreneurs of all types to have ownership over their own schedules and careers is a major priority for me. I strongly support efforts to help small business owners -- because that’s really what direct sellers are -- thrive in this country. They are the backbone of our economy and I am committed to maintaining an economic environment for them to be successful.
DSA: Independent contractor status is a hot topic in the era of gig/sharing economy companies such as Uber and Lyft. Direct selling companies have been utilizing independent contractors for years. Do you think the rise of these companies threatens the way direct selling companies use these entrepreneurs?
JG: Innovations in the sharing economy are certainly a positive, allowing more people to work in unconventional hours and function as their own bosses. We need to set up a national framework, similar to what HR 3409 did last Congress, to ensure we don’t have a patchwork of overlapping and sometimes conflicting laws on the books. Overall, I view the rise of these companies as a positive, and I anticipate their further integration into our economy will be good for independent contractors.
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