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. McCarthy faced criticism from far-right members of his caucus after crafting a bipartisan budget compromise to avert a government shutdown.
Yet, as many as four No Labels Democrats voted for McCarthy to get the ax on Wednesday. That led to an intense conference call that night attended by as many as 700 donors and supporters of the organization, with lots of finger-pointing and verbal jousting over the circumstances surrounding McCarthy’s defenestration, FOX Business has learned.
During the call, which hasn’t been reported, GOP No Labels members blamed Democrat members for the odd circumstances of McCarthy’s removal as speaker. They pointed out that the group's entire Democratic congressional delegation 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.
No Labels is co-chaired by Democratic New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer; other No Labels members in the House Democratic caucus include Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, and Jared Golden of Maine.
"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 the 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 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 getting 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.