U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen ’69, L.H.D.’01, was recently featured in an article in Politico for his role in restoring the New Jersey towns that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
The article noted, “… when the governor met Tuesday in Trenton with New Jersey’s congressional delegation, the first lawmaker he called on was a press-shy, slightly built blueblood, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who just happens to chair the House Appropriations panel that funds the Army Corps of Engineers.”
It quotes Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.): “I think Christie’s relationship with Obama will help us just as Bush’s embarrassment helped the Gulf states after Katrina. But if Rodney wasn’t there, I might be giving you a different answer.”
The article cites Frelinghuysen’s responsibility for the Corps’ budget as, “a natural fit, given the devastation to the state’s shoreline and dunes.” It also points out that he is “next in line to take over the House appropriations defense panel, a post that controls over a half-trillion dollars in annual spending affecting all corners of the nation.”
At Hobart, Freylinghuysen majored in American history, was named a Druid and was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity.
He has remained active at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since his graduation, including hosting students in the Washington, D.C. program, “A Day on the Hill.” He has provided outstanding leadership in fund raising efforts as a past chair of the alumni phonathon, past chair of the Hobart Alumni Fund, class agent, a leader of the reunion gift committee, and a member of the Capital Campaign steering committee. In recognition to his committment to HWS, he has twice been honored with the Alumni Citation Award, and received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Colleges in 2001.
The full article follows.
Chris Christie, Rodney Frelinghuysen team up on Sandy aid
David Rogers • November 25, 2012
When Katrina came ashore in 2005, it was met by a solid phalanx of Gulf state Republicans with immense power over the machinery of federal appropriations. In the span of 10 days, a $51.8 billion aid package cleared Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush, a Texan himself and red-faced over his administration’s response to the storm.
Nothing remotely like this has happened in the month since Hurricane Sandy – in part because of post-Katrina reforms. But the Northeast’s damage estimates keep mounting: the latest from New Jersey on Friday evening was $29.4 billion. The White House is drafting a supplemental aid request. Pressure is growing for action before the new year.
It’s a reckoning that will put a premium on what’s become a weak Republican bench in Congress for states like New York and New Jersey – and the Northeast more generally.
Thirty years ago, four of the top 10 Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee were from the Northeast. Today there’s only one, and for all the harping, it’s little wonder why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was quick to embrace President Barack Obama’s help prior to the elections.
Indeed, the Katrina experience isn’t lost on Christie, a Republican who has reached out to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and tapped McKinsey & Co. to give him credible numbers to take to Washington. And when the governor met Tuesday in Trenton with New Jersey’s congressional delegation, the first lawmaker he called on was a press-shy, slightly built blueblood, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who just happens to chair the House Appropriations panel that funds the Army Corps of Engineers.
“The agenda was the governor spoke and then Rodney. It was entirely appropriate,” Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) told POLITICO. “It’s a bit of luck, an act of providence he is there.”
“I think Christie’s relationship with Obama will help us just as Bush’s embarrassment helped the Gulf states after Katrina. But if Rodney wasn’t there, I might be giving you a different answer.”
None of this diminishes the region’s substantial Democratic clout.
Andrews himself has the ear of House leaders. New York’s Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) is the favorite to become the new ranking Democrat on House Appropriations. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) – albeit not the power he once was – sits on Senate Appropriations. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) each has a claim on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
But because of the anticipated cost and often divisive fights over funding offsets, any sustained recovery effort needs bipartisan support. And Frelinghuysen stands out as the region’s best bet because of his committee seat – and the moderate tone he sets.
For New Jersey, his responsibility for the Corps’s budget is a natural fit, given the devastation to the state’s shoreline and dunes. Equally important, the 66-year-old lawmaker is next in line to take over the House appropriations defense panel, a post that controls over a half-trillion dollars in annual spending affecting all corners of the nation.
He hails from Morris County – a famous Republican spawning ground where Christie also got his start. Both men held the post of county freeholder early in their careers. And the working relationship between Frelinghuysen and Christie should be an asset for each as the debate moves ahead.
“I am his congressman,” Frelinghuysen says with understatement.
Frelinghuysen’s world is very different from the more working-class New Jersey towns like Keansburg and Sea Bright so damaged by Sandy. He not only ranks as one of the wealthiest members of the House but hails from Dutch forebears who arrived in the 18th century and have been in and out of Congress ever since.
Forget tea party Republicans. This line of Republicans goes back before the real tea party itself.
Garrulous, Frelinghuysen is not. Snippy, quick to take offense are more often the rule. But there is about him a genuine commitment to orderly government, and he has steadily moved up the ladder in his unassuming style.
When other sons of the wealthy ducked the military draft in the ’60s, Frelinghuysen – whose father was in Congress – quietly served a tour in Vietnam from 1970-71 as a clerk with an engineering unit. Not missing a beat, he won his first elected post as a Morris County freeholder by 1974. The state Assembly followed, including a stint as chairman of the appropriations panel there.
And when his old mentor, the late Rep. Dean Gallo, fell ill in the summer of 1994, Frelinghuysen took his place on the ballot and easily won election to the House.
Now, with his home state on its heels, Frelinghuysen sees a real role for Washington – but wants the facts marshaled first.
“I’d like to see a supplemental,” Frelinghuysen told POLITICO. But he fully subscribes to Christie’s deliberative approach – which he compares favorably with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo coming out so fast with a $30 billion wish list for federal aid. And there’s a natural affinity between Frelinghuysen and a professional like Craig Fugate, FEMA’s administrator and the early point man for Washington in dealing with the disaster.
“He is very, very, very impressive, and he fended off what might have been characterized as political questions,” Frelinghuysen said of an early meeting with Fugate. “He said our business here is to do right by all the states.”
Lawmakers speak of a 90-day window, but how the pieces of a supplemental will come together is still unclear.
With Washington already facing a fiscal crisis, it’s not the easiest time to come looking for emergency aid. Then again, New Jersey and New York typically send far more tax revenue to Washington than they get back in federal spending. So getting them up and running can be a plus for deficit reduction.
In the short run at least, the federal response is helped by post-Katrina reforms adopted in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which established a reserve fund for FEMA to tap without waiting for Congress. That said, the total sum for this fiscal year is just $11.4 billion, and as a practical matter, federal agencies like FEMA and the Corps have only the first half available to them.
That pot is down to about $5.6 billion as of last week. And the remaining $5.4 billion of the $11.4 billion can’t be released until another vote by Congress. Early indications are that the administration’s draft supplemental will want this much – and more.
Katrina was very different in that Congress rushed out with the $51.8 billion six-page bill in early September 2005 and then began reallocating these appropriations – and adding more – in two more detailed bills in December 2005 and then June 2006.
In October of that year, for example, the Bush White House submitted a $17.1 billion aid request, drawing down from the September bill. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) moved to double this to $35.5 billion, and Congress ultimately approved close to $29 billion in December.
Given the deficit talks in Washington, there’s the temptation to go slow with aid requests for Sandy. But a second option favored by some is to strike quickly and bank as much recovery money now as possible, much as the Gulf did.
Reid, a veteran of years on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is fiercely opposed to those who demand offsets to pay for disaster aid. But there remains a strong faction of House Republicans who feel otherwise – and resisted the creation of the disaster reserve fund in 2011.
With Christie behind him, Frelinghuysen will be in a strong position to meet any primary challenge from the right at home. But inside his state delegation, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) was one of just 11 votes against Katrina aid in September 2005. And eyebrows went up when Garrett’s signature was missing from a Nov. 1 letter from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lawmakers in support of disaster aid.
Then again, perhaps there really are no atheists in foxholes.
Questioned by POLITICO, Garrett’s office said any split was exaggerated and forwarded two Nov. 3 letters the congressman had sent days later to Christie and Obama seeking aid for three counties in his district.
“Thank you for your attention to this matter, and for your critical assistance to the people of New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” Garrett signed off in his appeal to Obama.
“We’re all together,” Frelinghuysen said confidently. “There’s no sunlight between us.”