The Rodney Report: Frelinghuysen's Disruptive 'No'

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Representative Frelinghuysen’s Weekly E-newsletter.

The 3/24/17 edition

  • Frelinghuysen Opposes Trumpcare
  • Still Denouncing Obamacare
  • Piecemeal 'Reform'?
  • On the Line with Rodney: Tele-Town Hall


In a radical departure from his lock-step support of the GOP agenda, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen stunned national political observers Friday with his last-minute opposition to Trumpcare. Due to his powerful position as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, the move was widely reported as the decisive blow against President Trump and Speaker Ryan’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“In the final analysis, it would place significant new costs and new barriers to care on my constituents in New Jersey,’’ Frelinghuysen announced on Friday and reiterated in his weekly E-Newsletter.

For the past seven years, Frelinghuysen has voted to repeal, limit or gut the ACA at every opportunity, including his “yea” vote in 2013 to shut down the government if the ACA implementation was not delayed. Speaker Ryan spared Mr. Frelinghuysen and his GOP colleagues from casting a vote against party by pulling the bill less than an hour before the rescheduled vote.

Beltway journalists from the Washington Post to MSNBC attribute Frelinghuysen’s defection in part to pressure at home from grassroots groups like NJ 11th For Change — and we could not be more proud of our members, whose thousands of calls, letters, tweets and visits helped turn the tide.

 

“For the first time in a long time, a pretty sizable number of Republicans were more scared of grass-roots energy of the left than of primaries on the right,” Joe Dinkin of Working Families Party said to the Washington Post. Rachel Maddow went much further in a Friday segment on grassroots groups, which focused on NJ 11th for Change. “They started out as a very small but motivated effort and turned into a pretty big, and ultimately kind of legitimate political movement...Boy, was this a big win for these folks to save the Affordable Care Act. What are they going to win next?” she asked viewers.

Elizabeth Juviler, cofounder of NJ 11th for Change, was included on Bustle’s list of “12 Women We Should Be Thanking For The End of the AHCA,’’ along with heavy hitters like Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and Indivisible Guide co-author Leah Greenburg. “Thanks to the pressure applied on the legislator, Frelinghuysen broke with President Trump for the first time,” wrote author Natasha Guzman.

NJ 11th for Change welcomes Frelinghuysen’s decision to put his constituents first, and in the process, save an estimated 24 million Americans from losing healthcare.

Still Denouncing Obamacare

After Frelinghuysen’s key role in the demise of Trumpcare, he continued to slam Obamacare, declaring in his newsletter, “I recognize that ‘doing nothing’ is not an option. We need to go back to the drawing board in order to get this right.”

But what are the facts? 

 

  • The pre-existing conditions provision potentially protected nearly 4 million qualifying NJ residents since the ACA was instituted.

 

  • And contrary to the insistence of Frelinghuysen and other GOPs,the marketplace, in fact, shows strong signs of stability.

 

  • The Congressional Budget Office’s independent analysis cites consistent enrollment and expected rate stabilization.

 

  • According to Standard & Poor, NJ’s largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, saw the highest revenue increases in 2014 and 2015. As insurers’ profits begin to rise nationally, a trend that is expected to continue in 2017 and beyond, most marketplace products are expected to break even or become profitable.

 

Piecemeal ‘Reform’?

Frelinghuysen’s E-News touted his efforts to combat “Obamacare’s taxes and penalties,” and dismantled “the law’s onerous mandates.” But, as many analysts agree, taxes, penalties and mandates are what make the law work to expand coverage. Without them, insurance companies would refuse to cover high-risk patients, while those without means would no longer be able to afford coverage.

Earlier this month, Frelinghuysen voted for the Small Business Health Fairness Act, a retread of a bill that never made it past the House back in 2003. The proposal would weaken consumer protections for small business employees, particularly older workers. Under the ACA, these plans are required to cover ten essential health benefits and keep older workers’ premiums down. The SBHFA is a reform that undermines coverage.

However, Frelinghuysen also voted “yea” on the Competitive Health Insurance Reform, which restores anti-trust laws and is designed to encourage competition in the insurance industry and keep costs down. The bill had broad bipartisan support, 416- 7. We hope this Congress can continue to legislate bipartisan improvements for the healthcare marketplace. 

On the Line with Rodney: Tele-Town Hall

On Monday, Frelinghuysen held a tele-town hall, the first such call in seven years his office announced in advance. Twenty constituents had a chance to ask questions, including Michael from Rockaway, who pressed Frelinghuysen on why he voted against a resolution by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9th) mandating that Trump release his tax records — despite our congressman’s public declarations that the info should be made public.

Frelinghuysen replied, “I support the ruling of the Chair, regardless of what the issue is, because often the ruling of the chair issue is a political device and, and quite honestly, I need to support the majority in terms of what the chair’s ruling is." Without further explanation, many constituents were left wondering if the Congressman would ever vote against party leadership, particularly when faced with Trump’s drastic budget cuts and tax reforms which are likely to favor the wealthy and large business over people and communities.

Lynn from Pequannock questioned how a cut of $80 million in airport security programs to fund a southern border wall, with a cost projected by the Department of Homeland Security at $21 billion, would protect the country from “radical Islamic terrorists.’’ Frelinghuysen confessed to having “some feelings” about the wall. “I’m not sure the wall is the answer...and quite honestly, we're not going to give the green light to building the wall until he specifically tells us what his plans are,” he added, which left many listeners wondering, again, if their representative would take a stand against wasteful spending if it became a partisan issue.

NJ 11th For Change will continue to watch, to ask for meetings and to advocate for accountable representation.

-- By Lynn Halsey, Jane J. Hunsecker, Elizabeth Juviler, and Naomi Rand

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