The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Representative Frelinghuysen’s Weekly E-newsletter.
The 3/31/17 edition
- Getting the Job Done?
- Travesty: House Intelligence Committee's Russia Investigations
- Votes Against Science and EPA Protections
- Money Not Enough to Fight Hate
NJ 11th for Change is happy to hear Rep Frelinghuysen report in his E-News that Congress is “not paralyzed” despite the defeat of the AHCA and the “intrigue,” as he calls it, surrounding the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation (more on that later).
Congressional infighting and distractions risk failure to meet an April 28 deadline to approve FY ’17 funding bills, which would result in a crippling government shutdown. Among bills being considered are President Trump’s demand for additional defense funding, which includes $1.5 billion in funds to start construction of a southern border wall, and a demand from the House Freedom Caucus to cut Planned Parenthood Medicaid reimbursement.
Getting The Job Done?
After 46 days in session, Rep Frelinghuysen and the 115th Congress have passed a handful of bills, including legislation that Frelinghuysen describes as “reversing a whole series of onerous bureaucratic regulations.’’
The majority undo Obama-era protections that were designed to help the very working families Republicans had promised to champion. Here is a sampling of Frelinghuysen’s “yea” votes:
H J Res 43: Reversal of Title X family planning funds. Frelinghuysen has presented himself as pro-choice.This legislation grants funding only to providers who do not perform abortions. Every dollar invested in family planning ultimately saves between $4 and $7 in public funds, and Title X funding has provided services that have prevented millions of unintended pregnancies, treated thousands of patients with STDs and cervical cancer. Nevertheless, Rodney voted to allow states to withhold federal money from these necessary health clinics serving primarily rural women and women of color.
It was not a memorable vote for him, though. Listeners to Rodney’s Tele-conference call on 2/28 (see transcript here) will remember that Gideon from Essex Fells asked Frelinghuysen how he can claim to be pro-choice and support this bill. He was unable to provide an answer, other than to hedge that he didn’t “have the bill right here.” This bill passed the Senate on Thursday without amendment by a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence.
H J Res 34: This bill grants internet service providers the right to sell their customers’ browsing history without their consent.
H J Res 38: Reversal of the Obama administration’s’ Stream Protection Rule, which prevented the coal industry from dumping harmful waste and pollutants into streams. This joint resolution became law.
HR 1181: Allows veterans who meet the legal definition of “mentally incompetent” to buy guns. Unless a veteran has been found by a judge to be a harm to themselves or others, those struggling with behavioral or emotional disorders, from schizophrenia to PTSD, are now able to purchase guns. It's worth nothing that US Veterans commit suicide at a rate twice the national average.
Travesty of House Intelligence Committee’s Russia Investigations
In addition to their unsuccessful attempt to pass the AHCA, the House also seems unlikely to complete their Intel Committee’s bipartisan investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. After only one hearing, the effort has stalled, perhaps permanently, as a result of compromising actions by the Republican Chairman Devin Nunes. The Senate is now conducting investigations. While Frelinghuysen has publicly announced his support for accountability and denounced the violent, oppressive Putin regime, his description of the committee's obstacles as “intrigue” is a troubling sign that Frelinghuysen is willing to choose politics over the safety of his constituents and American democracy. For more on NJ11th for Change's campaign to urge Frelinghuysen to call for an independent investigation, go here.
Votes against Science and EPA Protections
Frelinghuysen continues to present himself as an environmental champion. “Since coming to Congress, I have made it a priority to work to preserve open space and protect the environment across our nation and in New Jersey,’’ he claimed on his website.
His voting record, and his ratings with environmental conservation groups, tell another story. Although he gets credit from some groups for his work protecting the New Jersey Highlands, and his annual Superfund site tour, the League of Conservation Voters gives him an eight percent rating in 2016, while Clean Water Action gives him zero. He has consistently voted with GOP extremists when it comes to dismantling environmental protections.
Frelinghuysen approved two major bills last week that undermine scientific research used to draw up environmental regulations and make it easier for industry advocates to replace scientists on EPA advisory boards.
- On Wednesday, Frelinghuysen voted in favor of the Honest Act, a bill that will surely cripple an EPA faced with 31 percent cuts under Trump’s proposed budget. The act creates a byzantine array of new requirements governing the use of scientific data to enact common-sense environmental protections. Several Democrats have dubbed the bill “Orwellian.”
- Frelinghuysen also voted for the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. This law essentially replaces scientists with industry experts on a board tasked with approving scientific studies __ a move that could completely undermine the agency’s mission.
Money Not Enough to Fight Hate
In response to a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, Frelinghuysen last month urged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly release FEMA funds to secure Jewish Community Centers, schools and other private non-profit institutions against terror attacks. FEMA earmarked funds for this purpose under its Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
The DHS offered the support of “security advisors,’’ but no funding, which “wasn’t enough,’’ Frelinghuysen declared. NJ 11th for Change contends that money is not enough either. District 11 deserves a leader who fights policies and rhetoric targeting minorities, who meets with all communities victimized by hate crimes and focuses on real, lasting change.
Since the election of Donald Trump, Frelinghuysen has not opposed Trump’s Muslim travel ban or White House plans to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants who haven’t been charged with crimes.
He has not vowed to protect all minority communities in his diverse district, remaining silent in January when Jefferson High School students were videotaped taunting a Dover High School black basketball player with the racial slur “ashy knees’’ and reportedly chanting “build the wall.’’ When Morris County Sheriff James Gannon gave a Tea Party-sponsored talk last week at the county library, denouncing "sanctuary cities" and appearing alongside a guest who rattled off statistics that criminalized unauthorized immigrants, Frelinghuysen said nothing.
He has ignored the increase in hatred and bigotry since Trump began his campaign, and what NJ State Police estimate as a 250 percent spike in hate crimes against Muslims since 2015.
- ThinkProgress has documented 261 hate crimes nationwide in the three months following the election. Forty-two percent of these “included specific references to Trump, his election, or his policies.” There were 7 incidents in NJ during this period.
- The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that New Jersey now has 15 active hate groups, putting it on par with Louisiana (14), Arkansas (16), Mississippi (18), and South Carolina (12).
— By Lynn Halsey, Jane J. Hunsecker, Elizabeth Juviler, and Naomi Rand