Transcript of Rep. Frelinghuysen's Telephone Town Hall this week

Rep. Frelinghuysen held a telephone "town hall" this week. Here are some highlights:

  • On voting against the measure to release Trump's returns: 
    "I feel very comfortable by saying to you, and anyone else that’s listening, that I think the president ought to release his tax returns as every president has done before him, but on the floor of the House, 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."

  • On healthcare:  "I'm not sold on the current version of the bill being debated that went through three committees, with one more to come this week. ... I think we're headed in the right direction."

  • On the border wall: "I'm not sure the wall's the answer. But we're going to make sure he has a plan before he proceeds."

  • On proposed cuts to the NIH: "I think Mulvaney, quite honestly, and he's not one of my favorite people, I never worked with him when he was in Congress, he has no idea of the facts. ... I've not run into any instances of misexpenditures. ... Obviously, the White House has pushed back, but I think quite honestly, some of their stuff is based, quite honestly, on anecdote and misinformation."

RF: Hi this is Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. This evening I would like to invite you to join me as I conduct another live telephone town hall meeting. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. If you would like ask me a question or make a comment, you can press the 0 key on your telephone at any time. Before we begin allow me to make a few introductory remarks while people get on the line. There are many major issues on my constituents’ minds these days and I look forward to hearing from you on all of them. I am keenly aware of the sheer energy in the political arena these days. With the inauguration of a new president, stark differences of opinion have come to the surface. People have used their first amendment protections to speak out, demonstrate, and to protest. I endorse this engagement on the big issues of the day. What I regret is the apparent breaktime – breakdown - at times in civil discourse across the country. For example, last week the president sent to congress his preliminary budget outline for the next fiscal year and a budget amendment for the current fiscal year - this is 2017- that boosts security spending, focusing on defense, national defense, and on his proposed border wall. Since then, the newspapers and websites have been filled with stories about the dire consequences of this aspect or that portion of the president’s budget outline. Some of that might be or might not be true, but since then I’ve been reminding everyone that the power of the purse continues to lie with congress and our constitutional responsibilities as an equal branch of government. All budget decisions will go through the regular budget and appropriations process both in the house and in the senate. On our house appropriations committee, we will do due diligence, conduct hearings and oversight, and go line by line to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are invested wisely and affectively. Of course, we need to protect vital programs that people rely on, that promote economic growth and job creation and to protect our nation. It’s our duty to represent our districts, and our states, and our people at home. That’s why we have a budget process, so that voices can be heard on programs that are important to the American people. I also expect this evening we’ll be talking about the healthcare reform proposal now before the House of Representatives. I’ll say up front that while I’m concerned that the current law Obamacare is failing, the Affordable Care Act, I’m not sold on the current version of the bill being debated, as it went through three committees with one more to come this week. Speaker Ryan this weekend endorsed additional changes to the bill, and those changes are being made literally as we speak. So I’m anxious to see and study the provisions of the final legislation, which is now expected to be before the House for a vote this Thursday. I always appreciate the direct responses to day’s issues offered by my callers and constituents during telephone and town hall events. I conduct these telephone town halls because it enables me to get literally thousands of people together at one time and gives everyone on the line the opportunity to pass along a question or a concern to me. I’m here to listen to you. As I crisscross my congressional district, the four counties that I represent these days, I’ve found people very concerned about topics ranging from national security, to the current healthcare proposal, to high taxes, and what’s necessary to improve job opportunities for all Americans. I look forward to hearing your comments on any of the issues you might want to discuss this evening. Again, please don’t hesitate to hit 0 at any time to ask me a question or make a comment. Please visit my website at There, you can sign up for my weekly enewsletter, and send me emails. I’m listening. Let’s take the first call from a Jean in Caldwell. Thanks for getting on the line this evening.

Jean in Caldwell.

Jean: Hi, yes.

RF: How are ya?

Jean: I was wondering …. I’m okay. I’m going to be a senior citizen in about five years, and I was wondering what’s gonna happen to social security?

RF: Well, there’s, I think, bipartisan support for social security. Social security is a special bond and pact between those who work and the United States government, and I think social security will be protected by both Republicans and Democrats in this congress and future congresses. I think it’s absolutely essential. For many people that may be the primary source of their income. I don’t think there’s been any attacks that I’ve heard of on social security. I think we have bipartisan support for making sure that it always exists, that it’s always there for everybody. But thanks for your comment-question. Uh, Michael in Rockaway, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You joined my telephone town hall meeting.

Michael : Hi, it’s Michael from Rockaway.

RF: Hi.

Michael: How are ya? So…

RF: Very well, thank you.

Michael: I am extremely concerned and alarmed at all of the potential conflicts of interest and ties to Russia that the president has, and I was listening in on your call on February 28th, and in one sense, I was heartened um by your comments that you thought that he should release his tax returns, because I believe that if we got to look at them we would be able to examine some of those ties and find out whether some of these conflicts exist, who he owes money to et cetera. But I was less heartened by the fact that you had not mentioned on that call that you had voted the very night before - on February 27th - to table Bill Pascrell’s resolution that would have…

RF: Mhm.

Michael: … forced Donald Trump’s tax returns to be released by the IRS to the ways and means committee. And, y’know, I read your explanation in The Hill, which - where you said it was political theatre, and I don’t know that I understand from political theatre…

RF- Well I, uh I...

Michael: (unintelligible) ... it matters more how you vote. Let me just finish this point, because I have two asks of you based on this. One is, is that will you make a commitment the next time that this comes up for a vote, that you will vote for a resolution that will call for the tax returns to be released, cause he’s not gonna do it voluntarily and he’s certainly not going to fight *unintelligible*...

RF: Uh… Uh… Again, again…

Michael: Wait, wait wait. I am not finished…

RF: Again, I think he oughtta release, oughtta release his taxes

Michael: Well okay,

RF: Oughta release his taxes

Michael: Ok, so my first question is …

RF: And the chair, the person in the chair…The person in the chair, I... I … When the chair rules, and this is, I think, a tradition, that the majority party usually upholds the chair’s rule. Do I think he oughtta release his taxes? I think he should, but this is…

Michael: Well … I mean 

RF: … tried and true….

Michael: Well there’s what you think; and there’s how you vote, and there’s two different, two separate things…

RF: This is … This is… This is a parliamentary tactic, which it was used when the Democrats were in control, to contest the decision of the chair. I-I feel very comfortable by saying to you, and anyone else that’s listening, that I think the president oughtta release his tax returns as every president has done before him, but on the floor of the House, I-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, but I appreciate your getting on the line again. Thank you. Tim in Morris Plains, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, you’ve joined my telephone…

Tim: Hi.

RF: Hi.

Tim: Hi, I have a question about the budget, Trump’s budget proposal. I know you’re chair of the house of appropriations, I know it’s gonna be coming your way soon. So, my question is, do you support the budget where it cuts funding for PBS, the NEA, and the heating assistance program?

RF: I did not. I did not. As a matter of fact, I’ve supported the national educat... endowment for the arts, I’ve supported the national endowment for the humanities. *Unintelligible* is for low income people who need assistance. In the overall scheme of things, I think that the arts programs, which have been a target for many years, in preceding Congress’… it’s not a heck of a lot of money, and I enjoy those programs as much as every other American. I think it’s money well spent and it affects, may I add, every congressional district...

Tim: Mhm.

RF: … some sort of an arts program that’s given to children or open their eyes to science, so I am NOT part of the group that want to do away with supporting the national endowment for the arts or the humanities, and I’m certainly not supportive of doing away with the low-income assistance for people who can’t afford their fuel bills. So… thank you.

Tim: So will you make sure that…

RF: Yea…

Tim: I was going to say, will you lead the effort to ensure that that is going to happen - that those programs stay?

RF: Well, I’ll be working with the committee chairs that are reviewing those programs. I’ve supported them, historically supported, and I look forward to supporting them when this bill goes through committee and to the House floor. I’ve made a pledge to do that. Thank you. Ronnie in Verona, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Thanks for joining my telephone town hall meeting.

Ronnie: Congressman, hello. I’m calling from Verona. Thank you for your support of the endowment for the arts and for the humanities. Will you be, in your position, will you be doing the same to protect the Environmental Protection Agency?

RF: Well yknow, I, y’know New Jersey, as you’re aware, the most densely populated state in the nation. I’ve been very much involved with protecting open space, clean water, clean air. We – one of the areas we have a big focus on, are a lot of our toxic waste and superfund sites…

Ronnie: Exactly.

RF: I think that there are some EPA rules and regulations that are making it difficult for a lot of large and small businesses to be successful. I do think there is a view they’ve expanded a lot of their jurisdiction, but I think, essentially, I think the Environmental Protection Agency is an absolute necessary federal agency and I think some of the – some of the large cuts … I don’t think will be sustained by the majority in the house as both Republicans and Democrats vote on the bill.

Ronnie: I just, I hope so…

RF: *interrupts* Thank you for calling in. Candace in Rockaway, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting

Candy: Hello. This is Candy. Yes, Candy from Rockaway.

RF: Welcome. Thanks for getting on the line.

Candy: Thank you for listening. My – my concern is with the healthcare – the bill that is going to be voted on Thursday. I know you said that there are some more tweaks, but I am very concerned because I’m fortunate enough to have Medicare and to have supplemental insurance, but I know a lot of people aren’t, and I have done some research and read that about twenty thousand people in our congressional district are going to lose their healthcare with this plan. So I am urging you to vote against it. I think…

RF: Let me comment, if you’re on Medicare, there’s been no plans to affect Medicare.

Candy: I’m not worried. No, I’m not worried about that. What I’m saying is I’m fortunate. But what about the twenty thousand other people in the 11th congressional district…

RF: Well … Let me… I think you’re referring

Candy: *Unintelligible*

RF: …There have been some recommendations that we cover less Medicaid recipients. I have been working with other members of the New Jersey congressional delegation, because we have, by and large, an older population than many states. We often have, in New Jersey, a lot more people with different types of disabilities. To make sure that the final package that will be voted on, probably Thursday night, looks after people on Medicaid. There’s a part of the bill that was originally drafted …

Candy: *Unintelligible*

RF: …leaving a lot of people in a very desperate situation. I can assure you…

Candy: That’s right.

RF: … We’re trying to make sure that people that are receiving Medicaid, those that are older and those with different types of disabilities, that in a state like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, where we have a lot of people that are dependent on Medicaid, that that we make sure that their needs are  met and that that’s one of the things...

Candy: How?

RF: Well I’m looking for, I’m looking to see that what we call a manager’s amendment to make sure that – some of the initial suggestions would have left, I think, New Jersey older people and people with disabilities in a very bad way. I’m trying to work on some changes to the bill which will do much better for Medicaid, just because New Jersey has so many people on Medicaid. So I think we’re headed in the right direction, but I’m not sure in the final analysis what the bill will be, but I’ll be fighting for more Medicaid coverage.

Candy: Well, one other thing that I’d like to say …

RF: Yeah.

Candy: … Y’know, that the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide healthcare for all of its citizens, and I believe that healthcare is a human right, not access to that people can’t afford it, because they get four thousand in tax credit and the insurance costs eleven thousand dollars. Everyone should have healthcare, and I want to make sure that you understand how much concern there is for that within your district and I…

RF: Well I share that concern.

Candy: *Unintelligible*

RF: I share that concern and I know there’s… that some of the initial tax cut proposals were lower. I’m working with other members of the New Jersey congressional delegation to raise those numbers considerably. We don’t want to be leaving people behind by acting in haste. Thanks for getting on the line. Nan in Livingston – Noah in Livingston. Hi. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.

Noah: Thank you. Just wondering, as the head of the appropriations committee, and with our country twenty trillion dollars in debt and half the people in the country, or working people not paying anything into the income tax – how do you see using your position as the head of the committee to streamline spending to get rid of some of the programs or expenditures that have been going on for years, if not decades…

RF: We’ve actually been doing it over the last ten years. If you take a look at some of our bills on energy and water, some of our issues relative to things that have to do with the justice department, we’ve taken a look at the Environmental Protection Agency. We’ve actually reduced what we call discretionary spending considerably on all the appropriations bills, and that, in some cases, some of the discretionary reductions have gone back to 2007 or 2008 levels. I know that’s true with both the Energy Department and the Army Corp. of Engineers, as important as their work is. We’ve made some cut backs in some areas of the environmental protection, the Department of Commerce… We’ve taken a look, quite honestly, at some of our foreign aid programs to make sure that the countries that we give it to are worthy recipients, that the money’s well spent, it’s not going to the governments, but rather goes to non-profits. So I think we’ve been doing our part. What is out of control is somewhat related to the earlier question, is the whole issue of entitlements, and my view is we need to make sure that if people who’ve actually payed in to those entitlements, that they get something back, which is commensurate with what they have put in, and that we don’t get any free riders that, in some cases, have come to our country and can qualify after six months for SSI, Social Security Income without having paid into it. So we’re taking a very close look at making reductions. We have done that in many ways across the board over the last couple of years. Uh, Tony in Nutley its Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, you’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.

Tony. Hi.

RF: Hi.

Tony: Hi. How are you doing?

RF: *Unintelligable*

Tony: Good. I have a smaller business, and I’ll be truthful with you, the environmental company, they’re running a lot of my places out of Jersey, and y’know, I’m getting ready to pack my business in because I can’t cover my insurance…

RF: Where are you located? Nutley, or where?
Tony: No, Nutley.

RF: Unintelligible

Tony: I work all over the state. Construction.

RF: Are you right on the main street or do you work out of your house or?

Tony: Well the main office is in my house, but…

RF: Ok, well this is the DEP New Jersey or the federal EPA?

Tony: EPA and DEP, both of them.

RF: Oh you’re paying a lot of fees for a variety of things that you’re doing for …

Tony: Not a lot of fees, but the jurisdictions that they have are so astronomical that a lot of the companies that I work for just packed it in and left the land to the cities. Which isn’t right neither, y’know? Because the city and the taxpayer is getting stuck with the cleanups.

RF: Yeah.

Tony: A few of them superfund sites that we were working on

RF: Yea, the superfunds sites in New Jersey. We have more then, I have, I think, more in my congressional district than any other. 70% of this - we hold responsible parties responsible for paying for the cleanup. It’s the 30% of businesses that have sort of disappeared and have no… we can’t track them. But we want to make sure whether its federal dollars, or whether its private dollars, for people who made the mistakes of pollution that all the money’s spent well, but for a small business, it’s been pretty rough for you.

Tony: A lot of them, if you worked with them when they were, y’know, when it first came through. Cause I’ve been in it since the seventies when the EPA first started, and all the gas companies phased all their service stations out because they got sick and tired of the EPA.

RF: Well, many of those gas stations as you know…

Tony: ...And I lost a lot of business through that.

RF: Yea, had you been working on them with cleanups or what?

Tony: I been working with them on cleanups. Companies were doing their thing and they just kept on … every year. I mean, I’ve done stations four or five times in five years. There’s no company that can eat that kind of money.

RF: No.

Tony: You should look into the EPA and kinda straighten it out, because there’s…

RF: Well, there are gone be some major reductions to the environmental protection agency. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t, obviously, affect clean water and clean air, but thanks for getting on the line. Just as a reminder, this is Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting. If you would like to make a comment or ask a question, please press the 0 key on your telephone. Keep that at any time. Rosemary in Woodland Park, thanks for your patience.

Rosemary: Good evening.

RF: Good evening.

Rosemary: I have a question. President Trump has made unsubstantiated claims against President Obama concerning the wiretapping and surveillance, and I wonder how congress is going to keep him accountable for this serious misconduct? I mean, he’s not above the law and I think these tweets are out of control and he should be held accountable for his behavior.

RF: Well, I agree with you. The tweets are totally out of control. The House Intelligence Committee had a a *unintelligible* today which I think may be still going on

Rosemary: And they’re still stating that there’s no evidence, and he needs to be held accountable for this, because this is misconduct.

RF: Yea, I’m of the school too that I’ve heard of no evidence, public or private, that would back up this notion that the previous administration would be tapping his apartment or his building in New York.

Rosemary: Well what would congress to do make him …

RF: Well I think that the testimony of director of the FBI, Mr. Comey has pretty well dismissed that. I think, obviously, the president’s put his, a lot of credibility into his position, which I think is an incorrect one. I think to some extent he’s damaged himself. I don’t see any evidence, I haven’t heard of any evidence that did any tapping at all.

Rosemary: What steps will congress take?

RF: I don’t know what steps congress will take…

Rosemary: … to hold him accountable?

RF: … but thirdly, if the evidence is collected from the FBI that repudiates what he said, then congress will examine what that evidence is. Thanks very much. Robert in Cedar Grove, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall.

Robert: Hi, Congressman.

RF: Hi.

Robert Hi. I’m very concerned with the republican party, just toeing the line of the party when it comes to the environment and, y’know being opposed to greenhouse gases and regulations. It’s unfortunate that these regulations have to be in place to keep people from doing unlawful things and destroying our environment. But it’s very concerning that people’s support of coal jobs coming back and the dirtiest fuel, one of the dirtiest fuels in the world, and just the building up of our military while, basically, y’know, dismissing and ignoring the research and the smartest scientists in the world and what they have to say about global warming and…

RF: Let me reassure you, I do believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change. Somethings happened, I think that the things that have happened around the world and in these United States is pretty clear that something has happened. And let me say, I do feel that, obviously, we are too reliant on fossil fuels, but I may say that there are ways – and I’m not an expert – but we’ve invested in a lot of different things. We’ve invested in wind power, we’ve invested in clean coal technology, we’ve invested in a new generation of nuclear power plants. We’ve invested in a variety of tax credits, which, I think, New Jersey probably has the second highest use of tax credits for solarized energy. So the president can propose some changes, and I do think in some areas there’s been overregulation, basically putting a lot of small businesses, but I do think we need to have a balance and on the House Appropriations Committee, we work very closely with the EPA and the Department of Energy to make sure we have a broad spectrum of energy choices. I think that’s – we don’t want to become too dependent on natural gas. We don’t want to become too much on fossil fuel, but certainly New Jersey is leading the way and I’ve been appreciative of that. Adam in Mount Tabor it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, thanks for getting on the line.

Adam: Thank you Congressman. Um  I  a was listening in earlier (um) to the woman who was concerned about Medicaid cuts. and you said that you are working on um… working on ways to make those levels a lot better in the proposed bill.  Now say that a you are going to make them better implies to me that they are not going to get back up to the levels they already are under the current system and under the ACA. So if and you know the president has promised that a whatever the ACA was replaced with would be in his words better than the ACA um I’m happy with my own ACA program and a my dad who’s 92 depends on Medicaid funds as is various friends of mine who are essentially working poor to very socially a essential jobs like being teachers a but don’t earn enough you know so they qualify for the Medicaid expansion so why would we replace the ACA which is doing better with something that your promising will be doing, if you fix it a little less worse than the ACA?

RF:  Well we’re gonna, we’re assuming it will maintain protections for preexisting conditions we’re still going to maintain a ban on lifetime caps. A we’re still everybody seems to like allowing young people to stay on their parents insurance.  We’re talking about in this bill I think portability but you focused on Medicaid.  I think as you know, it is a safety net, and a particularly a big safety net for New Jerseyans with low income.  I think it covers like 70 million people.  I - I want to make sure that the final package and it’s still - still being worked on a still a we-  we take advantage as New Jersey one of 31 states that under the ACA that the expanded Medicaid um coverage – I want to make sure that we keep that coverage as long as we can.  There is some talk quite honestly, of maybe block granting some of this to states and some of the governors - I’m not sure where our governor is, of talk about more flexibility to meet the needs of the Medicaid population. But you know I want to make sure that you know that Medicaid is fiscally sustainable. And that’s what I’m trying to do to make sure we see it in the last bill as it comes to the floor Thursday night.

Carl in Wayne, it’s Congressman Frelinghuysen you’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting.


Carl: Hi Congressman thank you. Um  I have a multi part question because and I want to revisit  some of the questions that were already asked I want to  revisit the answers um because  I think so many of a my fellow constituents share the same concerns and also I only heard part of your last answer so I had a question on that as well. One part is on budget priorities. So I appreciate that you want to support so many things that New Jerseyans are concerned about but I wanted to get a better understanding of how you are prioritizing because the president has proposed a 9 or 10% increase in Defense which is something we haven’t seen since the first term of Ronald Reagan and Reagan was following a president that cut military spending and military spending’s only gone up over the last decade and you know it dwarfs the spending of the next seven nations combined.  In the meantime we have to balance programs like that are critical critically important to New Jersey like has been mentioned people have mentioned the environment and the EPA and people mentioned global warming. 

RF I think we need to do both. I mean we have a –

Adam: Well how do we do both and and –

RF: We do it carefully. 

Adam: If I can finish please, Congressman.

RF: Yeah.

Adam: Nobody has mentioned the National Institute of Health and of course improving the health, the science behind health is also vitally important

RF: I support the National Institutes of Health.  I visit there every year with a variety of constituent groups.  I do not support what is it the 20-25% cuts on the 29 National Institutes of Health. The president can propose but I think you’ll find bipartisan support not only for the National Institutes of Health but also for the Centers of Disease Control.  These are good investments. They are sound investments.  But we also have to invest in the military.  You look at what Russia is doing around the world, what it’s done in Syria, what it’s done in Ukraine. What the Chinese are doing to deny our ability to maintain commerce in the South China Sea and across the Pacific we need to do a balance a balanced job looking after our military. Everybody who serves as well as our domestic agenda. Certainly I think I have been strongly supportive of R&D in Science and R&D like we see in the National Institutes of Health.

Sarah in Livingston, it’s Congressman Frelinghuysen you’ve joined my telephone Town Hall meeting.

Sarah: Hi There. This is Sara speaking.  Senator Frelinghuysen I would like to talk to you and thank you very much.  Many years ago, about 18 years ago I wrote to you and I said the health department…Yeah, the health department refused to send medication to my grandson and if he did not get the medication he would die. And I wrote to your secretary on a Sunday morning and told her the situation and within two days I had medication for the young man that now that it is singing and dancing and he is a beautiful young man.  I want to thank you and thank you again for all you’ve done for us.

RF: I want to give a shout obviously use this opportunity to give a shout out to my staff here in Washington as well as Morristown, I mean the focus is on constituent service and doing a good job there in Morristown for over 20 years and the constituent services is the bottom line.  These other issues are critical but meeting the needs of people on an everyday basis they do a superior job and they make me look good. Thank you very much.

Catherine in Livingston, this is Congressman Frelinghuysen you’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting. 

Catherine: Congressman, thank you for taking my call. I have to put you on the phone with my son Mark who is a patient of NIH.  I also have concerns about people over 50 in New Jersey losing employment that might have worked in the corporate world and getting close to 60 and not being able to find employment because of companies moving out of the state as well as I seem to think that New Jersey is the forgotten state when we listen to government across the nation and other states represented because we are so small.  But sometimes I feel like the people that represent us forget how expensive it is to live in this state and we’re middle class people trying to educate our children and living in one home and I feel we are trying to do everything we can do yet I sometimes feel that we are the forgotten citizens of this country.

RF: mm hmm. Do you want to put your – Mark, how are you?

Mark: Yep, yes sir, good how are you?

RF: Have you been doing, have you had interactions with one of the institutes in Bethesda?

Mark: Yes I went there since I was about 5 years old and what concerned me was is that when Mick Mulvaney was talking he basically tried to time it up that it was cutting the budget so as to eliminate some of the buildings there.

RF: Oh that’s ridiculous.

Mark: Maybe two or three buildings and they are not empty buildings.  What’s going on there is biomedical research. There is cancer research.  There is all these big name disease research and when these are cut, these programs are going to go away and these are federally funded as obviously as you know.

RF: Mm hmm you should know that I work pretty closely with Francis Collins who’s the… who runs the National Institutes of Health.  I work pretty closely with Anthony Faluci who did a lot of work in terms of and I visit there every year.  I am probably one of the few members of congress that actually brings constituent groups, I brought a group of women who were a few survivors of ovarian cancer there.  A couple of years ago I brought a group of those young people that have survived cystic fibrosis, heart disease.  I think that Mulvaney quite honestly, and he’s not one of my favorite people.  I never worked with him when he was in congress.

Mark: Right.

RF: He has no idea of the fact that –

Mark: Yeah it was kind of the gist I got was because if you look you obviously you are one of the - like you don’t go there you go to your local hospital.  They fly people in from Africa, Asia, they fly people in from everywhere.

RF: They’d looked after you and – I have referred often pediatric patients to them. Sometimes they can’t do anything. But sometimes they.

Mark: Yeah, I mean – listen, I’m 25 now, my brother and I – I was born, I wasn’t diagnosed because it wasn’t tested for it, so I was born and my brother cracked – NIH was the one who diagnosed us both and has us on a regimen, and we both proved to be healthy because of them. So, when he was talking in those generalities –

RF: Quite honestly, I reject a lot of what he said about the NIH. I know the things they do for ALS, Parkinson’s, a variety of cancers. They do remarkable – and their researchers, they touch, I think 12,000 different medical centers in universities around the country. Money just doesn’t stay down and –

Mark: Right, and I mean – do you – do you think that’s going to be revisited in Congress?

RF: I do. I do.

Mark: To where they’re going to fight for it?

RF: Yeah. The Chairman of that sub-committee is Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma. He has a very good working relationship with his counterpart Rosa DeLauro, who comes from Connecticut. And I think there’s strong bipartisan support. The President can propose whatever he wants. But I can assure you that we will work to defend and support the National Institutes of Health. I’ve not run into any instances of mis-expenditures. But I appreciate you getting on the line, and do reach out to me. I want to hear a little more about your story.

Mark: How would I go about doing that?

RF: Well, if you call my office at 973-984-0711.

Mark: Anything I can do to get involved.

RF: I’d like to hear your story.

Mark: Let me try to speak out a little bit to see the good that it does.

RF: No I know – I think a lot of people are unaware of the investment, of what actually it’s been. I think at one point we doubled the NIH budget, and that’s something that Tom Cole would like to do on our sub-committee. Obviously the White House has pushed back but quite honestly I think that some of their stuff is based quite honestly on anecdote and misinformation. But thank you.

Mark: I will absolutely reach out and anything I can do and I appreciate you taking the time to do this and thank you so much.

RF: Okay. Thank you very much. Jim in Nutley, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, you’ve joined my telephone town hall meeting.

Jim: My question revolves around the veterans and how they are serviced. I am glad you are supporting the military.  I think the number one thing for federal government is to protect us. But then those who have served, as recent experience with it, my daughter actually, it seems that when talking to the people, the computer systems are so antiquated, they don't talk to each other and it just delays processing of benefits or disability benefits or claims and it is somewhat of a nightmare to negotiate around that system.

RF: Did your daughter serve?

Jim: Yes, in fact she is currently serving in the reserves.

RF: Well, I want to thank her.  We would never be able to do what we did without the regular military and our guard and reserves.  I work pretty closely with East Orange, that medical center, and I work pretty closely with the one in Basking Ridge, the Lyons VA.  One thing that's common throughout the VA is they're dealing with, as you said, antiquated equipment.  They have computers that could not talk to one another.  If you'll pardon the expression, the VA needs a good kick in the ass.  And we've got a new guy who used to head up Morristown Memorial Hospital in Morristown, David Shulkin, who I recommended.  He worked under the guy who was rather lackadaisical and lacked a lot of knowledge.  He's running the system.  He's trying to work on the whole issue of claims and in some cases the two year backlog.  I feel pretty positive about his leadership.  And also the other issue is the issue of electronic medical records.  The VA is years behind the Department of Defense.  I'm sure your daughter hopefully doesn't carry her medical files around with her.  The object is to put everything online, protected, encrypted and make sure that if she is entitled when she retires the VA will be there for her.

Jim: Thank you very much.

RF: Well, thank you very much.

Amy in Montclair, this is Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. You’ve joined my telephone town hall.

Amy: I have more of a comment than a question.  You say that you want Trump to release his tax returns and yet you vote otherwise. You have to remember that you represent the constituents of the 11th district of Montclair, not the congressional republicans, not Paul Ryan, not the president.  We elected you and you're not representing our interests by voting the way you did.  And we will remember this come November 6th, 2018.

RF: OK, fair enough. Thank you very much.

Lynn in Pequannock, it’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen. Thank you for getting on the line.

Lynn: Well, thank you for holding this telephone town hall. My question is that, during the campaign, candidate Trump promised to protect us from radical Islamic terrorists but personally I am not aware of any radical Islamic terrorists coming into the US from the Mexican border.  So why is the Trump administration eliminating airport security programs to divert money to building a wall?

RF: I have some feelings about the wall.  Let me say I do think we need more agents in a variety of places to vet and check people whether they come through LaGuardia, Kennedy or Newark or whether they come from the southern border.  And may I say on his border plan, that's one of the things that Congress will be discussing.  There is a huge division of opinion.  But first of all, we have to have a plan, we need to know how he is going to spend the money.  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.  Part of his plan is to hire more people, to vet people on crossing the southern border, but I'm not sure the wall is the answer.  We're going to make sure he has a plan before he proceeds.

Barbara in Bloomfield, thanks for your patience. It’s Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Barbara: I'm calling in reference to Meals on Wheels, the cut.  Can you tell me what they're going to do or what's going to happen?

RF: Well, many years ago I was a Morris Country Freeholder; I served in the legislature.  I have always supported Meals on Wheels, not only at various locales where there are nutrition sites but also home delivered meal programs.  So there is some speculation perhaps with some substance that if the Department of Health and Human Services budget is reduced that the administration would target a very popular program that is supported by Republicans and Democrats. Those Meals on Wheels are, I always viewed, not only a lifeline for food but a lifeline for communication. So I don't think that proposal will have any traction in Congress.  I think you'll find most Republicans and Democrats speaking against it.  It's one of those things similar to his targeting what they call which is the low income assistance, or assistance for people on low income with energy bills. Meals on Wheels, like the Head Start program does some incredible things to keep people independent and maybe less dependent on their children. And I've always strongly supported it.

Barbara in Bloomfield, you’re on the line.

Barbara: Let me just add on to the woman before me, I hope the afterschool program for the children to stay at school is not cut because that's also exceedingly important and it's only an $18 billion program.  So I hope that that is not cut also.  What I'm concerned about is this Thursday night is supposed to be the vote on the healthcare bill.  And I'm really questioning the vote, how are you going to vote on it, and I'm very upset with 14 million people are going to lose their healthcare coverage.  What do they do?  What happens?

RF: I've heard those figures.  Somewhat they were substantiated by the Congressional Budget Office.  I understand the Speaker is looking to make sure people do not lose their coverage. 

Barbara: How?

RF: One of the things we're trying to do is to make sure is that those that are between 50 and 64 that there is more money, I think someone said $90 million more in the way of spending to cover that area where they in fact may be losing health care. It’s a work in progress and I’m taking a look to make sure the bill does not hurt New Jerseyans and people in the northeast where it’s more expensive for people to survive and where we have a greater number of people who are dependent on Medicaid.

It’s looks like we have time for one more question. After that, those remaining on the line will be transferred to voicemail where you can ask questions and leave comments. Please know that your opinion is valuable to me. One last question from Marty in Verona. Thanks for getting on the line.

Marty: A couple of questions.  One is more general about social security…I’m a little concerned about the way things are.  That’s one.  The other is more specific about … a surcharge on the insurance to pay for the wall in Mexico and I don’t like that.

RF: First of all, the National Flood Insurance Program is very important to New Jerseyans, New Yorkers, Connecticut, people along Florida and Texas.  Of course there’s been, and I hope it’s only loose talk, some talk that the president would abolish the National Flood Insurance Program, which it’s been very supportive of people certainly across the state of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy and just about every other storm we’ve had, and somehow shift those dollars towards the border wall.  We want to keep the National Flood Insurance Program.  We want it to be fiscally sound which is one reason that some of the fees have been increased.  But we’re not going to let the administration shift that into some sort of fund to build a new wall along our southern border.  These are two distinct issues.  The wall, we need to have a plan. Floods are inevitable and they’ve been catastrophic to New Jersey and we need to make sure we keep that program going.