Politics

In Rare Public Comments, Frelinghuysen Sounds Ready to Get out of D.C.

House Appropriations Committee chairman is retiring at end of his 12th term

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., is retiring at the end of his term in December. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, in a rare public appearance in his district on Monday, sounded more than ready to leave the chaos of government behind, saying he’s keeping his “head down” amid “all sorts of sideshows” in his final eight months in Congress.

The New Jersey Republican, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced in January that he would retire at the end of his 12th term.

At an event for the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, Frelinghuysen thanked his staff and constituents for their support, The Daily Record in New Jersey reported.

Frelinghuysen, 72, has represented New Jersey’s 11th District since 1995.

In recent years many in the district have complained that Frelinghuysen has grown aloof, avoiding public appearances where he would face questions from constituents in favor of smaller, more controlled venues like veterans’ and local school events.

“Quite honestly, somewhat due to me, but certainly due to our president, [my staff] has been subject to a 24-hour bombardment [by protesters] and have handled themselves with aplomb and distinction,” he said at the chamber breakfast, The Record reported.

Frelinghuysen, long viewed as a moderate, has become an object of scorn on both sides of the aisle since the ascension of President Donald Trump.

After he opposed the original version of the GOP’s health care package and voted “no” on its tax code overhaul last year — key issues Republicans have been campaigning on for nearly a decade — Republican leadership threatened to strip him of his committee chairmanship.

Meanwhile, the liberal super PAC NJ 11th for Change has organized protests outside the congressman’s office each week since the 2016 election, calling the events “Fridays with Frelinghuysen.”

With the clamor from the left over his inaccessibility and threats from the right over his conservative credentials, it’s no wonder Frelinghuysen said Monday he wants to ditch his House colleagues to spend more time with his two granddaughters.

“One is a year and a half. She threw up on me over the weekend,” he said. “The other little girl is 4. She threw up on me, too.”

Frelinghuysen still has a considerable amount on his plate as he finishes out his final term, including shepherding the 12 fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills to the House floor for votes.

Last year’s negotiations stalled for months after Democrats demanded action on young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The stalemate over DACA resulted in two government shutdowns and a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government funded.

“My job is to keep the government open for business,’ Frelinghuysen said Monday. “It’s a disgrace to have a government shutdown. It hurts the military. It hurts the business climate. We need predictability; we need stability.”

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