Rodney Frelinghuysen, the longtime Republican congressman for the 11th District, met with local party activists and supporters Wednesday in Nutley, where he spoke cordially about President Obama but still drew sharp distinctions with him on health care, foreign policy and other issues.
“I’m damn excited about getting 270,000 new voters in 14 towns,” said Frelinghuysen, whose legislative district has grown to include Nutley, some of Bloomfield and other parts of Essex and Passaic counties after the state’s congressional districts were redrawn late last year.
Frelinghuysen faces Democrat John Arvanites in the November election.
Speaking at the Diamond Spring restaurant, Frelinghuysen, who has served nine terms in the House of Representatives, stressed bipartisanship, stating that Obama deserves respect as the commander-in-chief and referring to fellow Rep. Bill Pascrell as “a friend” with whom he’s worked on environmental issues affecting the Passaic River. Pascrell represented Nutley and other areas that become part of the new 11th District as a result of redistricting.
But he also spoke strongly in favor of the top of his ticket, Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, whom Frelinghuysen described as “the new generation” of Republican leadership.
“I think we’re all aware that all is not well,” Frelinghuysen said. “Far too many people are out of work, or working more than one job. Too many young people are still living at home, who don’t have a job and bring nothing to the table but college debt.”
Following brief remarks, Frelinghuysen then took questions from the audience, where he outlined some of his positions on major issues, including:
- Education: Frelinghuysen said he is in favor of federal Pell grants for college-bound students. He also said he favors strengthening so-called “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and has brought scientists from NASA into his district to work with high school teachers on creating curriculum for students. In terms of science and mathematics education, Frelinghuysen said “We’re getting our clocks cleaned by other nations.”
- Foreign policy: Frelinghuysen, who belongs to the Defense and Homeland Security subcommittees, said foreign policy “has been the weakest part of [Obama’s] portfolio.” Responding to a questioner who expressed frustration that foreign aid dollars are going to countries in the Middle East hostile to the United States, Frelinghuysen agreed that the money should come with conditions to be adhered to by recipient nations, but also noted that such aid is only a tiny fraction of the budget. He also said it was important to continue providing money to Egypt -- which gets a large amount of US aid -- as a way to ensure it will stick to the 30-year-old peace accord that nation has with Israel.
- Healthcare: Frelinghuysen said he supports aspects of Obamacare, including mandates for coverage of those with preexisting conditions and allowing adult children to remain on their parents’ plans. But he also said that the plan overall would lead to ruinous taxation, rationed medical care and reduced funding for Medicare. He also said Obamacare lacks a strong tort reform component to protect doctors from excessive lawsuits.