The State We're In: Congressman with university roots holds a key post in Washington.
Rodney Frelinghuysen, the 12-term Republican from New Jersey who represents parts of Morris, Sussex, Passaic, and Essex counties in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been named chair of the House Committee on Appropriations. With little fanfare, Frelinghuysen has become the second-most powerful member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
And, he has deep Rutgers roots. Frederick Frelinghuysen, the congressman’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, was, in 1771, the first instructor at Queen’s College, which of course became Rutgers. Congressman Frelinghuysen’s great-great-great-uncle was Theodore Frelinghuysen who, in 1850, became the seventh president of Rutgers College.
How important is the chair of the House Committee on Appropriations? Think of it this way: not a penny of the $3.8 trillion federal budget can be spent without the approval of the committee. The National Institutes of Health’s annual $32 billion appropriation, the National Science Foundation’s $7.5 billion, and the $30 billion Pell Grant program all start in the House Committee on Appropriations. Those are critical programs for Rutgers; $216 million in research grants flow each year to Rutgers from the institute and the foundation alone. The Pell Grant program provides 17,000 Rutgers students with $74 million in financial aid every year.
There is a saying on Capitol Hill that show horses make the news, but work horses make the day. In Frelinghuysen’s case, being a work horse, putting in the time and effort on the appropriations committee, has paid off handsomely. New Jersey and Rutgers are clearly better off for it.
The Rutgers alumni count in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate now stands at four, and three of them received law degrees from the university. Robert Menendez NLAW’79 (D-NJ) is New Jersey’s senior senator. Frank Pallone Jr. CLAW’78 (D-NJ) is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Elizabeth Warren NLAW’76 (D-MA) is completing her first term in the U.S. Senate. And Darren Soto RC’00 (D-FL) was elected to his first term in the U.S. House to represent the Orlando area.