U.S. Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, whose post as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee made him arguably the most powerful New Jersey representative in the House, announced Monday he will not seek re-election this fall.
Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) has served as the U.S. representative from the 11th District since 1995. He has never faced a serious challenge since he first won office, but he was expected to do so this fall.
Frelinghuysen did not give a specific reason for his decision to retire.
Frelinghuysen’s district includes much of Morris County, but also portions of Sussex, Essex and Passaic counties. His district was considered a tossup by many.
Some of Frelinghuysen’s recent votes left him open for criticism from both sides of the aisle.
When he voted for the House GOP bill to repeal and replace the health care law last year, he received heavy backlash from some in his district.
When he was one of 12 House Republicans to vote against the GOP’s tax overhaul in December, citing the impact of new limits to the state and local tax deduction in his district, he received backlash from his own party.
He also was criticized for his unwillingness to hold a town-hall style meeting, choosing instead to meet with constituents on conference calls.
Frelinghuysen’s decision to retire could impact the Republicans’ ability to hold the House. He is the 24th Republican to announce he will not seek re-election; only seven Democrats have done the same.
Currently, the Republicans hold a 238-193 edge in the House, with four vacancies.
In a five-paragraph note explaining his decision to retire, Frelinghuysen stressed he felt he always worked in a bipartisan way, worked to serve the military and its members and encouraged young people to go into public service.
“I have worked in a bipartisan manner, not just in times of crisis but always, because I believe it best serves my constituents, my state and our country,” he said. “My father (a former U.S. representative himself) reminded me often that we are temporary stewards of the public trust. I have sincerely endeavored to earn that trust every day and I thank my constituents and my home state of New Jersey for the honor to serve and I will continue to do so to the best of my abilities through the end of my term.”
Frelinghuysen said he looked back on his service proudly.
“During my time serving here, there have been times of great tragedy, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy on my home state,” he said. “In my role on the House Appropriations Committee, I made sure that New Jersey’s needs were met in both the immediate aftermath as well as over time in the wake of these events. I have proudly been able to secure key federal investments for New Jersey to strengthen our economy, our institutions of higher education, our hospitals and public transportation systems, to preserve open space and protect the environment and to better serve our veterans and our fellow citizens with mental illness and disabilities.
“As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, this past year I have had a singular focus on ‘getting our work done.’ We completed 12 appropriations bill left over from 2017, we passed all 2018 bills in record time through regular order, and three disaster supplementals historic in scope and the expediency with which we acted to help our fellow citizens. In my remaining year as chairman, I am determined to finish the FY18 bills and pass our FY19 bills through regular order.”
(READ MORE from ROI-NJ on the reaction to Frelinghuysen’s announcement.)
Frelinghuysen, who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, said he placed his most energy on supporting the military and its members.
“Throughout my service in this House, my deepest devotion has been to supporting our Armed Forces, all volunteers, and their families, here and abroad, and those warfighters who have returned home with injuries and who depend on a functioning veterans’ health care system,” he said. “To those of you I have met while you served us overseas, and to those of you that I have sat by your bedside, I hope and trust I have served you well.”
Frelinghuysen began the note with a call to serve to today’s youth.
“Today, as I announce my retirement at the end of this session of Congress, I want to use the opportunity to strongly encourage the many young people I meet to consider public service,” he said. “Public service is an incredible way to turn your convictions into something that serves the greater good and to do it alongside people from every walk of life and background.”
Frelinghuysen is a member of what some have called on of the greatest political dynasties in U.S. history.
His father, Peter Frelinghuysen Jr., served as the U.S. representative from New Jersey’s 5th congressional district from 1953-75, representing much of the same area Rodney Frelinghuysen does today.
Four other family relatives served as U.S. senators, including his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Frederick Frelinghuysen, who was one of the framers of the first Constitution of New Jersey and a soldier in the American Revolutionary War.