Congressmen Scott Garrett (R-Wantage, 5th Distr.) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown, 11th Distr.) at a lengthy first glance are similar in appearance. They have the same build, apparent height, and facial shape. Scott Garrett’s hair is a shade darker than Rodney Frelinghuysen’s.
Both have served Northern New Jersey for a long time. Both are Republicans. Both are all too well aware of how Congress “works.” But there the similarities end.
Because Frelinghuysen, actual representative, visited my former company’s offices in Parsippany many times. I was able to question him about the politics of Washington in depth and find out why it was so difficult to get a Conservative message across.
Frelinghuysen is no Conservative. Judging by his Congressional scorecard, published by Americans for Prosperity – he has a 40 percent Conservative vote – he’s not even a Moderate. He’s a Liberal Republican. Some Democrats vote more conservatively than he does.
Still, he really is a nice man and spoke with me about the workings of Congress.
When I reminded him, back around the middle of the last decade, that there were many Conservatives in the 5th District. He said that demographic was changing, particularly in eastern Morris County, where younger voters were moving in with their Millennial Moderation.
“I have to listen to my constituency,” he said.
He also had to obey the commandments of the House Majority Leader, he said, who at the time, was Nancy Pelosi.
“Does she really wield that much power?” I asked.
“I know your mother,” he replied, “so I know she taught you well about politics. I’m surprised you’d even ask. Oh yes, the House Majority Leader wields absolute power. If you don’t vote the way she wants you to – and Nancy Pelosi is terrible! – she can take away major committee positions. Even though I have minority seats, they’re still on important committees. You wouldn’t want me to lose them, would you? Oh no, no, no. I have to vote the way she orders me to!”
He hurried off to the next employee group and I followed him, as was my duty as a company photographer.
Another time, he met with our New Jersey executives. They questioned him about a piece of legislation that would allow our company to do business over state lines without actually having a presence in that state.
He told them that would require legislation on a federal level and would work.
“But be careful what you wish for,” he advised. Having the Federal government as an ally can be a double-edged sword.
I only met Congressman Scott Garrett, of the 5th District, this past 4th of July. As I saw him coming down the street, I mistook him for his 11th District counterpart. I was soon disabused of the mistaken identity.
Garrett, though of the same build, was not the mild-mannered Mr. Frelinghuysen. When I commented to a friend (thinking it was Frelinghuysen and wondering what he was doing in Ridgewood) that he could tell us all about how Congress worked, Garrett said crossly, “Yeah, I can tell you all about how Congress works.”
Garrett is not one to tell you fussily and timidly that he must abide by the House Speaker’s commands. Hardly. He is his own Congressman and has a reputation for not only not voting by the House Speaker’s agenda, but actually criticizing the legislation and the Speaker, even in his own party, at his political peril.
These days, Garret – one of the most Conservative Congressman in the House of Representative – has been in the news quite a bit. Gay activists are now picketing his office in Newton because he reportedly told Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee that he would no longer pay his dues to the National Republican Congressional Due because he didn’t want his money to go to funding homosexual candidates.
Yet in 2012, a source told Politico.com that Garrett donated money to the campaign of Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC also supported.
The news has taken awhile to catch up with the real issues in the Scott Garrett controversy.
According to today’s Bergen Record (they’ve been reporting on the story for a week or more, as Garrett’s constituency largely resides in Bergen County, “Garret…is a co—sponsor, along with Rep. Chris Smith, R-Mercer, of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would offer protections to people and groups who cite their religious beliefs when declining services to same-sex couples seeking to marry.”
Garrett denounced the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, voted against John Boehner for Speaker of the House in 2012, and opposed a rule in June that set up votes on a trade package that Obama considered important.
Closed committee meetings are typically wonkish, routine affairs. But Friday’s session of Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee broke that pattern in spectacular fashion, laying bare the growing acrimony and sense of disorder within the House Republican Conference.
The Record also noted that “Garrett’s position as the chairman of a subcommittee that regulates Wall Street and the mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be in jeopardy. Subcommittee chairmen were reportedly told they would be expected to support the party on key votes and pay their dues to the NRCC, and Garrett ‘reportedly’ said he would not.”
Garrett told the Bergen Record, “You know how I voted for the speaker. You know how I voted on the rule. You know how I’ve not always supported leadership. You know that I don’t necessarily support all the things they do. So it’s somehow a surprise to you that I don’t necessarily support where they spend their money?”
While the Speaker of the House can put political pressure on Congressional representative, technically they’re not required to cast their vote in favor of the Speaker’s agenda nor do their dues to the NRCC constitute a mandatory obligation to do so. That would be unconstitutional.
He also told the Bergen Record that he will continue to resist pressure to demonstrate his party loyalty if he believes a matter of principle is at stake. Principle, not money.
However, Garrett is said to be attempting to comply with paying dues through subcommittees that do not involve issues with which he and the committee are at variance.
The whole fracas began with a report by Politico.com involving Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, of Texas:
“It started, according to multiple sources present, when Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told members that subcommittee chairmen are expected to pay their dues to the GOP’s campaign arm and to side with leaders on procedural votes that are critical to their ability to control the party’s legislative agenda.
“Hensarling was complying with recent demands for such loyalty from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“But his message seemed squarely aimed at one lawmaker: New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett. A Hensarling ally who chairs a prized Financial Services subcommittee, Garrett has angered GOP leaders and many members of the committee. He voted against Boehner’s bid for another term as speaker, bucked leadership on a critical procedural vote and has refused to pay National Republican Congressional Committee dues.
“Garrett first responded that his procedural vote against leadership was a matter of conscience. Then he stunned the room with this explanation: He had not supported the NRCC in the past, he said, because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.
“Some lawmakers grew noticeably angry, pointing out that the NRCC does not get involved in primaries, nor does it care about the sexual orientation of candidates. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a member of leadership who led the NRCC’s candidate recruitment during the 2014 election cycle, said that Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC supported, was ‘equally homosexual’ when Garrett donated directly to him in 2012, according to a source present.
“Garrett, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, has cut a deal of sorts. He has agreed to donate to the NRCC’s building fund and recount efforts, but not to the committee directly. Garrett’s office did not respond to requests for comment. The NRCC’s policy is that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
“The episode, recounted by multiple sources present, illustrates how the Financial Services Committee has become ground zero in the battle between Republican leaders and the energized conservative wing of the House GOP conference.
“Leadership’s push to enforce party unity strikes at the heart of the panel, which oversees Wall Street and is one of the more powerful committees in Congress. Garrett is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives that is slowing the GOP leadership’s agenda, but he also holds a subcommittee gavel. Hensarling voted for Boehner for speaker but is often mentioned by Conservatives as a possible candidate for a leadership slot.
“Hensarling has also been the leading opponent of the Export-Import Bank, the recently expired government-backed institution that helped support U.S. companies who conduct business abroad. Boehner has said “thousands of jobs … would disappear pretty quickly if the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear.” The speaker said he will allow Hensarling to try to kill the bank if the Senate extends it as part of a must-pass bill. Hensarling, however, will likely lack the votes to do so.
“Unlike the Republican conference writ large, the financial services panel is composed of more middle-of-the-road, establishment conservative lawmakers than rabble-rousers. And those forces are sniping at Hensarling’s politics and policy.
“Lawmakers complain that he hasn’t held a markup since May. Three bills were pulled from consideration this week. K Street has long been frustrated with Hensarling’s management of the committee and what they see as his refusal to compromise to get legislation passed.
“In turn, lawmakers on the premier committee are actively considering ways to stifle him. Some Republicans, who spoke without attribution to discuss internal conversations, say they would attempt to band with Democrats to overrule Hensarling in committee when he begins to mark up bills.
“But even those who are frustrated say they can’t do much to get around Hensarling.
“’In the short answer, of course, the chairman is the chairman, for the next year-and-a-half, and more likely, for the next 3½ years,’” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who briefly considered a bid to unseat Hensarling. ‘But we do live in a time where there’s a lot of frustration within the conference in a variety of directions. Who knows when that will actually come to a boil?’
“David Popp, Hensarling’s spokesman, declined to comment on the closed committee meeting but defended the committee’s productivity.
“’The committee has marked up more bills during the first six months of the 114th Congress than it did during the first six months of the 113th Congress,’ Popp said. ‘Just this week, 11 committee bills were considered on the floor, and to date only two other committees have had more bills pass the House. At the beginning of the year, all Republican members of the committee agreed to a committee agenda for the 114th Congress, and the committee is on schedule in fulfilling that agenda.’
“Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a fellow Texas Republican, said he has a ‘very good’ relationship with Hensarling.
“’He has policy views that not everybody agrees with, but he’s been very open with that, and I feel like he’s listened to everyone’s viewpoint,’ Neugebauer said in an interview. ‘I don’t sense a big problem.’
‘Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who is also on the panel, said he thinks Hensarling is “doing a good job.’
“Some of the frustration is rooted in Hensarling’s staunch and unflinching opposition to the Export-Import Bank. Some Republicans on the panel believe a vast majority of its members want to extend the bank’s charter or, short of that, craft a bill to wind the institution down gradually in order to ease the sting of job losses. Hensarling wants to kill it for good, and he has not opened the door to other options.
“Others gripe about what they consider the committee’s slow pace due to ideological fissures on the panel.
“’I think we’re always a little bit concerned that we’re not getting anything done,’ said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), a member of the committee. ‘Not necessarily any particular thing, but we’re always wanting to change the system and change some of the legislation that has been passed, but ultimately you can just do what you can do. You’ve got to have the votes to do it, and I think Jeb’s a good vote counter, so he’s probably doing what he could do, and what he can’t do, he just hasn’t been able to do.’
“Hensarling’s tenure as chairman has been marked by other controversies. He made housing reform one of his first targets, but a bill he authored to eliminate the government lending institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t garner enough support to make it to the House floor. He later struggled to pass a flood insurance bill before relenting to GOP leadership.
“Hensarling did successfully strike a deal to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
The Financial Services Committee is certainly not the only panel with drama. Just last month, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah attempted to strip Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) of his subcommittee gavel but was overruled by a majority of the committee. Meadows got his gavel back.
“It’s yet to be seen whether Hensarling’s tough talk to his fellow committee members will result in Garrett ponying up.
“The northern New Jersey Republican has not yet paid his dues to the NRCC. He has a
serious opponent this cycle. Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, raised $412,000 last quarter and has almost $600,000 in the bank. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon declined to say whether the campaign arm would get involved in that — or any —race.
“’I’m not going to talk about who we’re going to support and who we’re not going to support anywhere across the line, because hopefully we don’t have to come into races like that,’ Walden said of Garrett’s race. ‘He’s been able to raise a lot of money, he’s got a lot of money in the bank — close to $3 million. My preference is we have members who pay their dues in full.’”
Zachary Warmbrodt contributed to this report.
The Bergen Record quoted the Rev. L.L. DuBreuil, pastor of the Faith Unity Church in Union as saying that the Garrett-Smith bill is “an abomination, unlike any other. We’re here today [at Garrett’s Glen Rock office] because this is the last dying gasp of bigotry.”
“DuBreuil, who held up both a copy of the Bible and the Constitution, said the bill that Garrett is sponsoring would protect some people at the expense of others.
“’We can’t allow one book to overrun the other,” DuBreuil said.’”
As a resident of Pompton Lakes, I’m not allowed to confer with Congressman Garrett. Any questions, comments or complaints I have must be directed to my own representative, Congressman Frelinghuysen.
Union is part of the 7th and 10th Congressional Districts. Pastor DuBreuil should have taken her complaints to one of her own Congressional representatives, either Leonard Lance (R) or Donald Payne, Jr. (D).
Meanwhile, Congressman Garrett’s plight is just one more story in the internecine political warfare going on in the Republican Party between its leaders and its (minority) Conservative members.
The Record noted that Garrett will be facing a well-funded Clintonite opponent in the next election. Given Hillary’s shaky campaign so far, Clinton’s assistance may not be of much help to this candidate. Political Correctness and a compliant Media wagging its finger is more useful.
Will Garrett even want to serve another term? We hope so. We hope he’ll stay in the fight till the (probably) bitter end. The political tide may yet turn, thanks to Donald Trump’s candidacy and Ted Cruz’ stepping up to the plate and taking on the GOP Fat Cats.
The Gay Activists overestimate their influence with the public. Influence based on fear is not influence, at all; it’s intimidation. Scott Garrett is not one to be intimidated easily. His disgust with Congress clearly predated this fracas over NRCC dues.
This is a fight to the death over the Republican Party. Let us hope that Garrett does not finally turn away in frustration as newly-minted Republican Congressman/women and Senators did in the mid-1990s. They were true Conservatives. But after one term, they realized they couldn’t fight – or trust – the Republican leadership and did not seek re-election. Or perhaps lost it because voters, not understanding how Congress works, voted for someone else they thought would represent their interests better.
Today’s Conservative voters are better educated today thanks (I blush at my own immodesty) to the Tea Parties. Congressman Garrett came over to the Tea Party float at the Ridgewood Fourth of July, in part to meet a decorated Korean War veteran, but also to thank the Tea Party for its Conservative support.
A politician who will do anything, up to and including selling their own soul, to get elected will get elected if a corrupt political machine is behind them, giving the voters no other choice. They can even fend off opposition indefinitely if they have an inexhaustible supply of money.
A politician who stands up for principles rather than populist votes will lose by the very same political party machinations. But a day of reckoning will come for that party. Conservatives may seem to have no voice because the Socialist Media and their own (current) party continually silence them.
But like the grass whose roots for which are named, we always pop up again.
The stakes are much higher than they were in 1980 when we elected Ronald Reagan. Back then we were grass green. Today, our roots go down to the very foundation of the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, and the Bible.
With so much at stake, we rely on the U.S. Constitution (which is silent on all matters of marriage) and the Bible (which is not silent).
God is on our side because Congressmen like Scott Garrett are on His side.