MANY POLITICIANS see Congress as the capstone of a political career. Then there are those like Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-Harding, who consider it their natural home.
That's not arrogance. Members of the Frelinghuysen family have been involved in government on this continent since before the United States even existed. The current representative is the fifth Frelinghuysen to serve in Congress, a list that began with an ancestor who served in the Senate in the 1790s and included his late father, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, who served in the House from 1953 to 1975.
Such familiarity with the ins and outs of Washington certainly gives Rodney Frelinghuysen, whose 11th District includes parts of Passaic County, an advantage over his peers. And now that Frelinghuysen has more than 20 years of seniority, his knowledge and expertise is paying off for the country.
Frelinghuysen, who presides over a defense appropriations subcommittee, recently secured $500 million for expanded intelligence gathering around the world. The money was quietly included in the recently passed $1.1 trillion spending bill for 2016.
Seen in light of Washington's astronomical spending levels, $500 million is not a lot of money, representing less than 1 percent of the appropriations bill. But in practical terms, the appropriation means half a billion dollars "to improve the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Department of Defense." That's significant.
Frelinghuysen told The Record that while much attention rightly is being paid to the Middle East, things happening in Northern Africa and in Central and South America also deserve watching. The money is beyond specific line item appropriations. The bill requires the Defense Department to tell Congress how the money will be used, although it's possible the public won't know which countries or areas will be targeted for spying.
Frelinghuysen didn't publicly announce his success in getting more money for U.S. intelligence. On one hand that is refreshing. Many politicians of all stripes are far too eager to trumpet the most routine accomplishments.
Yet, on the other hand, this is taxpayers' money and Frelinghuysen does hold a public office. While the congressman's reserved demeanor makes him more comfortable staying out of the spotlight, this accomplishment was worthy of a special announcement from his office.
There's nothing wrong with taking a little credit. We salute Frelinghuysen's effort and are pleased that he focused on helping the entire country as opposed to only his district. Broad perspective by members of Congress is not always common.