Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rep. Frelinghuysen Breaks with Trump on Taxes, Russia

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rep. Frelinghuysen Breaks with Trump on Taxes, Russia

Article excerpt

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen told constituents in a telephone town hall on Tuesday that President Donald Trump should release his tax returns and choose his words about immigration more carefully, even as he defended tougher border controls and a "pause" in accepting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The 12-term Republican from Harding Township, facing pressure from activists to hold an in-person town hall meeting, said in the phone call that he considers himself moderate, and supports a woman's right to an abortion. He praised the work of Planned Parenthood in Morris County but said he recognizes that the Republican conference opposes abortion and he respects their opinion.

He faced pointed questions about his support for a bill that would have let states cut funding to Planned Parenthood, and did not disclose how he would handle the issue if it comes up again. Rather, he said: "Thank you for telling me what I voted on. I don't have the bill right in front of me."

The new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Frelinghuysen assured a caller concerned about deep budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency that he is "not a denier" about climate change. He spoke approvingly of the way the EPA punished polluters, and while he recognized that lawmakers from Western states have problems with the agency, he said reports of deep cuts need further examination.

"Whatever the president sends us does have to be scrutinized by the committee I chair," he said. "They may suggest some things, but Congress in the final analysis will decide what these different agencies get in the way of any money."

Frelinghuysen was challenged on whether he votes the way his district -- a longtime Republican stronghold, but one where Trump fared worse than Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008 -- wants him to vote. In response, he touted his efforts to deliver for the region by helping secure funds to deepen channels leading to Port Newark, protect the mission of the Picatinny Arsenal, and recover from Superstorm Sandy.

He also broke sharply with Trump about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who came up in a question about whether Trump should reveal his "tax forms," an apparent reference to income tax returns. …

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