NJ congressional members talk federal issues with Murphy

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, and eight of the 12-person House delegation sat around a table privately for about an hour Monday morning. Afterward, the governor said it had been productive.

“We had really good, substantive, meaningful discussions on things such as the Gateway Tunnel and the Portal Bridge project; state and local tax deduction limitation; health care, more broadly; lead and water infrastructure, more broadly; general appropriations issues; the importance of our military installations; offshore oil and the awful potential of offshore oil and gas drilling, among many other topics,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he’d make this a regular practice.

“I’m really thrilled to have the governor doing this. I know that in the first year he did it on the phone a few times with the delegation. I’m looking forward to it being regularized and all of us being able to come together,” Sen. Bob Menendez said.

One thing they said they didn’t talk about was impeachment of President Donald Trump. We asked a few House members where they stand.

“We have to follow the truth. We’re going to watch and listen to what Mueller is doing when his report comes in. Whatever that says, we’ll follow that truth,” said Rep. Donald Norcross.

“I think for us the agenda comes first, and I think impeachment will take care of itself down the line,” said Rep. Albio Sires. “We don’t know what’s going to happen with everything else that’s coming down the pike with Mueller.”

“I think you have to walk and chew gum. We have to make sure that we do our job in Congress which is oversight, and that’s a key responsibility we have. And we also have to make sure we’re fighting for the issues as well,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer said.

They also talked about open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage expiring Saturday at midnight.

“You want to join the team? The biggest urgency in the state of New Jersey right now is the next five days. We have to enroll in health insurance — go to healthcare.gov. The reality is that enrollment right now is down. That hurts everyone in the state financially. It drives up our charity care costs,” Sen. Cory Booker said.

Incoming freshman Tom Malinowski was asked what his top priority is.

“It’s to build bridges, not walls, and in New Jersey we know that’s not a metaphor. We mean it literally. We’ve got to get the funding unfrozen for the Portal Bridge. We got to get the Gateway project built. For two years we’ve been asking President Trump to do this, and the more he feels that we want it, the higher the price gets. I think that’s the way he does business. We now have leverage in the House of Representatives through Democratic control to give ourselves the upper hand in that negotiation, and I intend to do everything I can, with the entire delegation, to make sure we cross the finish line,” Malinowski said.

This is the first time the governor and all but one of the congressional representatives are of the same party. The extent to which they work with a president of the opposite party, or try to thwart him, remains to be seen.