NJ Gains Greater Seniority on Congressional Committees

By Erin Delmore

New Jersey’s congressional delegation arrived back at work Tuesday to a town painted red as Republicans assumed leadership in the House and Senate. But that’s not the only shake-up in town. New Jersey is poised for a boost in political power.

“There are two ways to think about clout on Capitol Hill right now. One is just the ability to affect legislation. And on that score, New Jersey does pretty well,” said Rider University Professor of Political Science Ben Dworkin. “But the more important kind of clout, and the clout you can measure, is how much money comes back from the federal government.”

New Jersey ranks 11th of all the states in terms of population, but according to a study by NJ Advance Media last year it ranked only 23rd in terms of clout, assessed by elected officials’ leadership positions.

“Given the number of people we have in New Jersey, which is eight and a half million or so, we don’t nearly have as much clout in terms of the ability to direct federal resources to New Jersey again as we used to have,” Dworkin said.

Elected officials’ ability to steer federal dollars toward the Garden State comes from seniority, and more importantly seniority on the right committees. That’s where New Jersey is seeing a boost.

Congressman Bill Pascrell has been in office for two decades. He serves on the influential Ways and Means and Budget committees. This year, he landed a spot on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee where he joins fellow New Jerseyan Frank Pallone in an effort to get more New Jersey Democrats on committees of influence.

“We have a great victor in Josh Gottheimer. I want him to serve on the Financial Services Committee and I’m going to do everything I can to do that,” Pascrell said.

Major federal purse strings are in the hands of Morris County Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is a huge deal for New Jersey because Congressman Frelinghuysen effectively has the ability to become a billion dollar spending industry for New Jersey,” Dworkin said.

Even more momentum heading up the Turnpike. As the ranking Democrat on the Commerce and Energy Committee, Congressman Pallone is poised to be the top dog if Dems take the House in 2018. And for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker: a spot on the coveted Senate Foreign Relations Committee has the potential 2020 White House contender bolstering his foreign policy bona fides.

“Cory’s always been involved in foreign policy. I think he’ll make a great, great contribution to that committee. I wish nothing but the best for him, and he’ll do well. You mark my words,” Pascrell said.