A Republican who has supported abortion rights and said humans “have some effect” on climate change, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen from New Jersey, is expected to become the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in January. He has pledged to work vigorously to fund science, technology and health-related research.
The committee controls the purse strings for federal programs in science, health and other areas, and typically allocates funds after the House Budget Committee provides broader spending guidelines each year. Frelinghuysen is running unopposed for the chair, and numerous Republicans on Capitol Hill said he would be selected. “I’m a great supporter of the National Science Foundation, and I’m always excited to visit [the National Institutes of Health] every year and see the things they do and collaborate with colleges and universities,” Frelinghuysen says in an interview with Scientific American. “I look at the remarkable ingenuity that comes out of [New Jersey] schools like the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers and Princeton.”
He also says he plans to push for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education generally as well as advance ways the government can bolster his home state’s pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries. To Frelinghuysen, federal backing for such efforts is important to him “because of just looking at the world we live in and coming from Thomas Alva Edison’s home state.”
Frelinghuysen was given a seat on Appropriations after he arrived in the House in 1995. He formerly headed its subcommittee on energy and water development and since 2013 has chaired its panel on defense. He is popular with colleagues across the ideological spectrum, who praise his civility and dedication to bipartisanship. He would succeed Kentucky Rep. Harold Rogers, who is forced to step aside as Appropriations chair because of internal GOP-imposed term limits.
Rep. Tom Cole, another committee member and a Republican from Oklahoma, says he expects Frelinghuysen to enthusiastically advocate for science. But, Cole says, “the big challenge” will be how much money the Budget Committee gives appropriators to work with. And that is still an open question.