GOP House Win Could Put NJ Reps at Center of Debate

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The shift to GOP control in the US House of Representatives could mean some high-profile positions for some New Jersey Republicans that will put them at the center of major national policy debates.

Northern New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett could be one of the beneficiaries. The conservative backlash against the federal bailout of  the banking system has already catapulted him to national prominence. A Tea Party favorite, Garrett could potentially bring his strenuous anti-bailout sentiments to the chairmanship of the powerful Financial Services subcommittee that oversees mortgage behemoths Fannie and Freddie Mac. In Garrett, the subcommittee's current ranking member, the two troubled giants have an arch critic. If named subcommittee chairman, Garrett would put them under withering scrutiny, just as they are the most vulnerable for their role in the robo-signing controversy.

Garrett's fiscal hawkishness precedes the Obama administration. Before the Republicans lost control of the House in 2006, he remained tight-fisted even as his GOP Congressional leadership signed off on President Bush's major deficit spending. He voted against the massive bailout of the US banking system in the twilight of the George W. Bush's presidency. It was Garrett's faction of the GOP, that in coalition with the populist Democrats, brought the Free World to a surreal standstill when TARP was torpedoed the first time.

The party power shift could also clear the way for Morris County Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen to rise to chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water development. Frelinghuysen has been a consistent supporter of efforts to preserve open space in the Highlands, the major source for most of New Jersey's drinking water. He is also recognized as one of the Congress's leading experts on the ins and outs of the federal Superfund program.

As a member of an Appropriations Subcommittee, both Democratic and Republican Jersey members have already relied on Frelinghuysen to get what they needed for their districts. So powerful is membership to Appropriations that members who attain it are described as "cardinals."

Frelinghuysen's family traces their membership in Congress back to the 1790s. He is also a fiscal conservative but is pro-choice and votes with the League of Conservation Voters most of the time. He is a fiscal conservative but he voted for the bank bailout the second time the House considered it.

Southern Jersey Congressman Chris Smith could also be in line for a leadership post. He came to Congress in 1980 and is the longest serving member of the state's delegation. Smith is known for his principled independence. He opposes both capital punishment and abortion. He was the driving force behind a ban on abortions at US Military hospitals. He has been punished by his Republican leadership for breaking ranks and siding with Democrats on Veterans issues if he thought vets were being shortchanged. Smith also has gone his own way on global free trade linking the Chinese government's repression of political and religious liberties as a disqualifier for granting China for Most Favored Nation status.

GOP leadership decisions should be made over the next few weeks.