Though he likes to consider himself a moderate Republican, protestors in front of 25th District Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen's Schuyler Place office on Tuesday said the 16-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives has been anything but.
And, protestors said, the politician needs to be a voice for the people he represents, not only for his party. On this day, that voice was telling the congressman to vote to raise the country's debt ceiling before Aug. 2, the date the U.S. has been said could default on a $14.3 trillion deficit.
"We need to bring attention to Frelinghuysen for people who don't agree with the way he votes," said Susan Niculescu, one of the lead organizers for the rally, which was assembled by the Morris Council for the Rebuilding of the American Dream, an affiliate of MoveOn.org. "People are outraged. We believe the debt ceiling should be raised immediately, with no strings attached. Increase taxes with cuts closing tax loopholes."
People from several towns in the area–including Morristown, Morris Township, Morris Plains, Madison, Boonton, Mountain Lakes and Parsippany–assembled for the rally and were allowed to walk up, five at a time, to the congressman's offices, where aides fielded questions. Frelinghuysen was not in the office at the time of the rally.
"Frelinghuysen likes to be regarded as a moderate, but his votes are not any different than the Tea Party," said Sue Dinetz, of Morris Plains. "He voted down the line."
Melanie Vasa, of Boonton, didn't just have negative things to say about the assemblyman from Harding Township. "He's done good things," she said, noting his availability to constituents on some issues. However, when voting against issues with a local impact, "he doesn't respond," Vasa said.
Throughout discussions in the government on what to do about the debt ceiling, Republicans have routinely said any package cannot include the raising of taxes.
"It shows an unwillingness to tackle the issues," said Morristown resident Elissa Teeple. "If this is truly the economic emergency that everyone says it is, then we have to raise taxes. All of us will have to pay."
Later Tuesday afternoon, Frelinghuysen issued a statement in response to the protest: "America pays its bills. Default, by not raising the federal debt limit, would be irresponsible," the congressman said in the statement.
“However, the $14.3 trillion national debt is utterly unsustainable. If allowed to grow unchecked, it will harm our children and limit opportunities for future generations," he said. “Now that the Senate has rejected the common-sense 'Cut, Cap and Balance Act' and turned away from a Balanced Budget Amendment, we have reached another crossroad.
“We have told the President that we will not support his request to increase the debt limit without serious spending cuts and binding budget reforms. And we cannot and will not support higher taxes on families and small businesses we are counting on to create jobs.
“The solution for 'Big Government' is not more of the same," Frelinghuysen said in the statement.
Morristown resident Faith Teeple, Elissa Teeple's mother, said the nationally-televised speech given by President Obama Monday night motivated her to come to the rally. "We need compromise," she said. "Republicans don't seem to want to do that. But, compromise is how great things were achieved in our history."