New Year’s Day means different things to different people. It’s a time to make resolutions, nurse a hangover or watch football.
But for politicians in New Jersey, the first day of the year is a time to head to as many municipal reorganization meetings as you can. Yep, it’s all part of the drill.
So this New Year’s Day found Rep. Frank Pallone, the most senior Democrat from New Jersey in the House, dropping into Metuchen Borough Hall to deliver the oath of office to Mayor Jonathan Busch. Pallone performed the role well, but you had to figure his mind was elsewhere – like on Thursday’s Congressional reorganization when Democrats take control of the House.
I also happened to be in Metuchen – a place they call the “brainy borough” – that day, so I asked Pallone about Thursday’s events. Quickly, he spoke of three priorities for the now-Democratic House. They are protect the ACA, make progress combatting climate change and restore net neutrality.
Let’s take them one by one.
Pallone and the Dems appear to be on solid ground in standing up for the Affordable Care Act. After its rough start and repeated attacks by Republicans, the ACA is now popular with the public, according to most polls, especially the provision that bars insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans who ran on repealing the ACA – think Jay Webber – didn’t fare too well. Of course, there probably isn’t much the Dems can do to fix what needs fixing given the Republicans’ stubbornness here, but they can at least stop the administration from further attempts to chip away at the law. Keep in mind that a recent ruling by a federal judge declaring the ACA unconstitutional will be tied up for a year or so during the appeal process.
As for climate change, here is where things get interesting.
Pallone, who will lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee as of Thursday, has strong environmental credentials. But maybe not strong enough. So far, he has been reticent to embrace the more active and left-wing environmental goals being advocated by those looking for a new “green deal.” It’s not as if Pallone quibbles with the goals; he seems to be worried about making it work politically. Clearly, this is going to be fun to watch.
Now we come to net neutrality. That does seem like an odd goal. After all, who ever got into a fistfight arguing in a bar about net neutrality?
Pallone, of course, is kind of a wonk, so this third goal of his probably is not all that surprising. In simple terms, net neutrality treats Internet service providers like any other utility and prohibits them from discriminating against content providers. The Trump administration has done away with this rule, but even some Republicans have second thoughts about it.
Of course, regardless of Pallone’s goals, obstacles remain.
Will House Democrats do what politicians in control are wont to do? Fight among themselves.
And then there is the GOP Senate and the president to deal with.
Pallone, not surprisingly, says he thinks Democrats will be wise enough to realize they do have to work with Republicans.
Dealing with Senate Republicans is one thing; dealing with the president is quite another.
And the fun begins Thursday at noon.