SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, stopped by the Senior Center Monday afternoon to meet residents and give her impressions of serving in Congress for the first 100 days.
"It has been very energetic, stressful, exhilarating, exciting, but frustrating (experience)," the freshman representative said to around 40 seniors seated at tables in the auditorium. "It is so different from serving in the state's legislature."
Rep. Coleman, who served as an assemblywoman in Trenton for 28 years, won election to Democrat Rep. Rush Holt's former seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, and was sworn into office in January.
She said that there is a "rhythm-lessness" in Washington that does not exist in state government.
"You can be called out of a committee meeting to vote (on an issue)," she said. "And then you have to come back to the committee and remember where you are in the proceedings before being called out again."
Aside from the flow of the process, Rep. Coleman said she was also surprised by the "persistency, consistency, tenacity and focus of the Republican majority to dismantle all the entitlement programs, all the safety nets."
She said the GOP's goal is to continue giving tax breaks to the richest one percent in the country and to ignore the working class and education.
Rep. Coleman said they also persist in "foolish discussions of privatizing and voucherizing" programs like Medicare and Social Security.
She said she serves on the homeland security and government oversight committees, although she was hoping to serve on education and labor committees.
"They are extremely important and wonderful assignments," she said. "It was not what I was seeking on the way down there or when I was lobbying to go down (to Washington)."
Rep. Coleman said this region of the country is important in homeland security because of the pharmaceutical businesses, the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab and other "intellectual properties."
Another danger, she said, is the radicalization of young people.
Rep. Coleman said it is disturbing that the young people joining terrorist groups like Isis, are that they are from all races, economic situations and backgrounds.
"We have (our) young people being radicalized on social media," she said. "That is a huge problem. We have to be vigilant of the time our young people spend on social media."
As a member of government oversight, Rep. Coleman said she and other members look at the efficiency of government agencies and functions.
She said the committee, at least on the House side, also does things it shouldn't like the recent reversal of a District of Columbia ordinance that prevented discrimination by employers based on religious beliefs.
That action, pushed through by the Republican majority of members, she said limits a woman's reproductive rights to abortion and invitro fertilization, among other items.
The Republicans say they believe in states' rights until it is something they don't agree with," she said. "Then they take the power away (from the states)."
She rebuked Republican inaction on immigration and defended President Barack Obama's use of executive orders to deal with the issue.
"The Republicans are hell bent on undoing all of it," Rep. Coleman said. "The Democrats are trying very hard to stick together as a caucus as these bills are being considered."