By Ramsey Cox - 05/02/11 07:33 PM EDT
Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.) made the decision to run for the House the day after he found out he was going to become a grandfather.
Before then, Nunnelee felt content with his life. His three children had grown and left the house, he and his wife were able to spend more time together, his business was successful and he was enjoying his part-time job as chairman of the Mississippi Senate Appropriations Committee. He had no intention of running for Congress.
But when his oldest son sat him down in March 2009 and told him he was going to be a grandfather for the first time, the next day Nunnelee started questioning his decision not to run.
“I began to argue with myself about why I did not want to run for Congress, and all of my reasons sounded relatively selfish when I compared them to the one overriding reason that I would get into the race,” Nunnelee said. “And that is to pass on to my grandchildren the freedom and opportunity that I think I have inherited from those who came before me; so that little boy was born in November, and that’s why I am here.”
While serving as state Senate Appropriations Committee chairman his last three years, Nunnelee worked to balance the state’s budget during one of the most difficult times since the Great Depression.
After moving to Congress, he became one of four GOP freshmen to win spots on the House Appropriations Committee. He said he plans to do the same thing he did in Mississippi: balance the budget by cutting spending.
Nunnelee’s subcommittee appointments include Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
But he said he will not be using those posts to pursue special projects for his district as so many Mississippians have done before him.
“I think we have to redefine success for a congressman – not just from Mississippi but from all over – and we have to define success as looking at the big picture first,” Nunnelee said. “And the big picture dictates that we do not drive the United States of America into bankruptcy and we don’t pass this problem on to future generations.”
“We do what our grandparents did and their grandparents before them, and that is confront the issues of the day and solve them ourselves.”
Nunnelee voted for both the fiscal 2011 continuing resolution and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget. “Overall, I think that Chairman Ryan has given us a very good glide path to reach a balanced budget,” Nunnelee said.
The Republican campaigned on bringing Mississippi values to Washington. He said he believes he has made progress.
“I think we’ve been successful, starting with the very first vote when I stood up and said the name ‘John Boehner’ on the floor of the House of Representatives,” Nunnelee said of his vote for Speaker. “I think that is much more reflective of the values of Mississippi than a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
Mississippi’s 1st congressional district is located in the northeastern part of the state. When Nunnelee was a state senator, his district included Lee and Pontotoc counties.
During his first year in office, 1995, the ACLU sued Pontotoc County schools for teaching religious classes. This upset Nunnelee, a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Calvary Baptist Church.
In 2001, Nunnelee led a push to pass legislation that put the national motto, “In God we trust,” on the wall of every classroom.
“I honestly believe that as long as we have godly men and women teaching and in administrative positions in the school, that the ACLU will never drive the name of God from the schools,” Nunnelee said.
He is even more proud that taxpayers didn’t have to pay for the posters.
“I’m proud we got the legislation passed and then different civic clubs, churches, community groups adopted various schools,” Nunnelee said. “So there was not $1 of taxpayer dollars spent, and we put the national motto on the wall of every schoolhouse and every classroom in the state of Mississippi.”