Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi On Whether Budget Cutting Is Happening Fast Enough With The Appropriators
HH: I begin today with one of the famous freshmen who helped storm the House of Representatives in November. Alan Nunnelee is from the first district of the great state of Mississippi. Congressman Nunnelee, welcome to the program.
AN: Well, good afternoon. Thank you, privileged to be with you.
HH: It’s great to talk to you. You’re the third member of the committee on Appropriations I’ve spoken to in five days – Jack Kingston and Denny Rehberg being the other two. But you’re the first freshman. How do you like being on Approps, which is all of a sudden at the center of a criticism storm over what’s been going on?
AN: Well, we have renamed the committee the committee on Disappropriations, because our job is to go in and cut spending.
HH: Do you think you’ve done a very good job of that thus far?
AN: Well, we really have not put forth any legislation. We’re in the process of having hearings on the, to put together the 2012 budget, and we’ll be crafting bills to reflect that over the next few months.
HH: Now your colleague, Jack Kingston, said on the program last week, Congressman Nunnelee, that right now, I’m quoting, “Right now, frankly, in my opinion, we’re not cutting anything serious. It’s earmark money, it’s duplication money. I mean, it’s stuff that, you know, $10 billion dollars, $10 billion dollars.” When does it get serious?
AN: Well, I think you’re going to see us get very serious as we begin to put together the 2012 budget. You know, we had a serious problem dumped in our laps, and it is a problem that is the result of the Democrats’ failure to adopt a budget for FY 2011. And so for the first time in modern U.S. history, we’re just operating week to week, trying to get, to find a way to get through this fiscal year.
HH: But did you campaign, Congressman, and I don’t mean to put you on the spot, I don’t want to make you the fall guy here. But I had a lot of people campaigning on this radio show, a lot of your colleagues in the freshmen class. No one ever campaigned on cutting spending in 2012. They campaigned on cutting spending right now. And you guys have it in your ability not to pass a budget unless the Democrats go along with $60 billion dollars worth of cuts or more.
AN: Yeah, you’re right. We did campaign on cutting spending, and I think we need to be about doing that.
HH: Will you vote for another continuing resolution that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood?
AN: I’ve got a serious problem with moving forward. Going two weeks, three weeks at a time is not way to run a company, and it’s certainly no way to run a country.
HH: But does that extend to refusing to vote for anything that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood?
AN: I’m interested in moving forward, and I like the continuing resolution we passed, H.R. 1, that funded the government for seven months with significant cuts. It also defunded Planned Parenthood, which I strongly support, and I like that, and that’s what I’m interested in going forward with.
HH: But if they come back to you, and the House leadership says we can’t get that, Alan Nunnelee, we can’t get Corporation for Public Broadcasting, swallow hard and vote for this continuing resolution, would you go along with leadership at that point?
AN: Well again, I can’t commit to something until I know exactly what’s in it. I’ve got to look at the entire package. But I am very much opposed to the continuation of funding Planned Parenthood and Public Broadcasting.
HH: In terms of the subcommittees on Appropriations that you’ve got, you’ve got Agriculture, Rural Development and FDA, thank God we’ve got a conservative on FDA, you’ve got Energy and Water Development, Military Construction. Is that the Army Corps of Engineers?
AN: That’s correct.
HH: Boy, am I glad we’ve got a serious conservative on the Army Corps of Engineers. Have you held any hearings on them yet?
AN: Yes. I don’t think we’ve had the Corps come up before us, but we have had FDA, as you mentioned, and Rural Development.
HH: You know, one of my hats is as a regulatory lawyer when I’m not on the radio. I was on the phone this morning with the Army Corps of Engineers, and they’re not issuing permits, Congressman. They’re pulling permits back in the middle of a recession. What do you think about that?
AN: We’re seeing that that is a serious problem throughout the government, that the bureaucracy is slowing down development, when it’s, as you mentioned, the Corps of Engineers, whether it’s the EPA, whether it’s the Department of Interior issuing permits for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, throughout the government, we’re seeing a serious problem in over-regulation, and slowing down the economy.
HH: And so what is the economy in Mississippi like right now?
AN: We are seeing slight signs that the economy may be wakening up. And to be honest, personally, I think it’s because we have given some businesses the assurance when we took office in early January that the Congress is going to quit acting stupid and passing programs such as the Obamacare program. But we’ve still got a long way to go, and $4 dollar a gallon gasoline is going to be a significant strain on that reawakening of the economy.
HH: $4.18 in California, Congressman.
AN: And this is the result of decades of inaction on behalf of our government. We need to be drilling, we need to be extracting natural gas, we need to be getting coal. We need to move forward on nuclear. But…
HH: Well, given all those priorities, and I agree 100% with that, what about going to the mat with the Democrats right now? The government has to be funded, you guys have a veto on funding it. Why not help your leadership stiffen up the spine and go into the battle?
AN: Well, we may very well have to do that. You know, it’s very frustrating. The Senate has not acted on anything of its own volition. We passed the largest spending cut in the history of the United States, and the Senate won’t pass that plan, they haven’t passed their own plan, and it’s hard to negotiate with silence.
HH: But that takes me, you’re a businessman. You’ve probably got more business experience than half of the Congressmen up there at least. You know, if you tell them what your position is, your last position is going in, you’re not going to get that. And already, it seems like your chairman and other Republicans have announced there’s no way the government’s going to shut down. How can you win an argument when they know you’re bluffing?
AN: Well, I don’t get the sense that they’ve made that announcement. What I have sensed from leadership is we’re not working toward a shutdown, and that’s not our goal. But I’ve not heard that ruled off the table at all.
HH: Would you, if it came to that, and they wanted to come to you with kind of a watered-down, let’s punt until 2012, what would the reaction of Alan Nunnelee be?
AN: Well, I’m not interested in promoting an extension of the status quo.
HH: And so does that mean going public and going hard? Did you vote for the last C.R., Congressman? I’m not sure.
AN: Leadership asked for an additional three weeks to continue to work with the Senate. And I felt that three weeks was reasonable, since we’ve only been in office for about ten weeks. So I felt it was reasonable to give them another three weeks. But I don’t have a lot of patience going forward.
HH: Oh, I’m so glad to hear that. And what do the people in Mississippi tell you when you go back to the district?
AN: They want us to cut spending, but they’re also fearful of a government shutdown, because nobody knows what it means. And so what I’m hearing from the people of Mississippi is that they want us to cut spending, but they really aren’t excited about a government shutdown.
HH: Have you taken the time to explain to them it really wouldn’t mean Social Security and Medicare, and all those sorts of things? It would just mean some of these agencies that don’t do much anyway?
AN: Well, at this point, I don’t know that anybody can fully define exactly what it does mean. There’s a lot of speculation, and a lot of different points on the spectrum. But a lot of it’s going to be under the control of the President, and I’m not sure how political he wants to make it.
HH: Have you had a chance to have a town hall yet with your constituents since you’ve been back?
AN: Yes, I have.
HH: How did that go?
AN: It went very well. I had a great response to what we’re doing. I think people are committed, they want us to cut spending. And I had several people that showed up that didn’t like the spending cuts. We heard them out, but I think by and large, people are very supportive of what we’re doing.
HH: It is the one year anniversary of Obamacare. Part of H.R. 1 defunds additional regulation writing out of HHS. Is that one of the must-haves for Alan Nunnelee in the last continuing resolution that’s coming up?
AN: Yes. I want to get Obamacare off the books, any and every way that we can. Whether it is the outright repeal that we passed the first week of the session, the piecemeal repeal that the Senate initiated when they started the 1099 repeal, the defunding, I’m in favor of getting it off the books anyway we can.
HH: Now the last couple of C.R.’s, we’ve got about a minute and a half left, Congressman, they have done more deficit spending, haven’t they? I mean, we don’t have the kind of money you guys have been spending.
AN: No, that’s exactly right.
HH: So what do you think about that? Did we get elected to just continue deficit spending?
AN: Well, we could shut down all discretionary, domestic discretionary spending, and we’re still going to be borrowing money.
HH: But doesn’t that mean we’ve got to start somewhere?
AN: We do have to start somewhere, and I think that’s what we’ve started to do. Now we haven’t done nearly enough, but I think we’re off to a very good start.
HH: Congressman Nunnelee, I’ll talk to you after the next C.R. I’m glad to count you among the coalition of the unwilling to go further into debt, and congratulations on that. Nice to make your acquaintance, many long years of service in Mississippi ahead, I hope.
AN: Thank you.
HH: Thank you, Congressman Alan Nunnelee, another of the Appropriators. I’m going to put them all on, America. I’ve got a list of 29, and I’ve asked my booking producer to please put them all on.
End of interview.