Nunnelee lands key committee role

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – In what’s hailed as a coup for north Mississippi, Congressman-elect Alan Nunnelee has been chosen to sit on the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee.
The Republican from Tupelo, who will take office in January, was one of three freshmen congressmen appointed Thursday to the committee usually reserved for more senior members of the House.
It’s rare for freshman to serve on prime committees, but Nunnelee follows in the footsteps of his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who also was chosen to serve on the same panel as an incoming representative in 1995.
Current U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., who will step down next month, serves on House Financial Services and Agriculture committees.
“It’s very good news to have someone on the Appropriations Committee,” said political expert Marty Wiseman, who is executive director of Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government.
“Tradition has had it – and that may change with the moratorium on earmarks – but any state that could get somebody on Appropriations had a leg up on doing things for the people who elected them,” Wiseman said. “It’s a feather in his cap. He must have made good political connections in a hurry.”
Nunnelee obtained the appointment with the backing of two powerful Republicans: incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Both men had campaigned for Nunnelee in October, making appearances in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District on his behalf. And both had said weeks ago they planned to place more freshmen on prime committees, especially given the large number of newly elected Republicans in the House.
In addition to Nunnelee, 10 other representatives got appointments to plum committees such as Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce.
“I appreciate the show of confidence from Leader Boehner, Congressman Cantor and the Republican Steering Committee,” Nunnelee said in a press release statement Friday. “In these tough economic times families are making difficult decisions and they have every right to expect the same from their government. We’ve made the tough choices in Jackson and now we need to do the same in Washington. It time to roll up our sleeves and find ways to stop the out of control spending in our nation’s capitol.”
Nunnelee had chaired the state Senate Appropriations Committee before stepping down to become a congressman. He defeated Childers in the Nov. 2 general election.
When he’s sworn in, Nunnelee will serve under newly appointed Appropriations chairman Rep. Harold Rogers, R.-Ky., whose been called the “Prince of Pork” for his record of earning big earmarks for his home state.
In a press release Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticized Rogers’ appointment as fiscally irresponsible and said Nunnelee “is now officially part of the problem, feeding at Roger’s trough.”
Wiseman, though, said earmarks aren’t necessarily a bad thing and compared Rogers’ district to that of north Mississippi.
“He has brought more meaningful job-creation projects to eastern Kentucky than anybody,” Wiseman said. “And I hope he’d be able to look wisely on any hard and fast moratorium on earmarks because we also have a long legacy … of bringing very, very helpful and meaningful projects back to the people of Mississippi.”
Mississippi currently ranks No. 2 in the nation for earmarks with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran currently placing first in securing them. Cochran is the senior-ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.