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Twelve worried men

"Twelve worried men" Continued...

Issue: "The new urban frontier," March 9, 2013

Mulvaney also will go after the Republican sacred cow: military spending. In the last Congress he teamed up with liberal Democrat Rep. Barney Frank to offer a one-year freeze on defense spending. He got the Republican votes, Frank got the Democratic votes, and the measure passed.

Mulvaney appears to practice what he preaches when it comes to fiscal restraint. He sleeps in his congressional office on a foldout bed. The father of 13-year-old triplet girls, Mulvaney is saving up for three college tuition bills. He said he could not justify spending upwards of $25,000 a year to rent an apartment near the Capitol.

“My church is two blocks away, the gym is in the basement, and the Capitol is across the street. What more do you want?” asked Mulvaney. “You do wonder sometimes if a vote you made that they didn’t like leads to somebody doing maintenance outside your door at two in the morning.”

Paul Broun’s family business has long been politics. His father, Paul Sr., served 38 years as a senator in the Georgia General Assembly. But the elder Broun served as a Democrat, making the younger Broun an outlier in his own family when he decided to run for office in 1990 as a Republican.

After years of practicing medicine throughout rural Georgia, Broun felt called to run. The fact that he had a sense of calling would not have occurred to the Broun of 1986. Then a 40-year-old Broun was an atheist spending most of his nights on the couch of his medical office in Americus, Ga. He and his wife, Nikki, had been married for a short time but were already headed for a divorce. It would have been his fourth failed marriage.

On a Saturday morning he woke up on his office couch feeling like he had to find some way to change his situation. A Gideon Bible sat on a nearby table. Just a few Sundays before, while watching a football game on television, Broun had seen the camera scan a sign in the crowd that read “John 3:16.” Broun turned to that verse in the Bible, and, after reading its promise of salvation to those who believe in Christ, he asked himself, “Could this be true?”

He prayed out loud: “God, if You are real, show me by putting me on the right track.”

This summer Broun and Nikki will celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary. God changed both their lives. As a result, Broun says the Bible plays a central role in how he acts and votes as a congressman.

But the call he felt didn’t bear immediate fruit. He lost a race for a House seat in 1990. He lost again in 1992. And, in 1996, he came in fourth in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat, gaining just 3 percent of the vote.

But 11 years later, Broun entered a 2007 special House election and won a runoff by 394 votes against the state party leader’s pick.  When a local reporter asked how he pulled off the upset, Broun responded by saying, “I can only give credit to my Lord Jesus Christ because He did it all.”

Now 66, Broun has won reelection three times, facing no Democratic challenger in 2012. He recently entered the 2014 race for retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ Senate seat, but credits his early string of defeats for giving him the boldness to follow his convictions: “If I had been elected earlier, I would have been just another politician more concerned about how things look politically and whether this will foster or hinder my reelection. I had to get to the point where I am dedicated, win or lose, to stand for what’s right.”

That is why he did not hesitate to cast his speaker vote for former Rep. Allen West instead of Boehner. Broun said Congress had failed to address the root of the nation’s fiscal crisis. A former Marine, the Georgia lawmaker said Boehner was too nice in his negotiations with the White House: “The president is a bare-knuckled street fighter, and we need a bare-knuckled street fighter to go against him. It is time for Mr. Boehner to take the gloves off.”

Broun, who began doing house calls in 2002 (charging $100 per examination), introduces as his first bill in every congressional session the Sanctity of Human Life Act. It says life begins at fertilization. His openness about his religious beliefs has made him a frequent target for ridicule in the national press. In 2009, he introduced a resolution recognizing the role the Bible played in U.S. history by proclaiming 2010 the year of the Bible. Last fall the media mocked him for calling the big bang theory and Darwinism “lies straight from the pit of hell” during an address at a Baptist church in Hartwell, Ga.

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