Freshman Rep. Neal Dunn, 64, a Florida Republican, talks about getting “ambushed” to run for office, putting taxes before health care and what some freshmen bring to the class.
Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?
A: Honestly, before I got here, you’d think it was very partisan up here. I think working on the floor with colleagues from both parties, it’s much less partisan in Congress than it is in the coverage. More than two-thirds of all the bills we pass actually have bipartisan sponsors.
Q: Your father worked for Spiro T. Agnew and Gerald R. Ford when they were vice presidents. Did that make you want to get into politics? If not, how did you get into it?
A: No, not at all. I wasn’t against it. I was in medical school [at the time], and I obviously was on a very different path.
I was ambushed by the speaker of the House back in Florida, the Florida speaker, just about two years ago. He approached my wife and I. We had never given it a thought until he mentioned it.
Q: If you could have any other job besides this and your previous jobs, what would it be?
A: I think I’ve had so many jobs. I don’t want to run for the job, but we could use a good senator right now.
Q: What’s something about you that your colleagues may not know?
A: The thing that tends to surprise people the most is I have an identical twin brother who lives here in Washington, ironically. He’s been here for many years. He’s a creature of the swamp. I’m just up here trying to drain it. He’s a trade attorney. He was formerly assistant secretary of Commerce under 41 [President George H.W. Bush].
Q: Before 2017 is over, if you could see one policy change, what would it be?
A: Tax reform, and that’s almost heresy coming from a doctor because everybody thinks I should say health care. Health care right behind tax reform. The economy is in desperate need of growth, and you can’t get rid of the debt and the deficits … until you do tax reform. The math is compelling.
Last book read: “Life in the Marble Palace,” by Cliff Stearns.
Last movie seen: “Hidden Figures.” I went to see that with [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy, actually.
Favorite song of all time: “The Minstrel Boy.” My father used to sing that to my brother and I. It’s an old Irish ballad.
Role model: I’ve had different role models at different careers. This new job, there’s a couple great leaders back in Florida that I cherish as mentors but also role models. One of them was the speaker of the House, the guy who recruited me. The other was Senate President Donald Gaetz, the father of [Rep.] Matt Gaetz.
Closest to in Congress: Sheriff [John] Rutherford, [and] over in Texas is Jodey C. Arrington. He’s kind of got the whole package. My wife thinks he’s going to be president some day. She tells him all the time. The most gregarious guy in the class is Drew Ferguson. The one member who lends the most class to the freshmen is Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman.