Rep. Collins: 'Status quo' has to change
BATAVIA — Two surprises have marked Chris Collins’ first four months in Congress.
The leadership has been open and helpful to new members, he said during a meeting Wednesday with The Daily News editorial board.
But on the negative side, Congress is fractured between a hard-left and hard-right which won’t compromise, and some bills have died in the process.
“Status quo is kind of the default, but now we need to take positive action,” said Collins, R-Lancaster. “But if that’s the default, how do we get there?”
Collins described his first four months as both crazy and good, with incoming lawmakers facing numerous and weighty issues.
They include the deficit, immigration, the budget, the economy, sequestration and gun control. But he criticized President Barack Obama, accusing him of a lack of leadership, while focusing on politics.
Collins has been appointed to the House of Representatives agriculture and small business committees. He’s subcommittee chair for health and technology on the latter.
He believes an immigration reform bill will be approved, given the importance the House, Senate and President Obama have all given to the issue. He’s also hopeful a new Farm Bill will gain approval.
“When it comes to immigration, we’ve got to have a legal path for our dairy workers and our crop workers,” Collins said. “And it’s not a guest worker program. These people are needed.”
It’s not easy as simply closing the borders, he said, adding that half of the nation’s illegal immigrants arrived legally, before their period of stay expired.
He said legislation will be presented this month under “regular orders,” a process which makes amendments easier to present and approve.
“I will insist our dairy farmers and our crop farmers must have a legal work force,” Collins said. “I think everyone pretty much agrees with that. From that point on, I’m open to whatever comes out of a ‘regular order’ conference, because we need to have something.”
But realities remain, including the fact Republicans are the minority party, having lost last year’s Presidential election, and controlling only the House of Representatives.
“We are not playing offense,” Collins said. “We are playing defense because we can’t get anything passed that the president doesn’t sign ... We pass bill after bill after bill, and (Democratic Majority Leader) Harry Reid and the Senate won’t even take them up.
“And if they did, time and again, the President says he’d veto it anyway. So the reality is for the next year-and-a-half, we’re absolutely playing defense. We’ll see what comes out in 2014, and certainly for the next three-plus years we’re playing defense, to try to avoid as much harm as we can.”
That may include high taxes, the deficit and Obamacare, Collins said, describing Republicans as “the last line of defense.”
He cited two years ago, when Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency, enacting Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act along the way.
If people like those things, they’ll hope Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House again, he said. If not, they’ll dread the prospect, if there’s no defense.
“That’s how we view our role now, in the House as Republicans — to pass commonsense legislation knowing some of it will never see the light of day in the Senate, but a message to the public of what we stand for,” Collins said.
He strongly advocated paying off the national debt and balancing the federal budget, citing concern for future generations.
In other matters, Collins took a similar stance on sequestration, accusing Obama of inflicting pain on citizens — such as ending White House tours and cutting Federal Aviation Administration staff— as a way to make the public angry at Republicans, and pressure them to undo the measure.
But Collins simultaneously cited the need for debt reduction, saying some short-term pain may be needed for a longer-term benefit.
He alleged Obama chose the sequester because he won’t deal with entitlement reform, while Social Security, Medicare and similar programs are running out of money. He also alleged Obama refuses to compromise meaningfully.
“We’re hoping the President will step forward in some leadership capacity, which he’s not done,” he said. “He’s chief politician, he’s not chief executive ... He’s never again running for election. This is time for him to lead and acknowledge our deficits are out of control, our debt is out of control, our entitlement programs are insolvent.”
Collins additinally noted the cybersecurity risks small businesses are facing. Most are unaware of the attacks — often stemming from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea — but they’re highly-vulnerable.
Sixty percent of small businesses experiencing a major data breach ultimately shut down from the resulting issues and expenses, he said.
Collins said he’s also a strong believer in the 10th Amendment, which reserves certain rights for the individual states.
Although he describes himself as a strong 2nd Amendment supporter, he acknowledged New York’s ability to decide gun control for itself, with people then voting on the lawmakers themselves two years later.