Photos by Tom Rivers – U.S. Rep. Chris Collins discusses legislation and the impact of Obamacare with residents during a “Coffee with Chris” event Saturday at The Village Inn.
GAINES – After six months in Congress, Chris Collins sees the role of conservative Republicans as playing defense in the nation’s capitol, trying to minimize the impact of what he said is a liberal agenda “in the nanny state,” a push to grow government programs and “hand-outs” at the expense of hard-working Americans.
“We’re trying to prevent additional laws like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank,” Collins said Saturday during a “Coffee with Chris” meeting at The Village Inn. The public event was attended by about 30 people, including many local elected officials.
Collins expects Obama will push hard to enact laws that would cut fossil fuels before his term is over. Climate change legislation would cripple the country’s economy, Collins said.
However, he said conservatives shouldn’t be extremists or obstructionists with every proposal. He is trying to take a pragmatic approach so Congress can pass much-needed legislation, including a Farm Bill that would offer a five-year plan for agriculture. The Farm Bill has been stymied over food stamps, which account for about $80 billion of the $100 billion Farm Bill.
Collins also favors immigration reform, but not the plan approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday. That would allow a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally. Collins said those people can have work permits if they are working in agriculture and other jobs that are difficult to fill with Americans.
But Collins wouldn’t give the people who are here illegally a pathway to citizenship, nor would they be eligible for any government benefits. However, he said he would support the possibility of citizenship for the children of people who came to the country illegally.
Collins said agriculture desperately needs access to foreign workers who can milk cows and harvest crops without the threat of deportation. Farmers can’t find enough Americans to do these jobs. Without legal workers from Mexico and other countries, the nation’s food supply and rural economy is very vulnerable, Collins said.
A group of many local elected officials turned out to hear Chris Collins discuss his first six months as congressman.
Orleans County Legislator Bill Eick, a former dairy farmer from Shelby, said local farmers have been traveling to Washington to lobby for immigration reform for 15 years. Farmers are starting to switch from labor-intensive crops to corn because of the lack of legal workers, Eick said.
“I hope you can get something done,” Eick told Collins about the immigration proposal.
Collins was harshly critical of Obama’s health care plan – “Obamacare is the worst law ever passed.” That legislation is starting to take effect and causing numerous problems, Collins said.
Healthy people are resisting the high-cost of health insurance, while businesses aren’t hiring or have cut hours to stay under thresholds for providing health insurance, he said. That has reduced job opportunities and take-home pay for residents.
“This law is beyond a wet blanket,” Collins said. “It’s destroying people’s lives.”
The congressman also blamed Albany politics for much of the New York state’s economic problems. The growing welfare state in New York has resulted in oppressive taxes, chasing away residents and businesses, he said.
“We are shrinking and shrinking every day, and dying,” he said about the state. “We should be a prosperous, growing area. We have great climate, a lot of water and an educated workforce. But Albany hurts us. Fix Alabany and you would see this state grow again.”