Collins: “The president is simply not doing his job”
MEDINA – After two months in Congress, Chris Collins said he sees first-hand the frustration and cynicism that reigns in the nation’s capitol. Collins is a member of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The Senate and the presidency are under Democratic Party control.
“We have a government that is designed for gridlock,” he told about 50 people Saturday during a 90-minute visit at the Shirt Factory Cafe in Medina.
Collins was most critical of President Obama for failing to put a budget on the table by a Feb. 4 deadline, and for spending too much time “politicking” and not enough time leading the country.
“This man is simply not doing his job,” said Collins, the former Erie County executive who was elected to represent an eight-county district in November. “He is the CEO of the country. What are his ideas for defense? What are his ideas for Social Security? What are his ideas to get us on a fiscal path for prosperity?”
The president warned in recent weeks and months about a March 1 deadline to avoid $85 billion in cuts. The president and Congress couldn’t reach a deal to avoid the “sequester” on Friday, and the cuts will hit the military particularly hard. However, Collins said the president’s grossly overstated the sequester’s impact.
“The president’s dire predictions that the sky was falling didn’t happen,” Collins told the Medina crowd, a group mostly of local Republican elected officials. “You have to be careful. If you become known as Chicken Little, people aren’t going to believe much of anything you say.”
Collins said $85 billion in cuts is a small percentage of the federal budget, about 2.4 percent of the $3.6 trillion total. He favors spending reductions, but he supports giving the president more authority to determine which agencies will be cut. Collins co-sponsored a bill in the House last week, seeking to give the president flexibility in making spending cuts.
Collins said the sequester will hit the wrong government personnel, and he blames Obama for the plan, “the nuclear option” that was intended to force a compromise.
“Only this president will try to inflict pain on the public to drive a point,” Collins said about cuts that will hit the military, airport security and meat inspectors. “If you’re really serving the public you’ll lay off the two bureaucrats in the back room that are really doing nonsense work.”
Collins touched on several topics during his talk in Medina.
Rather than adopt a new federal budget, Congress and the president have been relying on “continuing resolutions” to keep the federal government funded. The CRs maintain the status quo, and Collins said they prevent the elimination of underperforming programs and the ability to better fund good ones.The president didn’t present a budget in February. The Senate hasn’t approved a budget in four years. The House Republicans will work on their plan, but Collins said the president, as the country’s CEO, should have gone first, with House and Senate then following with their plans, building off Obama’s ideas.
“Do you know by Feb. 4 he is required by law to submit his budget to the United States?” Collins asked the Medina group. “And again he didn’t do it. He deliberately didn’t do his job as the president of the United States. Do you know why? He doesn’t have a good budget to put forward! He is too busy playing golf with Tiger Woods.”
Collins expects this week that Congress to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government until September, when the new federal fiscal year begins. He is hopeful Congress and the president can agree on a budget for the next fiscal year.
“Let’s see if we can get a budget or else we’re stuck in this never-never land of continuing resolutions,” he said. “It’s just no way to run a country.”
Collins was elected to Congress following a 40-year career in private industry that made him a multi-millionaire.
Collins said he is pleased to have been picked for two committees that are important to the 27th District – Agriculture and Small Business. He is chairman of the Small Business subcommittee on health and technology. He will lead a hearing this week on cybersecurity.
“The Chinese are deliberately trying to attack us through our computers, to wreak all kinds of havoc and steal information,” he said.
He also plans to lead hearings on the impact of the Obama health care law on small businesses. This January, companies will be hit with $2,000 penalties for each full-time worker without health insurance. That law will force many companies to reduce their workers’ hours so they are technically classified as part-time, Collins predicted.
He wants to amend the health care law, so people can work up to 36 hours, instead of 30, before they are deemed full-time. That would allow companies, especially fast food restaurants and other franchises, to offer more hours for employees in “starter jobs,” Collins said. Those employees typically are just looking for hours and experience, not health insurance coverage, he said.
The congressman said he is forming an agriculture advisory committee. He said farmers want to see the Farm Bill approved for a full five years, rather than the one-year extension it was given until September.
As a Republican in the majority, he said he has much more influence than a House Democrat.
“If you’re in the majority, you’re in the room where they are making decisions,” he said.
“If you’re in the minority, you’re on the outside looking into the window. You can tap on the window, and they may listen to you, or they might not.”
Collins referred to many federal regulations and taxes as “nonsense.” He cited a new 2.3 percent tax on gross revenue for medical devices. The tax should be on profits, not revenues, he said. Many companies are doing well if they operate at a 5 percent profit rate on their revenue. The medical device tax will make many companies unprofitable or cut their ability to reinvest and grow the company, he said.
The tax would hit companies that provide and clean pillow cases for hospitals, he said.
Obama’s re-election assures that the device tax and Obamacare won’t go away, Collins said. So, he said he is working to minimize the damage. For the medical device tax, he wants to propose it be limited to no more than 10 percent of a company’s profits.
He wants to increase the cap on small business size, from 50 to 100 employees, that would be exempt from some of Obamacare’s requirements.
“We’re playing defense,” Collins said. “We’re going to protect the Constitution. We’re going to stand up for small business.”
President Obama’s proposal for gun control “is going nowhere,” Collins said.
Democrats in the Senate are up for election this year and don’t want to alienate voters.
“They are in states where the Second Amendment is alive and well,” he said. “There is no way in the world if those guys who want to be re-elected will support more restrictive gun laws.”
Collins doesn’t support Obama’s proposal. He also is against New York’s state gun law passed in January.
“You can not legislate morality,” Collins said. “If you could we wouldn’t have robberies and murders. This president just wants to take the guns off the street. It’s one of his agenda items.”
Collins called a bi-partisan push towards immigration reform “a bright spot.” Both parties want to make it easier for agriculture and other industries to have easier access to legal foreign workers, and to address the 11 million people in the country already here illegally. Many of the undocumented workers have proven to be hard-working and contributors to the country, Collins said. He wants a way for them to stay, to have a permanent residency and establish steps to work towards citizenship.
If the undocumented residents haven’t been working and if they committed violent crimes, Collins said they will be out of the country.
“There are 11 million here, and many of them are children who were brought here,” Collin said about the illegal immigrants. “We’re the only country they have known. We are a compassionate country.”
Republicans and Democrats both favor more border security “so we don’t have 12 million or 14 million (undocumented),” Collins said.
Local farmers have pushed for more than a decade for immigration reform or a better guest-worker program to bring in workers to milk cows, plant crops and harvest fruits and vegetables. In Orleans County, agriculture tops more than $100 million annually in revenues.
“There is a broad consensus that we have to deal with immigration reform,” Collins said. “We have to provide the workers we need in agriculture and other industries. We have to secure our borders. Because all of these dots are being connected, I’ve got more optimism than not that we’ll get something done. My fight is for the farmers to make sure we get them access to legal workers.”
Roger Hungerford, former president and CEO of Sigma in Medina, told Collins that Congress should welcome foreign students who earn graduate degrees at U.S. universities. Many of those students are trained in the U.S., and then pushed out of the country, taking their talents back home, Hungerford said.
No new taxes
Collins said he will be a strident voice to reduce government spending, cut the national debt and ease taxes on Americans.
“When the president says he wants more taxes, he is taking that money out of the economy to go to Washington to be wasted by bureaucrats,” Collins said. “How does that help grow the economy? How does that incentivize small business owners to create jobs? All of a sudden you’re not going to take the risk, you’re not going to create the jobs.”