Squires & Stags breakfast emcee David Howe with Georgia Ninth District Representative Doug Collins of Gainesville Georgia.
Representative Doug Collins provides legislative update at Squires & Stags breakfast
BY WAYNE TIDWELL. PHOTOS BY WAYNE TIDWELL.
Fresh from the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing watched by millions of TV viewers, Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District Representative Doug Collins spoke to a full house at the August 2 Squires & Stags breakfast at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti.
Collins exhibited his pulpit experience as a Baptist minister and U.S. Air Force Chaplin as he covered a range of topics and answered questions from the crowd.
He started by saying that the past few months have been frustrating in a lot of ways, including unfulfilled expectations by both parties and that not much is getting done.
“It is also very understandable when you think about the fact that in the last 24 years, the Democratic Party in the House has been in power for only four years and seven months,” Collins explained. “In January they switched from minority to majority in the House. They are saying we have had all of this time of not doing things that we wanted to do. That’s natural. They are saying we want to put our legislation up and talk about things that we want to vote on, and that’s fine if it would actually work but they are not because they are not bipartisan and that’s the key element.
“And the other part is of course is the investigations going on the past two years with the president that started in November of 2017.”
He told the group that he wanted to spend his time in Washington doing things that affect everyday lives of people in the Ninth Congressional District and throughout the country.
“At the end of the day, most people just get up in the morning, they want to go to work, they want to have a job, they want to have a chance of advancement, take care of the kids and the grandkids. They frankly don’t care what’s going on in the proverbial swamp in Washington as long as it doesn’t bother them. And I think that is a very valid statement for 90 percent of America. Now you have 10 percent of America that wants to—like they did yesterday—protest at everything that I went to. You can protest me any time you want to. I don’t mind it.”
But he told the group that if they think things are contentious today, he recommended they read a book about 1776 and our founding fathers.
“When you read about it you can understand that our country was started on ideas and you bring your ideas to the marketplace and the best idea wins. If I can convince you then the law is passed. What is frustrating is that we don’t have honest debate any more. We have discussions at each other.
“Here is what has become the concern that I have: It is that if you have an idea that is different from mine then I am evil and your idea is good. That’s wrong. We have good ideas and bad ideas. Do we have bad results and good results? Yes, but we can debate those things without becoming to the point where everything in our public discourse is about good and evil.”
Collins cited the “First Step Act”, a justice reform bill that he and Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. congressman for the Eighth District of New York, jointly introduced as an example of bipartisanship action.
“Hakeem and I probably couldn’t agree on the fact that [Lake Sconti] was a lake or a pond,” Collins said, pointing toward the lake. “On most issues we just don’t agree—except on some issues that we do. As Hakeem likes to say, I am a conservative from Georgia and he is from the republic of Brooklyn. But at the end of the day we brought together a bipartisan issue and right now people are being released who need to get back into the communities for jobs and putting families back together. The president took it on and now it is actually happening. As I told the president when he signed the bill, sometime when you are signing a bill it is just words on paper, but I want to tell you that there are actually faces behind these lines.”
Other legislation that Collins said he was proud of included the rewriting of the copyright act that protects creators of music and art.
“It’s about bigger things,” Collins said. “It’s about saying what can we get done. That means I am not going to compromise who I am. You know me and know that I am not going to compromise my conservative values and who I am. But I am also not going to be in a position where I can’t find good ideas and make them right and move forward.”
He expressed concern over what has been happening over the past several months. He mentioned that the past Thursday he “blew up” when, after the Mueller hearing there was another hearing in the judiciary committee about immigration and the problem on the border.
“I didn’t need six hearings in six months to tell me how bad it is at our southern border,” Collins said. “I’ve been there. Are there things we could do better? Yes! But simply talking about it and yelling at border officials is not the way you get stuff done. So, I’ve had it. I said ‘what is dehumanizing is doing this: Telling the American people you are doing something and you are not.’
The problem we have gotten into is that we would rather make political points in press releases because we didn’t like the results of the past election and that is just a plain honest assessment.”
Collins concluded that nothing was learned from the recent Mueller hearing.
“Do we have serious problems? Yes,” Collins said. “Do we need answers? Yes. Do I like the tone of our civil discourse right now? No. It’s time we move fast forward. But it is also time to put an end to continually going down the same road every time.”
He said he hoped that the Mueller investigation would slow so that the committee could do its normal oversight, not going after the president.
Collins thanked the crowd for coming out and being attentive to what’s going on at the national level.
“There is some good news,” Collins assured the crowd. “Unemployment is 3.7 percent, the lowest it’s been in most of the recollection of time. We have the lowest unemployment rate among minority groups.”
He assured the group that he would keep fighting to pass good legislation.
“I will not let a majority run over the rights of a minority and if you don’t believe that, just keep watching TV.”
From the audience came the question of why congress would pass “trillion-dollar deficits” with any reasonable hope that it would be paid back, noting that Collins voted for the bill.
Collins said the issue of discretionary spending was that cuts made two years ago in military spending were put back in the bill and now our military has sufficient funding.
“Two years ago, 50 percent of our F-18s on carriers could not fly because of budget cuts,” Collins said.
He also cited other key riders in the bill that would protect pro life, being able to move money for the wall, funding for the military, etc.
“But your point is and I think the biggest point is that we must deal with mandatory spending and talk about the 83 percent of our budget we don’t even budget.”
In his answer to a question about treatment of veterans, Collins said the VA needs better management not more money.
“We just passed a bill that allows them to actually fire people that needed to be fired,” Collins said.
He said unlike past times, military personnel are being deployed eight, nine, and 10 times, and divorce rates are at 80 percent.
Collins also responded to concerns about the cost of drugs and healthcare. He said that three pharmacy benefits managers control 80 percent of the market and that there are savings that could be obtained.
About immigration and the guest worker program, Collins said the bigger immigration issue is we can’t keep folks for over 20 days because it is a family issue.
“Do not believe any story you hear (to the contrary) but separation of kids happens when the parent is unfit, has a disease, criminal record or there is fraud,” Collins said. “That is the only reason a child is taken from an adult that they are with. This has happened under every administration for the past 20 years.”
Collins pointed out several issues that contribute to the immigration crisis. He said that there are 3,000 fraudulent cases per day of adults bringing kids across the border. He also said that only immigrants from Mexico and Canada could be sent back to their country. Asylum laws are another issue.
“Ninety percent of asylum claims of credible fear are rejected when they come back to court,” Collins said.
On making peace with the Taliban and pulling our troops from Afghanistan, Collins said we should have a balanced pullback while maintaining a negotiating stance with the Taliban.
Collins said the Republicans have had an answer to the healthcare issues.
“Medicare for all means Medicare is dead,” Collins said. “We need more choice and competition in the marketplace. The reason we lost the election is the lie perpetrated that Republicans would take away pre-existing conditions. I think the plan we had was good but it was stopped.”
“For a trooper’s kid from North Georgia who gets to walk into one of the prettiest buildings in the world and help make public policy, I am telling you that this is the greatest country in the world,” Collins said at closing. We have got to start raising our gaze. Instead of making everyone evil who doesn’t think like we are, we have a chance to make something great. Thank you.”
Squires & Stags meets on the first Friday of the month in the Mountains Grille at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti. Coffee is ready at 7:45 a.m. followed by a buffet breakfast served at 8:00 a.m. Big Canoe residents and guests are invited to attend the meeting. The price of breakfast is $13 payable on your POA account or by cash at the door. Reservations are required and must be received by Noon on Thursday before the Friday morning meeting. You may call (706) 268-3346 to make reservations.
Representative Collins spoke to a packed house at The Clubhouse at Lake Sconti.