Collins Takes Office, Says He Would Have Voted Against "Cliff" Deal

11:14 AM, Jan 4, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - You can now call him Congressman Collins.

Chris Collins was one of 84 new House members sworn in on Thursday, and Collins is joining a Republican party that is badly divided in the House.

Collins took his first official action as a new member of Congress on Thursday when he voted to re-elect Rep. John Boehner of Ohio as House speaker.

The last minute vote Tuesday night to avert the "fiscal cliff," and keep the Bush tax cuts in place for nearly all Americans, was supported by Speaker John Boehner, but about two thirds of Republicans in the House deserted Boehner by voting against the deal.

Collins speaking to 2 On Your Side for the first time about the plan, says he too would have voted against it.

Congressman Chris Collins: "It did not deal with spending, and in fact it increased our deficit by extending unemployment benefits for 99 weeks, keeping that, and there was no money and no cuts to pay for that."

Looming now for congress is a vote to increase the amount of money the government can borrow.

President Obama has drawn a line in the sand by saying he won't negotiate over that.

But a number of Republicans say they'll only vote for an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for spending cuts.

Collins says he'll join them in holding out for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Congressman Collins: "We have to make sure we have reasonable changes that don't impact anyone over 55, people who are counting on Social Security and Medicare, but we have to make sure they're solvent for younger Americans, which means some level of changes."

Scott Brown: "It seems like you're staking out a fairly conservative position that is not in step with even some members of the Republican conference?"

Congressman Collins: "There's no doubt that there are members of this conference that are more liberal than me, and there are those that are perhaps even more conservative than I am. I'm very comfortable living up to my campaign promises relative to spending and deficits."

In terms of Collins' personal focus, he says as a member of the Agricultural Committee, it will be to get a farm bill passed.

Congressman Collins: "My focus absolutely this next year is going to be crafting a farm bill that represents the interests of the dairy farmers and crop farmers in the 27th congressional district."

Collins said Boehner's decision earlier this week to delay a crucial vote on aid for Hurricane Sandy victims didn't make him hesitate about voting to re-elect Boehner as speaker. Collins noted that that an agreement has been worked out to provide the full funding by Jan. 15.

"I think it was just a sign of all the turmoil surrounding the 'fiscal cliff' vote, which is why it got delayed,'' he said.

Collins said he is "absolutely going to support'' the Sandy aid, starting with a vote Friday to provide $9.7 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program to pay claims related to the storm.

One of Collins first major votes could be on a gun control measure that will come from the White House in the wake of the massacre of 26 people in Connecticut. Closer to home, of course there was the murder of the two firefighters in Webster, near Rochester.

Scott Brown: "Can you see voting for a gun control law under any circumstance?"

Congressman Collins: "I will look to the data to see whether a particular law, worded in a certain way contains compelling data to say that this will make a difference going forward and of course I would support something like that. But if there's no data to support it, I can't see just putting another law on the books."

Collins said he supports the Second Amendment but will await the recommendations of a presidential committee on gun violence. He said he would consider supporting legislation that was backed up by data showing it would reduce gun violence.






Collins represents the 27th District, which was redrawn after the number of New York House seats fell from 29 to 27. The new district covers a widely rural area between the Rochester and Buffalo suburbs.

Collins, a 62-year-old businessman and former Erie County executive, sat comfortably in the last row of seats on the Republican side of the House chamber on Thursday for the initial work of electing a speaker. He was among 220 Republicans who voted to re-elect Boehner.

Collins said he has high regard for the Ohio Republican.

"John Boehner has the core values of a smaller government, personal accountability, a country that lives within their means just like American families have to,'' Collins said. "He is the right person to lead this chamber as we have to deal with the deficits, the debt and balancing our budget.''



Additional Reporting from Brian Tumulty - Gannett Washington Bureau 

















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