United States House of Representatives member Chris Collins said he’s glad his first year in Congress is over, but he emphasized he’s optimistic about the future in Washington, D.C.
Collins, R-Clarence, represents the sprawling 27th District of New York, which includes all or parts of Livingston, Ontario, Niagara, Erie, Genesee, Orleans, Monroe and Wyoming counties.
He said 2013 in Washington was 12 months of bipartisan bickering.
“There’s was no agreement on anything,” he said.
That included popular legislation such as the Farm Bill, held up because of political infighting, Collins said Friday during a meeting with the editorial board of The Daily News.
This week’s accord on the federal budget signaled a change in the nation’s capital. All but three Democrats in the House voted in favor.
“We can finally agree on things,” Collins said.
One of the House’s first orders of business is to tackle a new Farm Bill. Work should start on that by the end of the month, he said.
Approval of the $1.1 trillion federal omnibus bill also halted Congress’ battles on short-term spending resolutions it had to pass to keep the federal government from shutting down.
The close-down threats were a constant concern since 2009, the last time Congress and President Obama adopted a federal budget.
Collins said Washington now returns to “regular order.”
The House Ways & Means Committee will conduct meetings for the first time in five years. The House will hopefully approve a Farm Bill for the first time in six years, he said.
Collins said the budget logjam broke this week when Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on how cost-cutting would occur under the so-called sequester accord attained in 2013.
“The Democrats finally realized the sequester was part of the negotiation,” he said.
The final pact includes discretionary spending of about $1.1 trillion, a decrease from 2009 when adjusted for inflation. Ninety-two percent of sequester spending cuts remained in the budget bill, Collins said.
“That’s a big win for fiscal conservatives,” Collins said.
The House member touched on themes and goals Friday that he also promoted during his 2012 campaign for the seat in Congress. He wants to reduce spending on entitlement programs such as Medicaid.
Republicans will also meet next week to work on a proposed alternative to the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care and insurance plan that’s come under heavy criticism. Complaints include the loss of insurance plans from 2013 and reduced options on choices of doctors and hospitals.
“It’s as awful as I predicted it would be. We’re saying Obamacare is the drag on the economy,” Collins said.
Collins hopes his peers in both houses of Congress will reform Social Security and Medicaid, both of which will be broke within an estimated 15 years.
“The sooner you fix it the less painful the medicine will be,” he said.
Obama is the person who should spearhead efforts to control federal spending on entitlement programs, which comprises two-third’s of the federal government’s $3.4 trillion budget, he said.
Collins predicted the president won’t make entitlement reform a priority in the remaining 24 months of his second term, in part because he hasn’t in the past.
“Right now I don’t see his support. He would like more (economic) stimulus,” which will increase federal debt, Collins said.