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The fiscal cliff and an an awkward vote for speaker of the House meant a rocky start to 2013 for House Republicans, but Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., says what will define the GOP in the days to come is firm resolve to address spending, debt and entitlements in a meaningful way.
Collins is a former pastor and military chaplain who represents a newly created district in the Peach State. He told WND many Republicans weren't happy with the final fiscal cliff deal, but the real obstacle to progress is President Obama.
"When you have a president who says spending is not the issue and is very content to continue to add to our deficit, it really is such a disconnect and really an arrogancy about this administration and Senate Democrats," Collins said. "From our perspective, there's a unity of going forward saying it's time to address spending. The (fiscal cliff) plan that was passed was something that was not very good to many of us. That's past us now. Now we've got to really concentrate on what's really causing problems and that's our spending."
In meeting with fellow freshmen and some veteran GOP lawmakers, Collins said the resolve for the House majority to stand its ground is palpable.
"We are elected representatives. The House of Representatives represents one-third of this triangle between us and the Senate and the president. We were elected just like they were, and it's time for us to stand on the principles that got us there. I think there's a resolve this time, especially after what's been going on over the past month," Collins said. "Let's put together a positive outlook forward, and that means that we put forward what we believe is best for this country. It's reforming our Medicare and Medicaid programs, looking forward to sustainability to Social Security. These were promises made to the American people, but they need to be sustained promises. And then also just a steady resolve to understand that no matter what, spending is our issue and we've got to continue to hold firm on that."
Collins said Republicans not only need to hold firm in demanding spending cuts, they need to insist upon real cuts immediately.
"We've got to have spending cuts that are not just projected over 10 years," he said. "I think there's got to be real spending cuts that are in the next two years, three years, four years, five years out that are very measurable and very manageable."
Collins said Congress also must begin accounting for its spending. He voted against emergency funding for Hurricane Sandy victims because there weren't cuts made elsewhere to pay for it.
"I understand needing to help with the Sandy relief and wanting to be part of that, but when we come up with it and say it's just going to add to the deficit, we've got to get on regular order. We've got to pass budget bills. We've got to pass appropriations bills. We've got to do the job the American people sent us to do."
Another issue Congress will likely address in the coming weeks is the Obama administration's push for new gun restrictions. Collins believes more gun-control laws aren't the answer, and he's especially concerned about Vice President Joe Biden's comments suggesting Obama may use executive orders to bypass Congress to get what he wants.
"This president was not elected to do things by himself. Simply saying that he will handle things by executive order is an affront to the American people and an affront to the Constitution," Collins said. "We are not just elected bodies in the House and Senate that were elected there just to go along or rubber stamp whatever he wants. That is a mistake, and I would urge the president and the administration not to head down that path."
As for the gun policies Obama is pursuing, Collins said as a pastor and chaplain he's fully aware of the pain and grief involved in horrific events such as the recent shootings. However, he said focusing on the instruments of violence – rather than the troubled people behind the murders – is a mistake.
"To make ourselves feel better by simply going after a political agenda that deals with one of our base fundamental rights in the Second Amendment is just a mistake," said Collins. "I think it's an emotional reaction to several events that have occurred over the past year. That is the message I hear from a lot of people and especially in our district, but my hope would be in this Congress that we would look at the tragedy of what happened with a sick individual who did a sick and perverted and unjust act and look at our response to it."