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Collins talks issues with residents
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins conducts a town-hall style meeting at Riverside Military Academy. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Life at the U.S. Capitol is crazy, said U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, on Monday in his first live town hall meeting.

Collins answered constituents’ questions on a variety of local and national issues including sequestration budget cuts, Lake Lanier, health care, the federal budget and immigration. He also gave an overview of his first four months in office during the meeting at the Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville.

Collins said more congressional hearings on last year’s Benghazi attack are planned next month. The issue was brought up by one of more than 20 audience members. The Sept. 11, 2012, attack at a U.S. Embassy in Libya killed a U.S. ambassador and three other U.S. citizens.

Collins is in his first term representing the 9th District. He is on the House committees of Judiciary, Oversight and Governmental Reform, and Foreign Affairs. He’ll be part of the hearings as a member of the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee.

“Benghazi was a travesty,” the congressman said. “And we still don’t have answers.”

Collins spent some time on the federal budget and the $1.2 trillion the U.S. is borrowing annually. He voted for the budget created by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate. Collins has signed on to legislation requiring a balanced budget and voted against raising the debt ceiling.

He said Congress can’t balance the budget in a year because there’s about $3.5 trillion in mandatory and entitlement spending. Revenue isn’t the problem, it’s the spending, he said.

“We’ve got to deal with the mandatory spending,” he said.

Gainesville resident Jennifer Thompson said it bothered her that defense spending is not considered mandatory because she feels the government’s primary role is defense. Afterward, she said Collins was articulate and an excellent communicator.

“I just wish we had more like him in the Senate,” she said.

Resident Richard Little said he lived on Lake Lanier and wanted to know why Collins wasn’t dealing with the secretary of the Army on the Corps of Engineers and was working with local people, which residents could do. Collins has recently established a Corps of Engineers Reform Caucus to help make the agency more efficient.

“I’m dealing with the locals here to make sure they understand that this is priority for me, that they’re going to continue to hear it,” the congressman said.

He said he found out that 35 other states have similar interests and he’s meeting with other officials in Washington and encouraging more representatives to join his caucus.

“All politics are what: local,” Collins said. “I wanted to make sure they understood that I was new, but that I had them directly in my radar, so to speak, and I wanted to get their first impressions.”

Collins addressed the new health care law, which he said was a bad law that would kill job creation. On across-the-board spending cuts, he said Democrats used the recent furloughs of air traffic controllers as a political football. Congress passed a bill last week to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration to transfer money from other programs to staff back up.

Hall County resident Ray Sigmon said the meeting was very informative.

“It looks we’ve got a plan,” he said. “It looks like we’ve got a road map to get through this thing.”