U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, sees some challenges ahead with Democrats gaining control of the House after the Nov. 6 midterm elections. But he also said there are several areas where the two parties can find common ground.
Democrats will have 230 seats in the House, while Republicans will have 198. For a majority, either party needs 218 seats. Republicans kept control of the Senate in the midterms.
Collins was running for chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee, where he already serves. Now that Democrats will be the majority party in the House, he would be the committee’s ranking member.
In that position, he could play a crucial role in a possible investigation of President Donald Trump, which Collins said he believes is more likely as Democrats take control of the House. He said he would advocate against that investigation.
“I think it will just show the American people that (Democrats) have nothing but a fixation on the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016, and I think they’re just going to continue to try and show everything that they possibly can to take down or discredit the president,” Collins said. “ … Donald Trump won. He’s president, and we’re going to continue to fight for him as we go forward.”
In the judicial committee, Collins said he does see some common ground between Democrats and Republicans on the issues of intellectual property and privacy on social media.
The committee covers several issues including immigration laws, security, copyright and patents and criminal justice reform.
Criminal justice reform has also been a personal focus of Collins’ — he sponsored the First Step Act, which has been endorsed by Trump and has passed through the House. The Act requires that inmates be placed within 500 driving miles of home, allows low-risk inmates to serve home confinement for up to six months at the end of their sentences and retroactively applies 2010 laws reducing the crack cocaine sentencing disparity to current inmates.
“It’s very similar to what Georgia is doing, and that is finding ways to take our prison population and evaluate them early so that we can begin to give them the life skills and also look for mental health problems, addiction problems and those things so that when they do get out … they’re able to come back into communities and be active participants,” Collins said.
Collins said local issues affecting the 9th District — including the protection of natural resources such as Lake Lanier, expanding access to broadband in rural areas and health care — will continue to be his priorities.
“Our focus on those (local issues) will never change on the national level,” Collins said. “We’re not going to be driving the agenda in D.C., necessarily, on the House side, but we’ll be there to continue to fight for the things that we believe in and also push back when we believe the Democrats overreach.”
He said rural broadband is an issue that has struck a chord with people on both sides of the aisle.
But he still expects some partisan challenges, particularly when it comes to the budget.
“Of course with the House being Democratic and the Senate being Republican, spending legislation and things like that are going to be much harder to get through, and that is a frustration that we have,” he said.
Collins was re-elected on Nov. 6, earning almost 80 percent of the votes in the race against Democrat Josh McCall. Collins, a Gainesville native, took office in 2013 and begins his next term Jan. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.