U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, told the Rotary Club of Gainesville on Monday that “elections always have consequences.”
“Some consequences you’ll like, and some consequences you won’t, but that’s a matter of being involved,” Collins said.
He said the country has already seen consequences of the 2018 midterm elections play out with the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump, who was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 5.
Democrats gained control of the House following the 2018 midterms, and Collins said he saw the impeachment process as a partisan move.
“It was not only a Congress full of ideas and visions and dreams,” Collins said. “… From my perspective and where I was sitting, it was going to be one of nothing but investigations and nothing but a long list and series of highly publicized hearings.”
As ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Collins became a central figure in the impeachment proceedings and was a top defender of Trump. He was one of eight House Republicans named by the White House to Trump’s impeachment defense team.
Collins said he saw the proceedings as a hindrance to the normal legislative process, and he had hoped issues such as prescription drug pricing and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could have been addressed instead.
"All of this happened because of one phone call in which the president released the transcript and nothing else came of it. What did we sacrifice during that time?” Collins said. “... We didn’t pass really anything of bigger substance that could actually get done and help the American people because we had simply been involved in investigations.”
Collins is running for a new position in the Senate, going against incumbent Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to fill the seat after former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson retired at the end of 2019. He said Monday that even after the impeachment proceedings, he thinks civility in politics is possible.
“Civility is actually having ideas and vehemently discussing it from both sides and at the end of the day, never believing the other person is evil. I have never had someone on the other side that I believed was truly evil,” Collins said. “I believe they’re wrong, but not evil. The discourse in our country has to take a different level.”
And he said “one-sided, partisan bills never work.” Issues like criminal justice reform can bring legislators from both sides together, he said, pointing to the First Step Act, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York.
The law, signed by Trump in 2018, focuses on reducing recidivism for federal offenders. Collins said Monday that 95% of people who are incarcerated will get out at some point in their lives, so they need a plan for after prison.
“From a conservative perspective, it’s a money and moral issue,” Collins said. “Are we spending our money properly, and are we caring about people?”