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U.S. Rep-elect Doug Collins likely to ease into House role
New 9th District reps first vote may involve fiscal cliff deal
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Northeast Georgia representatives

Though the district itself has changed over the years from the 9th to 10th and back again, only four men have represented Hall County and the surrounding area in the U.S. House in the last 60 years. Here are the area’s House representatives since the mid-1800s.

Hiram P. Bell, 1873-75, 77-79

Benjamin Harvey Hill, 1875-77

Emory Speer, 1879-83

Allen D. Candler, 1883-91

Thomas E. Winn, 1891-93

Farish Carter Tate, 1893-1905

Thomas Montgomery Bell, 1905-1931

John Stephens Wood, 1931-35, 1945-53

B. Frank Whelchel, 1935-1945

Phil Landrum, 1953-1977

Ed Jenkins, 1978-1992

Nathan Deal, 1993-2010

Tom Graves, 2010-present

Source: Times research, U.S. House biographical directory

U.S. Rep-elect Doug Collins likely will be learning the ropes and not making any big moves right away after he is sworn in Thursday, a political expert said.

Collins, of Gainesville, represents the newly redrawn 9th District in Northeast Georgia, covering 17 counties and parts of three others.

Collins brings state-level experience to his new role, having served as floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal in the state House. Now, he’ll be one of more than 80 new House members, but may have to gain some seniority before making moves in Congress.

No freshman House member is a big player in Congress, said Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia. Collins’ first years will be a learning experience, and maybe by his third term he’ll chair a committee, the political expert said.

“It would be surprising if he was more than an observer,” Bullock said.

The conservative Republican campaigned on creating a small federal government, reducing government spending and cutting regulations for small businesses.

Collins’ first votes may hinge on the outcome of “fiscal cliff” negotiations that are heading toward a Monday deadline. The $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases sprung out of failed debt ceiling talks in 2011. The automatic cuts meant to motivate Congress to reach a compromise haven’t worked.

Collins said he’s watching it closely, and said tax increases are not what the country needs.

“Revenue’s not our issue; it’s spending,” he said. “And until we get a good handle on spending — looking at long-term issues of Medicare and Medicaid — we’re not going to get a handle on our budgets.”

Making government smaller and more efficient seems to be a fundamental part of Collins’ public policy positions. He was characterized as the “establishment” candidate against Martha Zoller, who had tea party support during the Republican primary and runoff last summer. The contest turned bitter as the two tried to carve out differences while taking similar positions.

“In the old 9th District, the tea party was instrumental in getting Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) elected,” Bullock said.

Graves was elected to represent the area after Deal resigned his House seat to run for governor in 2010. Graves now will represent a new 14th District covering Northwest Georgia.

The best way to get the economy growing is to get government out of the way, Collins said. Repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” — would quickly create jobs, he said. And legislation that was approved to reform Wall Street overregulates the banking industry, he added.

“This was passed by a president that just doesn’t understand small business,” Collins said.

The representative-elect was just one of many new members of Congress who signed conservative Grover Norquist’s pledge opposing any tax increases. Collins also signed a “Reject the Debt” pledge from the national Coalition to Reduce Spending. In the 2012 election cycle, 24 candidates signed the group’s pledge, with two winning election, Collins and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, coalition President Jonathan Bydlak said.

Collins has been assigned to three House committees: Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Government Reform. The oversight committee investigates the government’s activities, while the foreign affairs considers laws affecting the diplomatic community. The judiciary committee oversees federal courts and administrative and federal law enforcement agencies.

Collins’ committee assignments won’t bring money into the district, but being in the majority party could help with that, Bullock said. The oversight committee can look into anything the government’s doing, which has its advantages, he said.

“It’s a particularly fun committee to be on if your party’s not in the White House,” Bullock said.

Collins said he has a history of working with people with different views than his and finding areas of agreement. He said he also plans to tackle concerns important to his constituents, such as Lake Lanier water issues and ethanol rules that are affecting farmers.

He said he’ll spend plenty of time in the district as well. He plans to have a main office in downtown Gainesville with field staff also operating in various locations throughout the far-flung district.

“I made a promise to the people of the 9th District to never forget what I run on,” Collins said. “And I’ll never do that.”

Collins has more to fear from a Republican challenger in the next election than a Democratic one, Bullock said. Rules-of-the road for getting ahead in Congress include getting along, going along and listening to his party’s leaders, Bullock said.