Doug Collins is a first-term congressman representing Georgia’s ninth district. He previously served in the Georgia State House of Representatives from 2006-2012. A former senior pastor of a Baptist church for over a decade, Rep. Collins began his life in public service as a reserve chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, in which capacity he deployed for a combat tour in Iraq. He and his wife have run several small businesses, an experience which inspires his legislative agenda to cut red tape. Find out more about the congressman’s policy positions at dougcollins.house.gov
Decker: It used to be said that the business of America is business. In this new century, however, the tax and regulatory burden on corporations is worse in our country than Europe. I know regulatory reform is a focus of yours. What needs to be done to make the United States the world’s most competitive business climate again?
Collins: It’s pretty simple – we need to get folks in Washington who understand the difference between reasonable regulation and radical regulation. We have too many federal bureaucrats who are trying to push an agenda, or maybe ensure their own job security, by publishing page after page of regulation. There’s no way small businesses in Georgia or anywhere else can keep up with all the red tape. As the voice of the folks who live under the rules being written, Congress has to be much more engaged in oversight and approval of federal regulations. Recent House passage of the REINS [Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny] Act is a good example of policy that would provide a necessary check on the administration’s regulatory power. I’ve also introduced legislation that would curb regulation through the secret “sue and settle” process often used by environmental groups. Finally, Congress can provide clear guidelines, such as requiring a cost-benefit analysis, that federal agencies must follow when issuing regulations.
Decker: As a Baptist pastor, how serious do you consider the federal government’s encroachment on religious freedom? What can Christians do to stop their faith from being pushed out of the public sphere?
Collins: An assault on religious freedom should concern every American, regardless of their faith, because it represents an assault on one of our nation’s foundational principles. America was established by many individuals who had experienced persecution. They understood firsthand the inherent danger of government picking and choosing what religious exercise would be permitted. That’s why the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience was so carefully articulated in our founding documents. Christians need to stay engaged in the political process, and not be discouraged by what they see on the evening news or read in the paper. The opposition we’ve encountered lately is what we should expect when we speak truth into the lies of this world. Christians just need to stay strong, continue praying for our nation, and make informed decisions at the voting booth.
Decker: As a freshman in Congress, what has struck you the most about politics in the nation’s capital? As a former state legislator, what are the biggest differences you see between state and national policymaking?
Collins: The political environment in Washington is far more toxic than anything I experienced in Atlanta. While many factors contribute, I think two primary elements are a lack of urgency and a lack of understanding. By lack of urgency, I mean that deadlines for budgets and appropriations bills are routinely ignored in Washington. Congress only comes together to make something happen when there is a real crisis. That could be avoided if we did our work before the 11th hour. On the state level, you have to have a balanced budget by a certain date. State legislators generally take that seriously, and even though there was always a rush at the last minute, most folks had been working to lay groundwork so there would be something agreeable. I haven’t seen a lot of that planning ahead in Washington. By lack of understanding, I mean that there doesn’t seem to be any constructive dialogue between the parties in Congress. Like I said, they only seem to come together in a crisis, which is not the best time for anyone to dialogue about the big issues facing our country or see the other person’s point of view.
Decker: The 2012 election was terrible for the GOP, which now has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential contests. Is this losing streak a problem of style, substance, or both? What do conservatives need to do to start winning national elections again?
Collins: The party has struggled with both style and substance over the last decade, partially because we can’t seem to figure out who we are. The first thing we can do to start winning again is simply define who we are to the American people and stick to our principles once we’re in office. One of the biggest issues I see are the Republicans who say one thing when they’re running but do another when they get into office. That shatters credibility. We also have to do a better job of understanding our opponents, really understand their message and counter it with our own plan instead of dealing with them in caricature. Finally, we have to decide what’s worth fighting for. Conservatives have to figure out what our priorities are with all that’s facing our nation, and pursue those wholeheartedly.
Decker: America is at a crossroads in so many ways. What do you worry about when you can’t sleep at night?
Collins: While I completely agree that America is at a crossroads, I can’t say that I’ve lost much sleep over that fact. My ultimate peace and hope don’t come from the outcome of elections or House votes – it comes from my faith. That gives me the strength to do my best to do the next right thing and leave the rest to history. Our nation has endured many eras of conflict and has emerged stronger from each one, and I don’t think what’s happening now is any exception. Americans are asking questions about values and the role of government that haven’t been asked in the public arena in a long time. The answers provided by elected officials and voters will shape our nation’s future.
Brett M. Decker is Editor-in-Chief of Rare. Follow him on Twitter @BrettMDecker