WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins on Monday won a rare honor for a first-term lawmaker: chairmanship of a House subcommittee.
The Clarence Republican will serve as chairman of the Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, which will oversee the implementation of President Obama’s health care law and how it is affecting small businesses.
A small-business owner before entering politics, Collins has been harshly critical of the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted in 2010.
He said that during his campaign, he heard from many small-business owners who employ fewer than 50 people – the threshold for when companies must start offering health insurance under the law – saying that the mandate made them afraid to expand.
Meanwhile, companies that employ more than 50 worry about the cost of the health care law, he said.
“We have to make sure the regulations imposed by ‘Obamacare’ don’t become a wet blanket on small businesses when we need them to be growing and hiring to improve in the economy,” Collins said.
In addition to its oversight of the heath care law, Collins’ new subcommittee has jurisdiction over technology, telecommunications and intellectual property issues as they pertain to small businesses.
While the Small Business Committee is one of the least prominent in the House, few freshman lawmakers ever get to be chairmen of any subcommittees.
The staff of the Small Business Committee chairman, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., approached Collins’ staff to see if he would be interested in the post, and then Collins and Graves spoke by phone to seal the deal.
“I’m just humbled and pleased, and perhaps a little surprised at the opportunity,” Collins said.
Asked how he ended up with the slot, Collins said: “I didn’t ask [Graves] why. I just said, ‘Thank you.’ ”
But Collins said he suspects that his business background had something to do with the appointment.
“After a 35-year career in the private sector, I am all too familiar with the hurdles the federal government places in the way of small-business owners,” Collins said. “The federal government needs to be laser-focused on knocking down as many of the hurdles as possible, not putting up new ones.”
Collins represents the newly drawn 27th Congressional District between Buffalo and Rochester. The former Erie County executive defeated Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Hamburg, in the November election.