Republican Chris Collins was sworn in Thursday as one of the newest members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Collins is among 82 freshman representatives in the House.
Collins was elected in November to lead the newly redrawn 27th Congressional District. He won in a narrow victory over incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul.
Collins says being a member of Congress feels "surreal."
"Sitting in the House chamber and all the history and listening to John Boehner welcome everyone and emphasize the importance of the job we're here to do...is a humbling experience," Collins told WBFO News by phone.
The 27th District includes most of Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and parts of Monroe County. Collins, the Clarence businessman and former Erie County Executive, says he is excited to get started in his new role.
One of the first things Collins will have a chance to vote on will be the Hurricane Sandy Relief bill. The House failed to vote on it Tuesday night, spurring harsh criticism, but Collins says he is certain the House will vote on it Friday.
"The turmoil surrounding the fiscal cliff got in the way of the vote. There's no one that doesn't believe the federal government has a role to play in assisting these three states in recovering from this devastating disaster," Collins said.
Collins says there is "no question" he will support and advocate for the bill.
The freshman Republican says he believes he will be able to work professionally with the current democratic members of the Western New York delegation.
"I'm going to do my best in talking about spending. I've heard Brian Higgins talk about the need to deal with spending, deficits, and debt, so I'm going to be the optimist that he concurs that we've got to shore up Social Security and Medicare and deal with entitlement programs," Collins said.
Collins will be serving on both the Agriculture and Small Business committees, which he calls a perfect fit for his business background and sections of the rural farm community that he now serves.