Hill has been busy in Washington
Newly elected representative has been involved in many high-profile topics
PALMDALE — Six months ago, Rep. Katie Hill began her tenure as the first Democrat elected to represent the Antelope Valley in Congress in more than a half-century, part of a “blue wave” that saw the House change from Republican to Democratic control.
Since then, the House has tackled a number of high-profile topics, from the investigations of the Trump adminstration to the immigration crisis on the border, alongside the quieter work of passing budgets and the everyday business of government.
As co-representative of the freshman class to the House leadership, Hill has played a visible role, often called on to discuss the news of the day with various media.
Representing all 66 freshmen from across the political spectrum requires bipartisanship in order to be productive, she said.
“We really want to make sure we get some things done,” she said. “I’m at the leadership table being able to talk about that. I use our district as an example when we’re talking about the biggest issues that people are facing.”
The spotlight may fall on the topics of national importance, but Hill has placed a priority on handling the issues much closer to home by serving constituents’ individual needs. During the past six months, her office has opened more than 200 cases for constituents and completed 72 of those, securing more than $330,000 in Veterans Administration and Social Security benefits.
“The work that we’re able to do here at home is honestly the bread and butter when you’re talking about how we can serve people on a day-to-day basis,” she
said. “What’s happening in Washington is always going to be a challenge. We need to advocate for our priorities here and try to address the bigger-picture national issues, but if you have something where you can help people in their day-to-day lives, I think that’s absolutely crucial.”
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Hill has been able to look after local needs as part of the $733 billion defense budget, ensuring funding to protect and expand thousands of jobs.
“We got everything that we wanted within the (National Defense Authorization Act),” she said, including an additional $33 million for the U-2 modernization program at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and the largest order yet of the F-35 fighter.
The authorization act has passed the committee and awaits a vote of the full House.
Moving forward, Hill continues to focus on those areas where common ground exists across party lines, such as addressing the opioid crisis. She supports legislation introduced by Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources and Emergency (CARE) Act, which would provide $10 billion over 10 years to expand access to treatment.
Drug pricing is an area where Hill feels her leadership role can be effective as Congress works on legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, which would in turn affect the entire market.
She plans to push for an aggressive bill, believing her stand to not accept corporate donations will allow her more freedom from drug companies’ lobbying.
“This is something that regardless whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you’re affected by it. I don’t think anybody here would want me to side with drug companies over them,” she said.
Work will also continue on those high-profile, spotlight items, including immigration. Hill said she feels a multi-prong approach to the issue is needed, looking to address the root causes in those areas where immigrants are leaving — primarily Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador now — as well as working the issue here at home.
“We need to decide: Are we a country that welcomes refugees, and if so, how do we handle that?” she said.
This means ensuring a legal system that allows them to “come through the front door.” Restrictions on legal immigration have led to a backlog, with overcrowded facilities and overextended Border Patrol that can not focus on those crossing who are dangerous.
Bringing in community-based organizations such as the Red Cross to run the camps would free Border Patrol for law enforcement while providing the care needed for those in the camps.
“They know how to run shelters; they are equipped to provide the kinds of social services that are needed,” Hill said, expertise that a law enforcement agency does not have.
Hill voted against the latest bill before the House to provide $4.6 billion in funding for the crisis on the border, because she felt it had been rushed through while legislators were anxious to leave for the July Fourth holiday. The bill passed on a 305102 vote on June 27.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the House’s original bill, which included measures restricting how funding could be used and focused on humanitarian care and backpay for federal agents, to be heard in the Senate, passing a different version instead, which was then sent to the House.
The original House bill “was a good, negotiated compromise,” she said.
“I felt like we rushed it because people wanted to go away. I felt like this is too important for that,” she said. “Now we’re in the position where it’s not a good enough package, it’s a temporary one and we’re going to be in the same boat in a few months when that one runs out.”
As for another topic that dominates the news cycle, Hill has had a front row to seat to some of the investigations underway as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
“I feel like we’re in a moment where norms about how the three branches of government are supposed to work are being challenged on a daily basis,” she said, specifically in cases where the White House is ignoring Congressional subpoenas.
“We have to use the judicial branch to really uphold, or not, our Congressional subpoenas. For me, the red line of whether we need to call for impeachment is if the president defies a court order,” Hill said.
Right now, the various committees are working through the court process, a task that can take time as rulings are issued and appeals filed.
“The reason those are so important is because part of our job on oversight is to reveal information to the public that they would not otherwise get. I think that’s what people deserve to be able to make informed choices about who they’re electing to run their country,” she said.
Despite the perception that the issue dominates Congress, “it’s a very small portion (of the job),” Hill said. “Mostly, you’re waiting for things to play out. They just aren’t things that take all this time.”
Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, takes in the sights Wednesday at the Linda Verde Wellness House on Lancaster’s east side.