Hill has been busy in Wash­ing­ton

Newly elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive has been in­volved in many high-pro­file top­ics

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Front Page - By AL­LI­SON GATLIN Val­ley Press Staff Writer

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.”


AL­LI­SON GATLIN/Val­ley Press

Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, takes in the sights Wed­nes­day at the Linda Verde Well­ness House on Lan­caster’s east side.

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