With about a month before she’s sworn in as the 25th Congressional District representative, Katie Hill has led a movement to ensure Nancy Pelosi is re-elected Speaker of the House, been elected co-freshman representative to the Democratic House leadership, became the first congresswoman-elect to deliver the party’s weekly address, and co-signed a letter to President Trump asking for more federal aid for California fire relief.
This is on top of the usual transitional matters: training and orientation, reviewing ethics rules, learning how to use the computers, assembling staffs and offices in Washington and the district, preparing a legislative agenda, caucuses with various Democrats and flying between there and here several times. This week, she’s in Boston for more orientation with all new members of Congress.
“It’s been a busy few weeks,” she said.
Not that she’s complaining. This is what she feels she was sent to Washington for: to get things done, which starts by getting out there and meeting the right people.
“It’s critical to build relationships that will help in the long term,” she said.
That begins with Pelosi. Hill said the 16 Democrats who have pledged not to vote for Pelosi are just making a political point, “and I thought it was dumb. She accomplished so much, and we don’t have an alternative.” In fact, no one has stepped forward to challenge Pelosi.
“She’s going to be Speaker,” Hill said. “It’s just a matter of how messy that’s going to be.”
Another early relationship she established was with Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), her co-freshman representative to leadership. Previously, the post had always been held by a single person, but Hill said Neguse asked her to join him because the incoming freshman class – 60 Democrats – is so large and diverse, it felt natural to have more than one representative “to ensure we can fight for the issues most important to the communities we represent,” Hill said in a statement.
Hill, Mike Levin, Harley Rouda and Katie Porter were four California freshmen who circulated a letter seeking support for Pelosi. These same four were among the seven who wrote a letter to Trump thanking him for the disaster declarations in Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties; and requesting additional Federal Emergency Management Agency support for debris removal and emergency protective measures.
“As new members of Congress, we will come to Washington next year committed to working across the aisle to ensure that federal resources are available to all Americans when they need them the most. Now is that time,” the letter said.
In the party address, Hill spoke about the need “to repair the trust between people and our government” and called for passing House Resolution 1, which focuses on reducing money’s influence in politics, expanding conflict-of-interest laws, banning members from serving on for-profit boards of directors, renewing the Voting Rights Act to fight voter suppression, ending gerrymandering and promoting an automatic national voter registration.
“Now, more than ever, this caucus is committed to delivering for real people across this country. We’re changing the game, and we’re doing it by prioritizing legislation like HR1,” she said in the three-and-a-half-minute address. “People want change, and they want it now. We don’t have time for party infighting, and we owe our communities reform so they can trust in their government to deliver when they need it most.”
Hill also has assembled some staff and has an office in the Longworth Building in DC, but she’s finding it difficult because she has only $1.7 million to pay for offices and staff in Washington and in the district (this doesn’t include her $174,000 salary).
She added that she plans on keeping predecessor Steve Knight’s district offices to make it easier for constituents to find, and she plans to spend weekends in the district as Knight did.
She also has not been assigned to any committees yet, but said her first choice would be armed services because of its importance to the district (Knight also served on it). She also wants transportation and infrastructure, but since members are often picked geographically and there already are nine Californians – including seven Democrats – she’s not pushing it.
Other committees she wouldn’t mind are oversight; space, science and technology; and education and the workforce.
“No matter what committees I’m on, I’m going to find a way to make it meaningful for the district,” she said.
Her legislative agenda includes passing HR1, fixing aspects of the Affordable Care Act, making prescription medication more affordable, passing the DREAM Act to benefit children of people who entered the country illegally, and passing legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers.
One area she’s steering clear of, for now at least, is the investigations House leaders have planned for Trump: possible collusion with Russia and his tax returns chief among them. Even though Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) are expected to take over the intelligence, oversight and judiciary committees, Hill said these are not her areas of expertise.
At the same time, she said, the Congress has a constitutional duty to check the president, so she welcomes the investigations but would only get involved if placed on one of those committees.
“That’s why America put in some checks and balances,” she said. “This is not a witch hunt.”
At last one supporter applauded Hill’s actions thus far.
“I love that she’s going out there and taking charge,” said Stacy Fortner, member of the Democratic Part of the San Fernando Valley. “I like that she’s becoming a leader of the class. I like that she’s gaining the respect of her peers. I have high hopes.”