by Blair Bess
Barely one month into her tenure as representative for California’s 25th Congressional District, Katie Hill has become both a media darling and one of the most powerful members in the 116th Congress.
For those constituents who believe all Democrats are lefties and refused to vote for Hill, fear not. You’ve lucked out. Rep. Katie Hill believes in funding for some form of barrier at the southern border; even if allocated strictly for repairs of existing fences, or walls, or slats.
Hill’s position was clarified not only on “liberal” news outlet MSNBC, but on CNN and Fox News Saturday as well. It’s all just “semantics,” she’s explained.
Rep. Hill’s comments on border security got her into a bit of hot water with a number of those who voted for her last November. Onboard an early-morning Metrolink train bound for last week’s Women’s March, one woman told me that some Hill supporters posted their dismay on Facebook. A few even called her a traitor. I closed my Facebook account long ago so I can’t confirm that, but immigration was a significant issue for many Hill supporters.
Days after the flap, Hill was seen alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Socialist of New York. Joined by two other first-term congresswomen, Ocasio-Cortez and Hill chased Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell around the Capitol carrying a letter signed by 38 House freshmen demanding that he take steps to end the government shutdown. And while it did end last week, their missive probably played little role in bringing it to a conclusion. Then again, neither did Mitch McConnell.
Katie loyalists appear to outnumber those she may have agitated. When Hill took to the stage at last week’s Women’s March, she was hailed a conquering heroine. Hill has often said that it was the first March, held days after the Trump Inauguration two years ago, that inspired her to run for office.
She told a cheering crowd, “I think that this is showing (that) when women mobilize, we’re able to make great things happen.” For those who doubted Hill or opted to vote for her predecessor Steve Knight, she’s proving her point.
Whereas Knight spent two-terms in the House as an ineffectual back-bencher, in her first month in office, Katie Hill has secured two of the most powerful committee assignments in Washington: seats on the House Armed Services Committee (previously held by Knight and his predecessor Buck McKeon) and the House Oversight and Reform Committee. More impressive, Hill will be serving alongside Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) as Vice Chair of the latter.
For those unfamiliar with the Oversight Committee’s purview, take note. Katie Hill will be co-chairing the committee investigating two issues of great importance to her: rising prescription drug rates and healthcare costs. Oh, and let’s not forget. The committee is also looking into all things Russia; the Trump Hotel in Washington; immigration and border security issues; White House security clearance issues (watch out, Jared Kushner), the Emoluments Clause and much more.
It might be worth mentioning that while the more visible Ocasio-Cortez (known to her adoring fans as AOC) is also a newly-minted member of the Oversight Committee, it is the less-strident Hill who will be riding shotgun alongside Cummings. Which is fitting, as Hill is also a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.
While a largely inconsequential faux pas over the presidential picket fence may have upset some of her supporters and is contrary to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s view that a border wall is immoral, Hill’s position is in keeping with the concerns of many voters in this congressional district. That’s a good thing.
During the campaign Hill told me, “There is no comparison to me and Nancy Pelosi. On most of the issues I’m going to be more progressive, but I’m going to look at it from the lens of what is best for my community.”
While Hill may not in the truest sense be a Pelosi Democrat, she clearly caught her eye. Just prior to casting a vote to re-elect Pelosi as Speaker, Hill could be seen chatting amiably with her on the floor of the House. Smart move. Plum committee assignments are not granted easily.
Which begs the question, who exactly is Rep. Katie Hill? Is she a snowflake, a closet conservative or the “pragmatic progressive” she claims to be? Though it’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions, Hill appears to be a woman true to her word: an elected official whose motivation is to place constituents above ideology. Which should be a welcome and refreshing change for all of us in this district. One thing is certain: Congresswoman Katie is clearly a natural born politician and she’s taking the Hill by storm.