U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, already has issues with the Biden administration, but he’s interested in finding areas of common ground in future policy.
Hill, a Republican, and Biden, a Democrat, are expected to have differences. One of Biden’s week one moves to strike the Keystone XL pipeline project had an immediate effect on one of Hill’s major corporate constituents, Welspun Pipes.
Hill said the decision “slashed thousands of jobs,” presumably throughout the pipeline’s footprint. Welspun officials had hired about 50 new workers to boost their workforce to 600 after receiving a Keystone pipe order in August 2020. The congressman’s criticism of Biden goes far beyond the Keystone decision though.
“Joe Biden campaigned on unity, on bringing both sides together… but in that first few weeks of his administration with 40 executive orders, he’s really gone down a box-checking list of very progressive, very Bernie Sanders-friendly policy ideas,” Hill said in a Talk Business & Politics interview.
The Second District Congressman did say there are areas where he hopes to work with Biden. They include a number of international issues, such as Iran, free trade and immigration.
“I think Republicans can work with a Biden administration, if he will engage with Republicans, which I haven’t seen any evidence of yet first,” Hill said, although Biden did meet with Republican senators during his first week in office.
“The Biden administration said they’re not going to go back into that [Iran] deal. That’s good. So how are we going to reign in the world’s top nuclear developer and one of the world’s top state sponsors of terrorism? That’s an area where I think Republicans want to work with the Biden administration,” he said.
“Expanding Donald Trump’s success in trade is something Republicans have an interest in – both an EU free trade agreement and completing a UK free trade agreement – are priorities for Republicans,” Hill added. “Immigration? We need to see places where we can find common ground instead of just poking at the Obama policy or the Trump policy.”
Hill said while he has not spoken to Biden personally, he has spoken to his legislative team.
“We’ve reached out to his legislative affairs people. They know our interest in many areas. I lot of people in the Biden administration know Republicans well on the House side,” he said.
Rep. Hill is not supportive of the Biden plan to spend $1.9 trillion on new coronavirus relief. He contends there is nearly $1 trillion unspent from the previous package passed in December.
“We’ve appropriated $4 trillion to get our economy reopened and fight COVID-19. Four trillion dollars is almost what we spend in an entire year to fund the entire federal government. It’s about 18% of our GDP that has been appropriated for COVID-19 in that most recent bill that we all agreed to on a bipartisan basis that was signed into law by President Trump in December. There’s over a trillion dollars that has not yet been spent in our states for health vaccines, schools, small business relief and all the other priorities that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, outlined,” he said.
When asked if the former Trump administration or Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s administration was slow in spending the December relief money, Hill said some of it was timing and some of it was from delays by House leadership.
“Some of it was staged to be spent, and it has not been spent. Some of it was blocked by Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi from being spent until December by her holding up paycheck protection from the first week in August until the last week of December. But that bill in December had $900 billion in it – almost a trillion dollars – that was to be deployed and is being deployed for two weeks by the Trump administration. Since then, about a month by the Biden administration and it’s still being distributed,” Hill said.
Rep. Hill also discussed elements of the impeachment trial, which consumed the U.S. Senate’s agenda this past week. You can watch his full interview in the video below.