The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. French Hill, Republican of Arkansas, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sept. 10, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Arkansas Republican Congressman French Hill, who joins us from Little Rock. Good morning to you, Congressman.
REP. FRENCH HILL: Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Lawmakers are coming back here to Washington this week. And they have just 11 working days left to fund the government before September 30. Speaker McCarthy has already said it looks like we’re headed towards a short-term patch, versus actually passing all these appropriation bills. Are you confident we can avoid a shutdown?
REP. HILL: I’m hopeful we can avoid a shutdown. And the number one thing that I think House Republicans need to do, and I’ve certainly urged all my colleagues on this point, Margaret, is get the other 11 bills that we have not passed during the summer across the House floor, we’ve only passed one and the Senate’s past 12. So that gives them a distinct advantage over the House in the negotiation for 2024 spending details. And if we want to merit that and have the right kind of negotiation that House conservatives want, then we need to come together and pass those 11 bills as soon as possible, including using a brief continuing resolution, if necessary, in order to get that work done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the right flank of your party opposes that short term, that continuing resolution that you just mentioned there. Are we going to be looking here at another scenario, where despite having a majority, Republicans will need Democrats to get this over the finish line?
REP. HILL: But you know- this is what I think it is- it is frustrating. We don’t control the Senate. We don’t control the White House. But what we do control is our own appropriations process. And Chairman Kay Granger has written more conservative bills and more conservative funding levels than the Senate, more conservative than the debt ceiling deal that President Biden and speaker McCarthy agreed to. So that’s good. But to have that negotiating clout we need to get all those bills passed across the House floor. A government shutdown is not going to improve that situation. And a long-term continuing resolution only institutionalizes last year’s Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden priorities. I don’t think House conservatives want that to happen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you talking about short term just taking us to December or so?
REP. HILL: No short term- to me short term is shorter than that. I think I would certainly support something in the October time frame to give the House the time it needs to complete- complete these other 11 bills. They’ve come through committee. People have their amendments ready. We just need floor time to debate them and pass them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that’s a lot of work to get done in a short window. And it’s not clear that Republican leadership has control of all parts of your party. As I mentioned, Marjorie Taylor Greene said she will not vote to fund the government unless “we have passed an impeachment inquiry on Joe Biden”. Is that a tactic leadership is considering?
REP. HILL: I don’t have insight on that. I would doubt that because I don’t think Jamie Comer, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, or Jim Jordan, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee think that’s a good idea. I don’t believe they’ve even remotely completed their work on the kind of detailed investigations and quality work that Speaker McCarthy is expecting both those committees to produce before someone goes to, you know, an impeachment activity. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes we think that Nancy Pelosi made by prematurely moving to impeachment during the Trump administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So- okay, well, the other part of the right wing of your caucus that’s raising concerns is specific to the portion of aid that President Biden is requesting to help Ukraine, a supplemental request: $44 billion. $24 for Ukraine, $16 billion for natural disasters, $4 billion to fight the flow of fentanyl. Are you going to swallow those numbers? How significant are you going to trim them?
REP. HILL: Well, look, I think a majority of House Republicans would prefer that those core spending items, not so much the FEMA emergency numbers, but the other numbers be handled through the existing budget and appropriations process. And that’s going to cause concern for a lot of House Republicans, not just conservatives in the House conference. We’d like to see that incorporated in the budgets that we’re already negotiating now. I personally support ejecting Putin from Ukraine, I support funding for Ukraine. I just introduced this week, the Ukraine Reconstruction Act, which converts Russian assets to pay for the war and pay for reconstruction of Ukraine. So, this is something- a battle that we need to win. And we’re going to work out how best to do that in the next few weeks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, another battlefield that Russia has been active is in Syria. I know you just paid a visit there. The first time a lawmaker visited since 2017, when John McCain went. I’m wondering why you did and what it is you’re asking us allies to do?
REP. HILL: Well, I wanted to see for myself the death and destruction caused by 12 years of Assad’s brutality against his own people. He said keep me in office or I’ll destroy the country and he’s certainly done that. Just last week, Russian aircraft flew 41 sorties, killing some 40 people in Syria, including 15 children. So, I went across the border with my colleagues, Ben Cline from Virginia, and Scott Fitzgerald from Wisconsin, and we met with orphans that had been orphaned at the Wisdom House orphanage, which is supported by wonderful, generous donors here in Little Rock, Arkansas, to see pictures of their kid- their parents killed by Assad. What we need is for the whole world to have a political solution to Syria, and let’s recognize that this is the first battleground that Vladimir Putin began killing innocent civilians several years before he went into Ukraine. These are- this is a failure of the national and global leadership. And we need to continue to take action to find a political solution and cut off Assad’s funding, cut off his ability to have a drug trade throughout the world and get help to the people in northwest Syria that- that are victims of the February earthquakes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, there is a lot to unpack on Syria with you and I hope to do that again another time. Thank you for your time today.
REP. HILL: You bet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back.
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