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Candidates for Arkansas' 2nd Congressional seat: incumbent French Hill

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas' 2nd congressional district, seen here in 2018, was one of 35 Republicans to join Democrats in voting to support creation of an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Michael Hibblen
U.S Rep. French Hill has represented Arkansas' 2nd congressional district since 2015.

U.S. Rep. French Hill is seeking a fifth term in office. The Little Rock banker is facing a challenge in the Republican primary this month from military veteran Conrad Reynolds. We spoke with both as part of a series of interviews with candidates in the May 24 primary election.

KUAR News: Perhaps the biggest issue for many people in the country right now is inflation. What do you feel is the best way to address it? 

Rep. French Hill: What we need to do about it is get people back to work. Remove regulatory barriers to going back to work, unleashing American energy production to bring down energy prices at the margin here in the US and around the world. We're one of the largest suppliers of energy when we're at our full capacity and we need to not spend more money in the quantity that we are in the fiscal situation. So we need to rein in federal spending and go back to pre pandemic spending priority setting.

You mentioned bringing down federal spending to curb inflation. The last time Republicans were in power, even before the pandemic we saw the debt increase by 16% from 2017 to 2019. Is there something differently that Republicans would do this time?

We've tried to rein in spending and on discretionary spending, actually spending fell between 2010 and 2019. And that was good. That was positive. We did prioritize spending in the discretionary budget, but in the mandatory spending programs that are set by demographics, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, those are growing at some 6% per year, so it's really critical that Congress go back to pre-pandemic spending priorities like we did in the discretionary budget.

Staying on the issue of inflation. You introduced the ability to shift the Federal Reserve's focus to price stability. Could you explain this bill and if Republicans take back the House, do you feel confident that it could get passed?

The Federal Reserve adopted a dual mandate, it was both price stability, keeping sound money, keeping the value of our dollar and full employment. And that was a 1970s decision. I believe we should repeal the full employment aspect of the Fed's mandate and have them focus strictly on sound money price stability. I'll certainly introduce this bill and try to build consensus about it if the Republicans take the house back in the next session.

In late May, the Biden administration will end title 42, which was an order during the pandemic that limited migration at the southern border. Republicans and some Democrats have wanted to pass a bill that would delay the Biden administration's decision. Where do you stand on that and how long do you believe title 42 should stay in place? 

I do support keeping Title 42 in place, it is essentially a public health policy. And when you have almost over 200,000 people a month coming across the border, they're not adequately tested obviously for COVID-19 but for other communicable diseases, and it gives the government a tool to limit those adults over 18 year old from coming into the country using Title 42.

One of the concerns in Arkansas is paying for COVID vaccinations and testing for the uninsured if the federal government doesn't cover it in future budgets and spending is that something you would push for or approve of? 

We have therapeutics, we have the antiviral drugs, we have the vaccinations. We know these things work. We know these things give people better health outcomes and keep people out of the hospital. So I think it's time for these therapeutics and for the vaccinations to be moved into the mainstream of our health insurance system in our Medicaid and Medicare system. And that's how we should migrate this from an emergency process where the government's trying to cover all those costs and migrate these therapeutics in the vaccinations into our normal health care delivering health care payment process.

While you've been in Congress, you've been active on legislation relating to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), as the district includes a few. If you're reelected, what kind of legislation would you continue to pursue for HBCUs and is there anything Congress can do to prevent harassment, like we saw with the recent bomb threats against those HBCUs?

Alma Adams is a member of Congress from North Carolina and I have both stayed in touch closely with the FBI as that investigation has pursued and certainly our campuses have stepped up their security and training and assistance to students and faculty on campus. If I'm reelected and go back to the House, I want to continue my work with Congresswoman Adams on policies that help make our HBCUs more successful. That's in student support, such as the Pell Grant program, and in building philanthropy, and state support for these campuses so that you have a mixture of both federal state and philanthropic support.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
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