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Cong. French Hill: Avoiding government shutdown ‘a very big challenge’

U.S Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, gives an update on the debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and House Republicans. Hill is one of the lawmakers advising Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-California, on the debt ceiling negotiations.
KARK Channel 4's Capitol View
U.S Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, gives an update on the debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and House Republicans (photo from 2023). Hill is one of the lawmakers advising Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-California, on the debt ceiling negotiations.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, will be heading back to Washington D.C. this week as Congress reconvenes, but his working hours may be brief in less than a month.

There are two pending government shutdown deadlines looming – Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. Hill, who appeared on this week’s Capitol View and Talk Business & Politics programs, said only Congress would pick Groundhog Day for a potential shutdown, a brinksmanship move the public has seen play out repeatedly in the last decade.

“This is really frustrating to me. In 2023, there was so much wasted time. We had a debt ceiling deal between House Republicans led by then Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the House and President Joe Biden that would’ve allowed us to get our appropriations work done in time. And we squandered that and then we made it worse by throwing Kevin McCarthy out of office,” Hill said of the early October vote to boot McCarthy as Speaker. House Republicans spent weeks trying to select a replacement.

Seven of 12 appropriations bills have cleared the House and are awaiting action in the Senate, where political dynamics differ from the House.

“My hope was that between November and December, [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer would agree to those fiscal responsibility act spending levels, which the House has agreed to, and that he would make progress and we would go to conference during the holidays, staff level conference work, and we have not,” Hill said.

“So I go into Congress going back in session next week with a lot of trepidation about how we’re going to evolve, evade a shutdown or another continuing resolution, and I think it’s going to be a very big challenge. I don’t have a crystal ball on how we’re going to get that done in the next three weeks,” he added.

House Republicans and the President are at odds on how to handle illegal immigration, which has once again become an election year theatrical performance. Last week, Hill and House GOP leaders held a press conference at the U.S.-Mexico border to complain about inaction on H.R. 2, a Republican House-passed measure that would address immigration issues. A bipartisan group in the Senate is negotiating with Biden to deal with the issue in a manner that does not include H.R. 2, which is deemed to partisan and not solution-oriented enough for Democrats.

Hill said the GOP legislation changes the process for asylum seekers to meet higher standards in legal venues outside of the U.S.

“The top changes in H.R. 2 in my view, besides technology and manpower, is we raise the standard for ‘credible fear.’ If you’re going to seek asylum in the United States and we tell the federal government to enforce the filing of that asylum claim from a safe third country, you don’t get to file and argue for asylum in the U.S.” he said.

Hill said he supports allowing immigrants to come to the U.S. temporarily to hep with seasonal work, but that is not outlined in H.R. 2.

“I have always argued, and I thought it was a mistake in federal policy over the last 30 or 40 years, to do away with regular work visas for people who want to come seasonal work in our timberlands on our shores or holiday traffic in the summer or agricultural purposes. That old Bracero program from the 60’s allowed a verified work process with a work permit that you can come back and forth across the border. I think would ease the burden on the illegal immigration side. It would give people the chance to come into the American economy periodically during the year, earn some money and go back to their home country, but we don’t have that. I support that,” he said.

Hill also withheld an endorsement for the GOP Presidential nomination despite recent endorsements of former President Donald Trump by Gov. Sarah Sanders and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. He continues to say he will support the GOP nominee.

“But from the very beginning I’ve said, I don’t think either party should nominate President Trump or President Biden and that I wanted somebody on the Republican side that was younger, that could do a good job, be more certain that they could be elected as president of the United States because of the damage done by the Biden administration and serve eight years. So I continue to wait for this primary process,” Hill said.

You can watch his full interview in the video below.

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.