Members of Congress typically bring all kinds of life experiences to the job. Among the more interesting journeys and the more expansive experiences are those of Rep. French Hill, a fifth-term Republican congressman from Arkansas.
He has worked for the Senate Banking Committee and has done a turn as a senior official at both the Department of the Treasury and the White House.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Hill helped the United States provide technical assistance to the emerging economies of eastern and central Europe.
Right now, he is vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of its new subcommittee on digital assets and financial technology. He is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments for Republican members.
In short, he is an experienced and trusted presence in the new GOP House majority. That’s important, especially considering that about half of the House Republicans have never been in the majority.
As you might imagine with that sort of biography, Mr. Hill has some insights into the challenges faced by both Congress and the nation.
He is clear about what he thinks the priorities of the new Congress should be.
“It would be terrific to first and foremost have a [fiscal 2024] spending program that at least acknowledged what’s happened since the pandemic and moved back to a pre-pandemic spending philosophy that debated priorities. I would love … to find people in both parties who recognize that large deficits are bad.”
At the same time, he’s a realist.
“We don’t have tremendous leverage, because the Senate is Democratic and the presidency is held by Joe Biden. But to argue that case and explain to the American people why this is important, I think is a key goal for the year legislatively.”
Mr. Hill brings that same realism and depth of perspective to international issues, especially Russia. “My operating philosophy is that Putin invaded Ukraine because of mistakes made principally by the Obama administration in 2014, and by the Biden administration, both in delaying armed shipments to Ukraine in the early part of the administration and then by the failed exit in Afghanistan. I think those both encouraged Putin that he was not going to have pushback if he went across the border.”
What is the right way forward? “Appeasement doesn’t work. I would simply say that we need more financial support from other countries to make this, I think, better for the coalition.”
“I would argue here, while the United States and our industrial stocks are the preeminent military supplier … we still should have more nondirect military financial support from these 50 allied countries to eject Putin from Ukraine, in my view. And I think the administration should make that more of a priority.”
How about communist China? “The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to eject the United States and her allies in the Indo-Pacific region and attempt to, through predatory lending and an ill-conceived Belt and Road initiative, colonize, neo-colonize, all the commodity-producing countries in the developing world. Then attempt — through intellectual property theft and very strategic placement of people and company activities — to dominate the world technologically through surveillance-based institutions, through both telecommunications and financial services.”
The good news is that the Select Committee on Competition With China “is looking at the Chinese Communist Party as it is, not as we want it to be, and thinking through strategies that would counter that, their military, their diplomatic and financial [efforts], their economic [activities] and their trade, to try to be realistic.”
Should TikTok be banned? “I would like the [intelligence community] to tell the executive branch and legislative branch definitively, but I think they think it should be. … Of course, I think we’ve already taken that step here in the House … and I think the executive branch has as well.”
Which is likely to be the more important alliance in the next 25 years, the Quad (consisting of the United States, Japan, Australia and India directed at containing communist China) or NATO? “Both will be important, but the Quad will be critical and that requires us to have a much better, much more successful relationship with India, and heretofore, that’s been hard work.”
No matter what you are trying to achieve, involving people whose judgment is informed by years of experience helps everyone think more clearly and act more decisively and prudently. For the United States, and more particularly for House Republicans, Mr. Hill is one of those people. His steadiness, experience, wisdom and judgment has been and will continue to be valuable as the nation navigates its challenges.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.