In the past few weeks, Independent Natashia Burch Hulsey and potential Democratic candidate Paul Spencer have emerged to challenge Republican incumbent French Hill for Arkansas's Second Congressional District in the 2018 election. Since the election of President Donald Trump, Hill and other Arkansas politicians have been been scrutinized by vocal constituents for their voting records, including voting to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act.
Below is our Q&A with Rep. Hill where he talked with us about same-sex marriage laws, the American Health Care Act, and climate change.
THV11: Will you seek re-election for Arkansas’s Second Congressional seat?
Rep. French Hill: Yes, I will be seeking re-election and would be humbled to again serve as the U.S. Representative for Arkansas’s Second Congressional District.
Rep. Hill: Arkansans want a federal government that works for them, is accountable to them, and supports policies that will lead to economic growth for our State and security for our Nation. My commitment to cut red tape in Washington, return power and control to the American people, provide tax relief to small businesses and hardworking Americans, fix our health care system, secure our borders, promote American energy independence, maintain our national defense, and support our military and veterans separates me from other potential candidates.
I have spent my first two terms in Congress working to right-size regulatory policy so that entrepreneurs and small businesses can be successful and help grow our local economy. I have also focused heavily on the needs of our veterans and finding ways to better serve them and their families while holding the VA accountable.
And then, through my Community Empowerment Initiative (CEI), I have worked with 40 different local nonprofit leaders to help people devise innovative plans and strategies to help our citizens in poverty find success and move up the socioeconomic ladder. Through my Skilled Workforce Initiative I have worked in a bipartisan way to support our local industry by improving the way we encourage our young people to consider all educational and training options, and not just a four-year degree.
My work in our community, three decades in private business, and now in Congress make me the most qualified candidate to help provide all of our citizens a chance at a better future.
THV11: What if any adjustments do you think should be made regarding campaign finance policy? Will you continue to accept any Political Action Committee (PAC) funds for the reelection campaign?
Rep. Hill: The 2016 Election demonstrates that the right message will always be more powerful than money. We are ultimately elected by the people and not by donors, and whether I am campaigning or working in my official capacity, it’s the input of Arkansans that I value above all else.
THV11: Recently, you voted to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Do you still support the American Health Care Act even after the Congressional Budget Office said the plan would leave 23 million more uninsured? Which aspects of the nation’s current health care policy do you support?
Rep. Hill: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in 2010 on their final score of the Affordable Care Act that 23 million people would be enrolled through the exchanges by 2019. It is now 2017, and only 10 million are enrolled through the exchanges. The CBO is not a capable judge of effectively determining the American peoples’ ambitions with respect to purchasing health care. Just last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a report that said that only 13 million people would be uninsured if the AHCA as it stands now became law. We still want to reduce that number, but the reality is that no one is capable of determining whether or not people will purchase health insurance.
Our goal with the AHCA is to make it more affordable for families and individuals and give them the option of buying truly affordable insurance. We also want to provide those with pre-existing conditions the same access to that affordable care. Passing our bill out of the House gave the Senate a template of the key areas of the current law that need dramatic improvement and change, with that they were able to provide their input and their ideas as we work toward consensus and a plan to finally end the failures of the current law.
The AHCA is also just one important step in fixing our current health care system. We also must continue to work with the administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to stabilize our health insurance markets and work with our colleagues in the House and Senate to enact additional legislative polices that will lower health care costs and increase competition and choices for all Americans.
THV11: This last legislative session in Arkansas saw two resolutions calling for amendments to the United States Constitution. The first, which was approved by Governor Asa Hutchinson, asked for a national “right to life” law, and the second, which failed after the session adjourned, sought to define “marriage” to be exclusively between a man and a woman. Would you support a national “right to life” law or a ban on same-sex marriage?
Rep. Hill: I would support a national “right to life” law.
However, the Courts have made their decision on same-sex marriage, and I don’t see an appetite in Congress for overturning that decision with a ban on same-sex marriage. There are many goals stated by congressional leadership and our president, and a ban on same-sex marriage is not one that I have seen or heard. The consensus is that we need to maintain our focus and energy on fixing the economy, protecting our borders, increasing our national security, and restoring the people’s faith in their government.
THV11: President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Do you support that decision? Do you think climate change is to some extent caused by human activity?
Rep. Hill: Climate scientists generally agree that human activity has likely contributed to climate change. It is critical that America continue to lead the world in matters of safe and effective energy production while protecting our environment. In fact, America has led the world in technological advances, which have cut carbon emissions and air pollution, and the United States has already made substantial progress on addressing climate and pollution concerns, reducing carbon emissions by approximately ten percent over the past decade.
I believe, though, that the Paris Accord, while circumventing Congress and public debate on the issue of how to best address carbon emissions, would seriously impair the United States’ ability to support critical jobs in our energy sector and maintain our competitive advantage in energy production, as well as limit our energy independence and hurt our economy and family energy budgets.
The United States continues to lead in renewable energy advances, doubling the amount of solar photovoltaic capacity in 2016. This was due, in part, to the support of a multi-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that was included in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law on December 18, 2015. We also continue to make progress in wind and biofuel energy sources, and advances in technology have brought the cost of these renewable energies down significantly over the past ten years.
THV11: The Russia investigation has dwarfed much of the legislative action in Washington this year. Do you support the decision to appoint a Special Counsel to look into any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign?
Rep. Hill: I have said for months, the American people deserve prompt answers on the topic of Russia and their role in the 2016 election. I have confidence that special counsel Robert Mueller will deliver the facts and then Congress can make its determinations based on those facts. In the meantime, we are still working diligently to fulfill the promises we have all made. We are working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan the reduces the cost of care while increasing access, we are right-sizing financial regulatory policy so that small businesses, entrepreneurs, and families have access to credit and capital they need, we are working to reform the tax code so that it benefits the taxpayer, and we are enhancing our national and homeland security.