Katie Hill hung up the phone, walked into the room where her staff sat, worn and tired, for their noontime meeting the day after the election.
“I walked in … and said, ‘We just got a phone call from Congressman Knight … and it’s official,” Hill said as instant pandemonium filled the room. “Everyone erupted into cheers, some people were crying.”
However, one person who wanted to share in the joy with everyone else couldn’t quite get there.
“It was weird,” Hill confessed. “I wasn’t feeling much, and I felt bad.”
She said that even as she took time to thank everyone who had helped claim the seat, took calls and text messages of congratulations from other candidates across the country, as well as friends and family, from her standpoint, the pressure was now truly on.
Now, she had to be a congresswoman.
“It’s like college,” said Hill.
Unlike other members of Congress returning to the hill after they won their incumbent campaign, the freshman class for the 2019-2020 House of Representatives have orientation to attend. They also have roommates.
While there in a Courtyard Marriot for their training, the new congressional representatives have their photos taken, they receive their House badges, and they attend class after class regarding the actual daily grind of being a Washington lawmaker.
“There’s ethics training, orientation to what being on the floor is like, we found out there’s an in-house doctor that is there to solely make sure you can go and vote,” Hill said.
She remarked that while orientation was much like any other job training — meeting your new coworkers, learning how to do things, finding out when you’re supposed to be there — there’s also something to be said about how the job interview portion, the campaign, doesn’t exactly prepare for what the job is.
“When you’re on the campaign trail, you learn the ideas around the legislation,” Hill said, “but the technical aspects of what you’re supposed to do next is totally unknown unless you have a friend who’s been in Congress telling you.”
But, once oriented to the inner workings of Washington, Hill said it was time for their first piece of legislating: selecting the leadership.
Now, after getting on a first-name basis with most of the members of her class — the largest freshman class in the House of Representatives since the days of Watergate — Hill said they were not only asked to meet with the veteran members of the Congress, but they also, as the incoming class, select their own leaders.
“Within Congress, you’re all leaders, but when there’s no one at the helm, it’s a chaotic situation. Especially for the freshman class where we all showed up saying, ‘There are things we were sent here to do,’” said Hill. “And since we’re such a large class, organizing all that with nobody in charge was just chaos.”
With there being 66 new Democratic freshman members, and organization in desperate need, the junior class made a special request that was eventually granted: two spots at the House of Representatives Leadership table with Rep.-elect Hill and Rep.-elect Joe Neguse filling those vacancies.
“(Rep.-elect Neguse) and I got voted in on Wednesday and we were at the leadership meeting on Thursday,” said Hill. “And all of a sudden, I’m literally sitting at a table with Leader Pelosi and … the people representing the highest levels of Democratic party in Congress.”
“That was the moment I realized, that’s when it hit me,” said Hill. “I was sitting at the table that decides what happens in the country.”
Although congressional committee assignments happen in January, Hill has already submitted which three she would like to be placed on.
Much like former Rep. Buck McKeon and soon-to-be-former Rep. Knight, the newly elected representative for the 25th Congressional District asked to be placed on the Committee on Armed Services.
Not only does she believe that this is the assignment that she is most confident in getting, she believes it is the most bipartisan avenue by which she can help her district.
“There’s a package that passes every year, and that’s the defense package,” said Hill. “Being on the Arms Committee, I’ll be able to advocate for this district on a certain number of things that can then be put in that defense package.”
Hill said her second choice was the House Oversight Committee, which not only gives representatives sitting on the committee a wide berth in terms of what legislation they can help introduce or push along, but also allows her to be a “voice of reason” when it comes to congressional subpoena power in relation to Trump.
“It just can’t be about Trump,” said Hill. “We have to push forward with the agenda we ran on, which is health care, rebuilding the middle class and creating a government that works for everyone.”
Her last requested committee, the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Hill said affords her the ability to work on legislation with various stakeholders in the community, while also building on the work that her predecessor had in the aerospace industry.
“Three assignments is a lot but Knight had it.”
TWO WEEKS AWAY
Hill ended her Saturday morning interview with a tune that characterized her campaign: optimism.
“I would say that throughout orientation, there was an overarching sense of reform that’s bigger than partisanship.”
“The power is with the people,” said Hill. “And we won, but it’s just starting.”