Editor’s note: Catching up with Congress is an occasional Frontier series tracking Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern filed Wednesday to run for a third term, passing on an opportunity to compete for Oklahoma’s rare open U.S. Senate seat.
Many had expected Hern to run to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. But after nearly four years in the House of Representatives, Hern is now poised to take on more influential policy roles in his next term instead of starting over in the Senate.
“Everybody wants to chase the shiny object and run for the Senate,” Hern said in an interview with The Frontier. “It’s the natural progression — you get to the House then run for the Senate. But I didn’t go to Congress to be somebody — I went there to do something.”
Hern says he wants to influence federal fiscal policy, including passing a balanced budget, tackling government spending and the cost of health care.
“Something that’s just crushing our economy is health care,” Hern said. “We kind of quit talking about it for the sake of inflation for the sake of the border crisis for the sake of foreign policy, but health care is crushing us.”
Hern sits on the Healthy Futures Task Force, a committee that hopes to shape the future of Republican health care policy. As chairman of the task force’s subcommittee on affordability, Hern is leading an effort to examine the root causes of rising health care costs.“It’s about bending the cost curve for everyday Americans through transparency and to make sure private insurance does not go away,” he said.
When Hern was a freshman, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked what committee assignment he wanted. Hern gave an ambitious answer: Ways and Means. The powerful committee has jurisdiction over taxation, tariffs and Social Security and is one of the most sought-after appointments in congress. Hern got on during his second term.
Shortly after being re-elected in 2020, Hern was also named chairman of the Budget and Spending Task Force for the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in the House.
Republicans were in the minority in the House when Hern was first elected in 2018. And in 2020, Republicans lost control of the Senate and the White House. But with Republicans expected to take back the House following the midterms, Hern believes he will finally be able to have more influence on policy.
However, most of Hern’s goals will probably continue to be hindered while President Joe Biden is in the White House.
But this is a challenge that Hern relishes.
“Nobody gets their own way,” he said. “So, how do you work with each other, how do you get legislation passed and how do you convince people across the aisle that this is good policy? And so you kind of learn that after you get through the initial frustration.”
Hern has not been without his share of controversy, particularly when it comes to stock trading. He’s one of the top traders in Congress, according to the website Capitol Trades.
As reported by The Oklahoman, Hern’s trust purchased a number of energy stocks while he blasted Biden’s energy policies, saying “under Biden, we will never have a strong domestic oil supply again.”
Hern told The Frontier that he would be open to measures to restrict congressional trading or increase reporting. But he stopped short of saying he favored an outright ban, a move that has gained bipartisan support.
“I’m for anything they want to do that’s as restrictive as possible,” he said. “If they want us to report from a month to seven days I’m perfectly fine with that. Even if they want us to report it daily, that’s fine.”