In this interview, The Council’s vice president of government and political affairs Blaire Bartlett sits down with freshman member of Congress Erin Houchin, who represents the ninth district of Indiana. This conversation has been edited for space and clarity. Listen to the full podcast below.
I started as an intern in the Indiana State Senate in 1999 as a senior at IU. That’s where I met my husband… After the internship, I loved being part of that policymaking process so much I called the state house staff, house and senate, every Friday for six weeks in a row until they gave me a job as a legislative assistant. About midway through the year, I got a job offer to make more money serving as a statewide elected official and a bigger role. That was the worst year of my life workwise, and it almost ruined me on politics completely.
After I graduated from IU—my degree was psychology—I worked in child services and for various nonprofits dealing with children in foster care and in the child services system. My husband and I got married. He was a law student. I was very active politically, volunteering for Young Republicans on a variety of campaigns and going through every type of leadership program I could… I ran my husband’s campaign; he was our prosecutor, elected in our county for 16 years. He’s now a superior court judge.
Our kids have always been involved politically. … When I ran my husband’s first campaign, our daughters were two years old and an infant. I would literally load them up in the car and take them knocking on doors for him. And then when I ran for district chairman of the Republican Party in Indiana for the ninth congressional district where I serve today, I was nine months pregnant with my son. I ran for that because I think we build our communities from school boards to Washington, D.C., not the other way around. That put me back on the trajectory that I am currently on, which led to me getting my master’s in political management from GW, to working for U.S. Senator Dan Coats, which led me to run for the legislature, which led me here.
Well, in the Financial Services Committee, I’m working on a few things. One is just increasing access to capital, particularly for smaller retail investors but also small and medium-sized business owners, to seek investments up to $150 million to grow their businesses without having to go through an IPO and all the red tape that comes with that. That’s Regulation A plus…those kinds of things are important to me in terms of financial services.
I care deeply about trying to fix this flood insurance issue. If flood insurance isn’t working in Indiana and it’s not working in Louisiana, probably there’s something we need to do to address it. So that and just trying to increase access to affordable housing and for single-family homes—those first-time homebuyers who are really having a hard time finding a home or building a home that is in a price that they can afford.
Also figuring out this cryptocurrency and digital assets space and trying to make sure that we get a good regulatory structure so that we are not under threat—or the U.S. dollar isn’t under threat—from other countries.
In terms of the health subcommittee, I did a couple of bills in Indiana dealing with insurance. One of them was increasing access to Medicare supplement plans for adults under 65 who have a qualifying disability… I did have to work very strongly hand in hand with all the different stakeholders trying to come up with an end result that wouldn’t cost any particular group more than another in terms of subsidizing that program.
We currently also have federal agencies that are really overregulating. For instance, in my district, I visited some of the healthcare facilities that they’re requiring a certain number of staff-to-patient ratios that are not possible in our current economy. So those issues and then reducing the cost of healthcare and onshoring as much of our drug supply chain as we can.
I talk often when I go home that this place is more cooperative and collaborative than I expected it to be. And it’s more functional than I thought coming in. We passed more than 40 bills with 86% bipartisan support, and that doesn’t often get noticed. I’m working on a couple of bills with Julia Brownley [D-Calif.]—that’s a dyslexia piece of legislation. And then with Judy Chu [D-Calif.] on a foster care bill, dealing with some workforce issues related to that and just making sure when kids age out of foster care they have the ability to have their diploma, that they have that support.
The last thing I would mention is we took a bipartisan trip with the Speaker overseas. We went to Jordan, Israel, Italy and Egypt. That was a great opportunity to spend some time with our Democrat counterparts on the other side of the aisle.
The economy and inflation certainly is still on the minds of my constituents. Then the border, just a wide open border and the consequences that come with that… We’ve lost 220 Hoosiers in my district to fentanyl overdoses. That’s the direct result of having an open border and all the fentanyl that’s coming across with it. … We’re 1,200 miles from the border in Indiana, but we are a border state.
Then thirdly, the district is very, very conservative. It’s a very red district. So some of these policy positions that my constituents perceive as woke or radical or far left, those are things that concern them too, and for me, that translates to over-regulation by the government in many ways.