A Special Birthday with a Contribution from You
Since my last email update, my family celebrated some amazing milestones. My daughter, Sophie, turned 11. And my grandma (known to us as “Oma”) turned 107-years-old.
What do you think the secret ingredient is to living well past 100? Oma wasn’t certain what did the trick for her, but her best guess was pretty awesome: CHOCOLATE! (Yes – you now have permission to eat as much chocolate as you want . . . it will help you live a long life!)
My Oma has seen incredible changes in her life – including world wars, technological advancements, and women earning the right to vote. One of the constants has been her family. To help celebrate I went down to the House floor and wished her a happy birthday. It was heartening to see so many of you join me in wishing her the best via my Facebook page! She really got a kick out of it and I want to give a special thanks to everyone who participated.
If you don’t yet follow me on Facebook, you can do so by visitinghttps://www.facebook.com/derek.kilmer/.
Oma’s 107th wasn’t the only thing that happened. Read on!
You’ve likely seen news regarding America’s missile strike against an air base in Syria. All of us were outraged and anguished to see the photos of Syrians who had been victims of a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime. In response, the Trump Administration ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat air base in Syria.
What happened this week to innocent civilians was horrible. A targeted strike to take out Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians was a proportionate response. Going forward, the Trump Administration needs to articulate a clear, comprehensive strategy for engagement. We haven't seen that yet. This conflict will not be solved with military might alone. I also believe that further escalation of military force requires authorization from Congress to ensure actions are grounded in a broader strategy and do not open the door to a larger war in the Middle East.
Getting to the bottom of it
Over the past few months, you’ve likely seen stories in the news regarding Russian tampering with our elections. This is a big deal. In my view this isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. This is an American issue. It’s about the ongoing integrity of this amazing democratic republic.
Here’s what we know. Our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies have confirmed that there was an effort by Russia to covertly influence the campaign of 2016. According to Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, right now Russia is trying to both covertly and overtly influence elections in France and Germany.
That same committee has found that members of Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign were also targeted during the Republican primary campaign. From these revelations to reports of officials connected to President Trump’s campaign having conversations with Russian officials, it’s clear we need an exhaustive investigation to get to the bottom of all this. That’s why I’ve sponsored a bill to establish an independent commission to look at what happened – and to make sure we establish safeguards to prevent this sort of meddling from happening in the future.
Currently, there are investigations being undertaken by both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Unfortunately, there have been concerns regarding the House investigation. In particular, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, called into question the integrity of his investigation by discussing intelligence reports with White House staffers. Many of my colleagues, myself included, called for him to step aside in this investigation.
I’m glad that last Friday, he did just that. We need a free and impartial investigation into what exactly Russia did. By uncovering the truth we can focus on how to prepare ourselves for the next round of elections so our democratic system remains clear of tampering from those that would do us harm.
In addition, I will soon be introducing a bill to close a loophole in our campaign finance system that threatens to allow foreign interests to use their wealth to influence American elections, possibly including wealthy individuals aligned with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Here’s the short story.
Under current law, it’s virtually impossible to know where all of this money is coming from.
While US laws prohibit foreign money from being used in our elections, there is a loophole that could allow foreign money in. In the 2016 election, there was more than $1 billion spent by outside groups, with much of it coming from 501 (c) organizations. Now here’s the catch -- foreign interestscan contribute to 501 (c) organizations.
That’s why I’m introducing the Election Protection and Integrity Certification Act. This bill would close that loophole and keep money from Russia and other foreign sources out of our election system. Stay tuned for more updates on this important topic.
While we are on the subject of elections, I wanted to make sure you saw that I also recently reintroduced a bill I’ve discussed with you before. Whether you are a Democrat, Independent, or Republican, I think we can all agree there is too much money in politics. But the Federal Election Commission, the watchdog agency set up to catch bad actors and make sure campaign finance abuses are punished, has been mired in gridlock lately.
Commissioners routinely tie on whether to look into potentially big cases. Often times, they simply fail to enforce the rules altogether. I don’t want to see politicians or special interests cheat. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that cheating will occur if nobody is going to blow the whistle.
I want to see this commission get back to being the people’s advocate. I’ve brought back my bill to make meaningful, substantial reforms to the institution so it can get back to weeding out campaign finance abuse and holding those who skirt the rules accountable. Making the Commission work will help us revitalize our democracy and put the focus back on citizens rather than special interests.
I’m particularly excited because we are introducing this bill with a bipartisan group of sponsors! To see the full list and read more about what my bill does click here.
That’s not the only bill I brought back for this Congress. I continue to hear from civilian defense workers about an unfair Department of Defense policy that dramatically lowers travel-related compensation (or per diem) for federal employees and active-duty servicemembers who travel for work for long periods of time. The reductions (25% for missions over 30 days, 45% for those over 180 days) have hurt workers and local hotels. Asking people to be away from their families and to take a financial hit is simply wrong. On top of that, it turns out that this policy is a bad deal for taxpayers because it can cause expensive delays in maintenance.
With that in mind I reintroduced my bipartisan bill to reverse this policy, this time with help from the Senate.
Answering to You
Since the start of the year I’ve received more mail than I did ALL OF LAST YEAR. I just want to say thanks for reaching out and making sure that your voice is heard. Every opinion I get is valued.
Among the largest volume of calls and emails we’ve gotten have been those related to the president’s budget proposal. Folks have written with a variety of concerns about specific cuts proposed by President Trump.
Dixie from Sequim reached out with her concern about potential damage to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I responded to Dixie’s question through my ‘Ask Derek’ series. Tune in here!
Protecting our Sound
The NIH isn’t the only institution that needs protection— we also need to help our iconic bodies of water. That’s why I’ve continued to push back against President Trump’s proposals to slash Environmental Protection Agency investments that are important to our region – particularly Puget Sound recovery.
The Trump Administration’s budget blueprint would completely zero out a program that works with local partners to help cleanup Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other major bodies of water.
This is an issue that unites both sides of the aisle. It’s why I led a letter to the President signed by both Democrats and Republicans calling for him to support these vital investments.
Clean water and good jobs are important to our region. We can’t have them without a healthy Sound. If Congress was to move forward with this proposal, it would be devastating to local efforts to restore shellfish beds, revitalize salmon runs, and recover Puget Sound for future generations.
You can read my bipartisan letter here.
Here in our region we’ve seen violence and threats of violence against Islamic and Jewish community religious centers. These should be safe spaces for family and friends to gather and learn from one another. That’s why I introduced a bill that ensures anyone who makes a credible threat against any community religious center can be charged with a hate crime. Take a look at my op-ed in the Seattle Times about why we must embrace our common humanity and ensure America remains a place where we can embrace our faith, talk civilly, and respect one other:http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/a-threat-to-a-religious-center-should-be-a-hate-crime/
Working for you
I spent time at the Career and Pathway Expo talking with over 200 middle school girls about science, technology, engineering, and math. Thanks to the Peninsula School District for bringing together teachers, community members and students to explore STEM opportunities. From coding to cancer research, environmental engineering to mechanical engineering--I'm excited to see what these students grow up to discover, solve, and create.
One of the coolest parts of the job is getting to meet innovative manufacturers in our region. Thanks to Dan Oliver and the Net Systems team for giving me the grand tour of their net manufacturing facility on Bainbridge. Not only do they employ 60 workers (many of whom have been at the company for 15+ years!), their nets support our fishing fleet and are used by major league baseball. How cool is that?
I had a fun night at Tacoma's Broadway Center for the Performing Arts at their Evening of Magic & Mischief. I even got to try on the Sorting Hat! I’m grateful for all the Broadway Center does to bring the arts to our community.
OK… that’s it for this update. If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone you know, please give me a holler.
As always, it’s an honor to represent you.
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