Checking in from Washington DC

I’m reaching out today with a heavy heart after the tragedy earlier this morning when Amtrak 501 derailed. I want to send my thoughts and prayers to everyone that has been affected by this, particularly those injured and the families of those we lost today. I was devastated when I heard the news. I’m thankful for the quick response by emergency services, and the cooperation and assistance from the military. People all over the region lined up to give blood today and there are reports that motorists on the highway got out of their cars to help right away, and that tells you everything you need to know about how strong our community is.

If you need assistance and you’re not getting through to the appropriate agency, or can’t figure out who to contact, my office may be able to help. Please call my Tacoma office at 253-272-3515.

The recovery process will take time, and I am committed to making sure that local, state and federal agencies have what they need to investigate this. I will keep you updated as we learn more.

This week in Washington, DC we are expecting a series of key votes on tax reform and funding the government.

As we are in the holiday season, in the Kilmer household, my daughters are hard at work putting together their wish lists. So this week, I wanted to send you my wish list for what I want to see Congress get done before it packs up to go home for the holidays. Here’s what I’m looking for:

  1. Tax reform that actually helps the middle class.

    There’s a lot of news lately about proposals in Washington, DC to change the nation’s tax code.

    Unfortunately, the proposal currently under consideration misses the boat. The plan wouldraise taxes on tens of millions of middle class families and strap our kids with over $1.5 trillion in debt. According to the Tax Policy Center, the majority of the benefits of the tax plan would go to the wealthiest one-percent.

    I think we are in dire need of real tax reform. I outline a better way forward in the Tacoma News Tribune. You can read it here

  2. A government that doesn’t shutdown, and a long-term budget.

    The latest from Washington, DC is that the leaders of both parties are trying to work out a long-term budget. I explained what sequestration is and how we got into this mess of facing the threat of a government shutdown in my last newsletter.

    In 2014, sequestration instituted mindless, deep, across-the-board cuts to every area of government spending. Everything from defense spending and national parks to the Forest Service and the social safety net were hit hard by this policy. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, there’s general agreement that sequestration is a bad policy. No family, no business would just mindlessly cut everything across-the-board. Rather, they would prioritize. They’d make tough decisions. That’s what Congress should do too.

    The sticking point now is that Republican leadership in the House only wants to lift the sequestration budget cap for defense spending and maintain sequestration for every other area of government. Democrats and some Republicans have pointed out that this fails to help the country fight the opioid epidemic, build infrastructure (which creates jobs), and fight forest fires. So, the leaders of both parties are trying to hammer out an agreement before December 22. Unfortunately, rather than finding consensus, Congress has been kicking the can--funding government two months or even two weeks at a time. That’s nuts. In September, Congress punted to early December. In early December, it punted to December 22. And now, it’s quite possible that it will punt into the New Year. That’s the wrong way to do business.

    I’m doing everything I can to help reach a long-term agreement on this important issue. The federal government is the largest employer in our region, so the last thing I want is for the government to shut down right before the holidays. I’m working hard to prevent that. Congress needs to put in place a long-term plan.

    Stay tuned on that, and know that I have the backs of our federal workers and of the folks they serve. I’m keeping the pressure on to make a long-term deal so workers in our region can have some real peace of mind, not just another short-term fix.

  3. A free and open internet.

    Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve heard from thousands of you about your support for net neutrality. I’m with you. I support a free and open internet.

    While the FCC voted last Thursday to remove net neutrality protections, this conversation isn’t over. Rather than let the Trump Administration and the FCC take the lead on this issue, I think Congress should take action to reform our telecom laws so consumers and innovators have access to a free and open internet.

    I talked about net neutrality with Rep. Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley in the newest episode of my podcast, Quick Questions About Congress with Kilmer. (We also talked about the importance of public service and about our love for Rocky IV...and the travesty that is the refereeing of the fight between Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed). Check it out here.

    If you’re just getting up to speed on net neutrality, check out my crash course here.

  4. Less forest fires and a better way to pay for fighting them.

    The wildfires that have hit the West this year have been devastating. Sadly, wildfires are becoming more and more common, and the U.S. Forest Service is struggling to keep pace. Part of the reason is because of the way the government pays to fight these fires. Unlike floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or any other natural disasters our government helps people recover from, the Forest Service can’t access disaster funds when they fight forest fires.

    This is a huge problem because, in the absence of support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Forest Service has to borrow from other parts of its own budget to keep fighting these fires. The result is that there’s much less money left for other programs like hazardous fuel reduction, thinning, and restoration activities that actually help make forests more resilient to fires! In fact, this year, firefighting will consumer over half of the Forest Service budget. It makes no sense, and it means that we’re chasing our tails on this.  

    I’ve been working with Republicans and Democrats to end this disastrous practice, known as fire borrowing. I’m the cosponsor of a bipartisan solution, and I hope that Congress will pass this bill soon so that we can give the Forest Service the resources it needs to fight these fires and continue to sustainably manage our forests.

  5. More time with more of you.

I’m sorry the limbo created by the potential shutdown has kept me in Washington, DC longer than scheduled. I apologize I had to give a few of you rainchecks on meetings and events I was supposed to attend this week back home.

I’m also really bummed that I missed joining a group of about 1,000 students earlier this month as they talked with the International Space Station at the new IMAX theater in Gig Harbor. (Instead they had to settle for a video--I don’t even want to know what my head looks like on an IMAX).

One of the best parts of my job is seeing the awesome work that happens in our region, and going around to each community hearing about how I can help grow our region’s economy and create jobs. In the New Year, please know that I’ll look forward to continuing to learn from you and to speak up for you in Congress.

Okay, that’s it for this time. Please let me know if I can offer you or someone you know a hand. And, from my family to yours, have a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a terrific New Year.