Coming Together

Dear Friend,

Our region is special. We celebrate together, we volunteer together, and we remember together.

Each of us have moments in our lives we won’t forget. Some are personal. I, for one, will forever remember the days when my daughters were born. My 106-year-old grandmother still talks about the day her village in Holland was liberated during World War II as though it was yesterday.

But there are moments as a community and as a nation that we won’t forget. Moments that stick with us. And September 11, 2001 was one of those times. Whether you were at school, at work, or at home, you know the moment the World Trade Center Towers were struck. 

But no matter where you were, the hours that followed were filled with such raw emotion. We watched the towers collapse and lower Manhattan fill with dust. We saw the aftermath of the plane that struck the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.

But beyond simply watching events unfold something else happened that day. Our nation came together. Folks called one another to see how they were doing. In the days after, we sought out ways to help those directly impacted. We donated blood. We gave to the Red Cross. First responders plunged into the wreckage to look for survivors. Some Americans even enlisted in our Armed Services.

I thought of those inspirational moments as I visited the 9/11 Memorial at Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton on the 15th anniversary of that day. In my remarks, I mentioned the amazing way that America came together and showed some of the best of the human spirit in the midst of tragedy. And I suggested that it’s time to come together again as a nation.

Too often in our national discourse – and on the TV news – we are divided. And it can be dispiriting.  But the unity we felt following 9/11 and the unity I saw in Bremerton last week (and at the Firefighters Memorial in Tacoma earlier that day) is a reminder that we can do anything when we are the United States of America. If you’re like me, you’re hungry for that unity to return. It will take work, but, as your representative, I’m committed to trying.

Getting to crunch time

We’re going to need some of that approach in the next couple of weeks. In my last newsletter, I mentioned that Congress needs to pass an appropriations bill by September 30 to avert a government shutdown. While it looks like Congress may avoid another damaging shutdown disaster, it appears that the most likely scenario will involve Congress simply kicking the can to December.  What’s more, it remains unclear whether Congress will step up to the plate and address critical problems like the Flint water crisis or the Zika outbreak. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’m certainly advocating for progress on those fronts.

If you’re like me, you’re impatient with these budgetary fights. As you may know, I feel so strongly about the need for a long term budget, I’ve sponsored legislation known as “No Budget, No Pay” which says that if Congress doesn’t do its job and pass a budget, members of Congress shouldn’t get paid.

Here’s the reality. We’ve gone from the “fiscal cliff” of a few years ago to fiscal mountain range of persistent dysfunction. While there have been rare exceptions, Congress has persistently taken a short-term approach rather than making responsible decisions that address our long-term fiscal challenges. That approach has created uncertainty for federal agencies and for private industry.

While tackling these issues, I am also advocating for Congress to eliminate the deep, across-the-board spending cuts under the policy known as sequestration. Sequestration is a gimmick that avoids difficult decisions and, instead, cuts everything equally. 

Let me provide a quick example of the problem with that.

Last Thursday, the Senate heard testimony from the chiefs of all of our nation’s military services. Each of them, without exception, said that sequestration-level cuts would mean that they would not have the resources to adequately defend the country. They testified that deployments would be longer, that investments in training and equipment would be inadequate, and that our readiness would suffer. While each accepted a role in making the tough decisions necessary to address our fiscal challenges, each of them said that the mindless, across-the-board approach of sequestration would put the lives of American servicemembers at risk.

Please know that for those reasons – and many others – I will keep pushing for folks to come together and permanently replace sequestration.

Making Progress for Families

Last week also brought some other interesting news for folks across the nation. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year was a good one for American workers and families, as median household income rose 5.2 percent in 2015. In fact, that’s the first time it’s risen since 2007 and the largest jump since the Bureau started tracking it in 1967.

Our economy is continuing to improve but we’ve still got work to do to make sure it gives everyone an equal opportunity.

There are still some critical challenges out there as not every community – nor every family – has felt this recovery. For example, home ownership is still down and student debt is up. I’m hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can come together and build on the gains of the past seven years and make sure the economy works better for everyone.

Because whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent everyone wants to see sustained private sector job growth that benefits and grows the middle class. There are a few key ways we can do this like making sure the doors to a quality education are open to everyone, ensuring that workers are treated with respect, and making smart investments so the breakthroughs and innovations of tomorrow happen here, not somewhere else.

There are other good ideas out there too, and it’s time for Congress to take some meaningful action to keep this momentum going.        

Happy 125th Anniversary

Folks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard know the lunacy of sequestration. In fact, I spoke about the need to end sequestration on Friday night to the 184 most recent graduates of the PSNS apprenticeship program.

I was excited to be part of the graduation for a number of reasons. First, apprenticeship programs are important. Research tells us that workers who complete apprenticeship programs earn, on average, about $300,000 more in wages and benefits over their lifetimes when compared to those who don’t. Second, I was honored to thank these graduates for entering a career where they will be working every day to keep our sailors and submariners safe.  

But, there was more to it than that. Friday night was, officially, the 125th Anniversary of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

I always love coming into Bremerton by ferry and seeing the big yellow and blue slogan painted on the side of Building 460 that says “Puget Sound Naval Shipyard: Building on a Proud Tradition.” That proud tradition is based on the hard work of men and women who invested in their trades, showed up each day, and got the job done for our country. And it was a real honor to welcome these graduates into that 125-year-old tradition.

Supporting Innovation

In Congress, I'm part of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, a group of representatives working together to promote innovative solutions for a more sustainable planet. We’ve worked together on issues like global climate change, clean air, and clean water.

Last week we sat down with leadership from the Department of Defense (DOD) to talk about the military’s efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and its efforts to manage the impacts of climate change. A DoD report a couple of years ago pointed to climate change as a “threat multiplier.”  That report said “The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability.  These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”

During the meeting, we discussed a number of initiatives by the DoD to combat climate change. Folks who have read this newsletter before will be excited to hear that, among the topics, was the department’s plans to use cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other innovative wood products in military construction. Following the successful completion of the first all cross-laminated timber hotel in the country at an Army base in Alabama, the Army Corps is working to put the finishing touches on its standards for future construction with CLT. That’s big news because, once that process is completed, we can see more projects like this can be greenlit.   

I’ve pushed the DOD to explore building with CLT because the use of these materials is a way to reduce future building costs, reduce the military’s carbon footprint and energy usage, and provide new economic opportunities for areas of the country like the Olympic Peninsula. I look forward to working with the DOD so that we can provide rural economies with new opportunities while making military installations greener. Stay tuned for more good news on this front! 

Visiting folks in our region

The Tacoma Fire Department September 11 Ceremony was extraordinarily inspiring. Richard Alles, Deputy Chief of the NY Fire Department, spoke and provided powerful stories of American courage.

Thanks to Hoquiam Rotary for another great Loggers' Playday Pancake Breakfast. I had a lot of fun volunteering as a coffee server and visiting with the folks in attendance. And, yes, I ate a lot of pancakes!

I was happy to join the Hoquiam Fire Department in the Loggers' Playday parade?. It was a beautiful day in Grays Harbor and a fantastic community turnout for the festivities. Thanks to Mayor Dickhoff and Hoquiam's first responders for hosting me in their rig!

As always, I’m grateful for the honor of representing you. Please reach out if I can ever lend a hand. 

Derek Kilmer