Hearing From You
My kids have a lot of questions for me about what I do. Often, it leads to a quick civics lesson.
A year or two ago I was eating breakfast with my daughters before I heading out the door to a town hall.
I told Sophie, “I’ve got to go.”
She said, “Why?”
I said, “I’ve got a town hall meeting.”
And she said, “Why?”
I responded, “I’ve got to let folks know what I’m working on and hear what’s on their minds.”
And she said (you’ve guessed it): “WHY?”
I explained to her that we live in a democracy. And then I said, “And do you know who’s in charge in a democracy?”
And she responded with some uncertainty in her voice, “The people?”
And I said, “That’s right! So who am I going to go meet with?”
And she said, “The people?”
And I said, “That’s right!”
Then she said, “Wait a minute. I’m a ‘people’. Does that mean you work for me?”
I said, “Yeah. Well, kind of.”
And she said, “Then, Dad. Give me candy!!!”
(I believe that, in a nutshell, explains some of the problems with the federal budget).
I think it’s important that I hear from the folks I represent. In fact, over the past month, my office has received a record amount of questions, calls, comments, and ideas from many of you. As someone who firmly believes in people-power, it’s great to see so many sharing folks their views on where our country needs to go. I’m also a firm believer that I work for you and it’s important to remain accessible and accountable.
I always enjoy hearing directly from you so I’m excited to announce my first town halls for 2017. I hope to see some of you at these meetings. If you don’t see one in your area in this batch – don’t worry. There will be more to come in the coming weeks!
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Pierce County Town Hall
5:30PM – 7:00PM
Lincoln High School – Auditorium
701 S 37th St
Tacoma, WA 98418
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Kitsap County Town Hall
5:30PM – 7:00PM
515 Pacific Ave
Bremerton, WA 98337
Friday, March 3, 2017
Grays Harbor County Town Hall
7th Street Theater
313 7th St.
Hoquiam, WA 98550
Monday, March 6, 2017
North Peninsula Town Hall (Sequim)
Sequim High School – Auditorium
503 N Sequim Ave
Sequim, WA 98382
If showing up in person isn’t easy for you, I’m also going to be holding a telephone town hall next month in Washington D.C. Keep your eyes on the newsletter for the date and time along with how to call in!
Now, on to the news…..
An Update on the Impact of the Hiring Freeze on the Shipyard
I also wanted to start out with some news about Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS). As many of you know, this institution is an anchor for our region that provides quality jobs for both civilians and veterans. It’s also vital to our national security.
As I shared in my last newsletter, it looked like PSNS was going to be significantly impacted by President Trump’s hastily put together Executive Order freezing the hiring of federal workers.
I did not want to see the freeze impact workers at our shipyard and facilities that support the Navy’s mission. That’s why I joined colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce a bill that would exempt these workers from the hiring freeze. The administration took notice and realized the Naval fleet and many families would be hurt without an exemption. On February 1, the Department of Defense issued guidance that provided for an exception for “positions in shipyards and depots in which positions incumbents perform direct management of inventory and direct maintenance of equipment.”
Unfortunately, our battle on this isn’t over. That day, the Navy published a five-step and four-tiered process for requesting exemptions from the hiring freeze. Instead of creating an efficient process, it established one that will delay hiring actions several weeks if not longer. The ramifications to the Navy’s readiness and families in our region will be significant.
That’s why I’ve asked several of my colleagues to join me in sending a letter to the Acting Secretary of Navy Sean Stackley calling for an easier, less expensive process that’s more in line with the DoD’s intent.
Please know that I’ll keep at this. We need to protect our national security and protect jobs.
Hiring Freeze has Hit Other Critical Services
The President’s Executive Order has had further ramifications for folks in our neck of the woods. It’s important to remember that this freeze isn’t just about people sitting in desks 3,000 miles away. This matters to us. For instance, right now the Department of Veterans Affairs falls under the freeze. It wasn’t long ago that we saw widespread reports that they needed to hire more doctors, nurses, and support staff to ensure that veterans could get the care they needed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this blunt instrument failed to account for that need.
It doesn’t make sense to me that the new administration would stop the VA from staffing up. This directly impacts the men and women who served our country and their health care. We should not be making it harder for a clinic in our state that needs a primary care doctor to hire one. That’s why I’ve signed on as a sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the hiring freeze from affecting the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you serve our country, we should have your back. I’m going to keep standing up for our veterans to ensure they get the care they’ve earned.
In addition to impacting the VA, the hiring freeze has hit our region in other ways too. Many folks on the Peninsula have taken notice that our fire seasons have gotten more intense. Because of a drier climate we’ve seen larger and larger wildfires the past couple of fire seasons. We even saw a fire burning in the middle of our rainforest!
Or look at Central Washington. In 2015, the largest wildfire hit that region, keeping firefighters battling around the clock. Three firefighters who were working tirelessly to contain it ended up dying. These fires are not going away. Unfortunately, the freeze could impact the ability of the Forest Service to hire seasonal firefighters.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has called on the President to do better on this one. This is really important because the Forest Service should be starting the hiring process now so folks can get trained up for the fire season. Without them, state and local firefighters could be left in a lurch. These seasonal workers are critical to containing any wildfires that break out. It’s up to the President to give us some clarity here.
You can read more in the Peninsula Daily News about why this matters to our region.
Advocating for Voting Rights
Throughout our nation’s history, we’ve seen shameful attempts to restrict Americans’ access to the ballot box. One of the biggest victories that came out of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act. For decades it was extraordinarily successful. Consider that from 1982 to 2006, it blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes throughout our nation.
Recently, President Trump raised the specter that 3 to 4 million people could have voted ‘illegally.’ He’s indicated he wants an investigation into these unverified allegations of voter fraud.
If there’s going to be a national look at voting irregularities, we also should conduct a complete and thorough examination of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, including the impact of new restrictive state voting laws that were in effect in a presidential election for the first time.
Consider recent history. Voter ID requirements in Wisconsin have meant that as many as 300,000 eligible voters in the state weren’t able to vote. In North Carolina, changes in voter registration and reductions in the number of days of early voting impacted turnout substantially.
Every American deserves a voice in our elections and the freedom to cast their vote without interference. With that in mind, I joined Representatives Terri Sewell and Elijah Cummings in leading a letter to the President asking him to investigate voter suppression. Using your voice at the ballot box is a right no American citizen should be without. We want to make sure it isn’t being taken away.
You can read our letter here.
Celebrating Black History Month
Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize the contributions that African Americans have made to the history of our nation. Locally that includes leaders like William Owen Bush, one of the first members of our state legislature and a founder of the University of Washington, and John Conna, a Civil War veteran, successful businessman, and early settler of Tacoma who encouraged African Americans from around the country to move to the Pacific Northwest. These contributions and countless others are just part of what makes our country great.
I was pleased to honor some other amazing African American leaders from our region in this video.
A Special Guest in Washington D.C.
I want to give a special shout out to President Fawn Sharp of the Quinault Indian Nation for being my guest at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was great to spend time with her in Washington, D.C. and the Senate Chaplain Rear Admiral Barry Black gave inspiring keynote remarks.