Working for those who protect us

Today our nation takes a moment to pay tribute to those patriotic Americans who have lost their lives in service to our nation. I’m reminded – not just as your representative – but as the dad of two little girls that our country is stronger and freer as a result of the service and sacrifice of those who serve.               

To me, it begs a larger question: What do we do to honor their memory?

Certainly, saying thank you to every service member, to every family member, is a start. To try to help those who have been injured or those who have lost loved ones heal. To, as Lincoln said in his second inaugural address “bind up the nation’s wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

Gratitude for those whose names are now etched in stone is important. But I think more is expected of us.

And I’d like to suggest 3 things.

First, I think it’s on us – on each of us – to make sure that our kids truly understand what this day is about. This is not a day off from school.  It’s not a day off from work or a day to buy a mattress or an appliance. It’s meant to be a day of remembrance. That means ensuring that our kids – that all Americans – have a reverence for those who died, but just as importantly, a reverence for and an appreciation of the freedoms for which they died.

Second, we must do better for every single person who currently serves. Our nation must have a foreign policy that is smart and strategic. That acknowledges that military action comes at a significant price.  And that when it happens, our nation needs to provide the training and equipment our servicemembers need – that we do everything we can to bring each servicemember back.

And third, one of the best ways to show reverence and honor to those who did not make it home is to do a better job of serving those who did. We need to do better by our veterans, by those who have lived, what Teddy Roosevelt referred to as, the “strenuous life.” To ensure that veterans are able to have a job, a good home, and the care and benefits that he or she has earned. If you serve this nation, we should have your back.

These are not commitments we should make lightly. For the brave Americans who serve and make such extraordinary sacrifices for us don’t commit lightly either. I hope you’ll join me in commemorating them this Memorial Day.

Hearing From You

One of my favorite parts of being your Representative is the opportunity to travel around our region and hear directly from you. Whether visiting folks at their workplace during one of our “Kilmer at Your Company” events, on the ferry dock, outside the shipyard gate, or at community gatherings, it’s an awesome opportunity to get your feedback, hear your ideas, and answer questions.

The community festivals are generally a lot of fun for me, and admittedly, I have a bit of a challenge staying away from the tasty treats available all over our region. For example, just last weekend, I got to visit Viking Fest in Poulsbo. It’s a great day of community togetherness, Norwegian heritage, and – yes – crazy festival food. I thought I’d seen everything until I tried this.

That’s right… it’s a deep fried Twinkie topped in strawberry goo.

Delicious. Thanks Poulsbo! Stay tuned to this newsletter for more festival delicacies in the months ahead.

Your opinions and ideas matter to me. They also help inform the issues I tackle back in Congress. For example, at Naval Base Kitsap over the past couple of years, I heard concerns on two big items that I thought we could do something about. So we went to work.

Progress for Servicemembers and Civilian Workers

I’ve consistently heard from our civilian defense workers about an unfair Department of Defense policy that dramatically lowers travel-related compensation (aka 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’ve been fighting since the policy was enacted to get it reversed.

After all, it’s only right that, when we ask workers to leave their families for four to six months to help maintain our naval edge, we treat them fairly. That principle applies if you are a worker heading somewhere to do maintenance on a carrier or if you are a servicemember looking for decent lodging while traveling to support military missions.

I’m happy to report that I successfully added language to the defense appropriations bill to stop this harmful policy so workers engaged in critical assignments for our military don’t receive lowered compensation. Thankfully, this common sense effort received bipartisan support.

The 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill funds critical national security needs, including military operations and readiness programs, as well as health and quality-of-life programs for our troops and military families. I’m glad we got this added and I’ll keep pushing for it. This step gets us closer to lightening the load on these men and women working on behalf of our national security.

You can read more details about my work on this issue here.

An Agreement that Helps Workers

Regular readers may also remember I’ve spent a lot of time fighting to expand the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects. This arose after local trades workers brought up the fact that they’d see a lot of out-of-state license plates in the parking lots at federal construction sites. It makes sense that skilled workers who live and work near a federal construction project should be brought on board. After all, they are not only talented but also understand the area where the work is taking place – whether that is on Sinclair Inlet, Hood Canal, or in the shadows of Mt. Rainier.

That’s where PLAs come in. These agreements are good for labor, contractors, local economies, the government, and the taxpayer. They help provide stability during construction which reduces the opportunity for schedule slippage and cost overruns. We’ve witnessed the benefits of having a project labor agreement at Naval Base Kitsap. Under a PLA a key project was completed $250 million below budget, used local labor, addressed important and sensitive environmental issues, and served as an opportunity to train the next generation of skilled workers.

It’s why I recently went to the White House to spotlight how this project could be a model for the nation. And it’s why when legislation was recently introduced on the House floor to prohibit the continued implementation of PLAs, I stood up against it. We successfully beat back this attempt to block the Department of Defense from using PLAs. Thankfully, we had bipartisan support for my position – and for having the backs of the skilled workers of our region.

You can watch my comments from the floor defending PLAs here.

Continuing to Protect Our Businesses and You from Cyber Threats

 About a month ago I highlighted a new bill I helped introduce that would help entrepreneurs and small business owners combat cyber threats. This is especially important since small businesses are the backbone of our economy.

Small businesses are key to the growth of jobs and opportunities. Unfortunately, they are often threatened by cyberattacks. In fact, a recent study estimated that three out of every five attacks target small businesses. That’s why the bipartisan bill I introduced (along with Rep. Richard Hanna of New York) would give small businesses key tools so they can develop a comprehensive plan for tackling cyber threats and better protect their bottom lines. That’s also important to all of us as consumers, because none of us want our personal details or our financial information to end up in the wrong hands.

Well, I’ve got an exciting update for you.

Our legislation was recently included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that the House approved. Each year we debate the NDAA and it sets funding levels, expenditures, and other policy authorizations for our military. I’m glad we are keeping momentum moving on our bill and will keep working to see it included in the version that heads to the President’s desk later this year.

Time for a Vote

When I’m travelling around our region, I get a lot of questions regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Folks are frustrated enough about the dysfunction in the legislative branch. They’re concerned that – with only 8 members on the Supreme Court – now, we’ll see dysfunction in the judiciary too.

With that in mind, since last February I’ve pushed for a vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for the Supreme Court. The American people sent President Obama back to the Oval Office to fulfill his Constitutional duties. Picking a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court is one of them.

In order to keep the pressure up, I recently joined some of my colleagues in introducing a bill that would call for Congress to remain in session unless the Senate holds hearings on Garland’s nomination by July 19th (which will mark 125 days since the nomination was put forward – and will serve as the longest amount of time a Supreme Court nominee has had to wait without a vote). In my view, it doesn’t make sense for Congress to recess for part of the summer, when it’s not doing its job.

Plus, the Supreme Court matters! With a new court we can make some much-needed progress on fixing our broken campaign finance system. That’s something worth fighting for.

Appropriations Corner

Last week on the Appropriations Committee we also considered a bill that covers funding for the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other smaller agencies. We covered a lot of ground on issues that are important to folks in our region. 

One of the most important areas in the bill was language and funding to help recover salmon populations. Salmon are an icon of our state and are vital to our region’s economy. They are essential to our coastal communities and to treaty rights. Unfortunately, as we’ve lost habitat and seen water quality diminish, salmon populations have declined.

With that in mind, working with my colleague, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, we were successful in securing critical funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. The Fund was created to aid the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead populations that are listed as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act while maintaining healthy salmon populations. The Fund helps implement efforts to protect and restore salmon habitat and track the progress of restoration.

The bill also boosts efforts to maintain healthy salmon populations on rivers in the Pacific Northwest and helps ensure hatcheries remain in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

I also got language in the bill focused on enhancing the government’s efforts related to ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a rising threat to our fisheries and to coastal communities in Washington state.

As the bill continues through the process, I’m hopeful that we’ll make some progress on some other key issues – including other coastal resiliency efforts. I spoke up about that in committee, and I’ll keep at it so appropriations bills like this actually help us meet these challenges head on.

Working for You

One of my favorite moments of the past two weeks was getting a chance to hang out with the Vikings at Viking Fest in Poulsbo! Thanks to the Sons of Norway for letting me borrow the helmet and sword!

I also had the opportunity to speak at the National Guard Association of Washington’s Conference. The theme of the conference was service. Thanks so much to all who serve for protecting us at home and abroad.

It was an honor to speak at the Annual Armed Forces Day Gala in Bremerton. The men and women of the U.S. Navy serve our nation so admirably. Congratulations to the Navy League for putting on such an outstanding event.

If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone you know, please give me office a holler.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you.