A Special Visit

Oftentimes, it feels like our political discourse has descended into a World Wrestling Federation grudge match. As a representative – and, perhaps more importantly, as a dad – I think it’s important to model good behavior, to follow the Golden Rule, and to treat people with respect. I’ve always admired people who can disagree without being disagreeable.

This past year, I’ve often found myself turning off the TV because I don’t want my daughters to hear how politicians are talking about each other. 

Earlier this month, I met with an exceptional group of young people from our state who are trying to do something about that. This remarkable group of 11 and 12 year olds – known as the DC Bully Busters – came all the way to our nation’s capital to highlight how we all need to come together and put an end to bullying. Whether you are in junior high or Congress, it’s important to treat people with respect and stand up against bullying.

It was awesome to meet this group of young leaders. They reinforced that no matter who you are or where you come from you should be treated with respect. That goes for politicians, grade-schoolers, and anyone else. I was happy to sign the DC Bully Busters pledge which says “I will represent the people of the United States of America without engaging in bullying or being a bystander to bullying tactics.” I look forward to doing my part to model good behavior.

On a side note, after the visit, I told my kids about the DC Bully Busters. They visited the website – dcbullybusters.com – and were inspired to get involved. Tess, my 7-year-old, even wants to write them a theme song! (Admittedly, it sounds a lot like the Ghostbusters theme).

Now on to the rest of the news!

An irresponsible budget

Since my last update, President Trump released his first budget blueprint. If enacted, the impact would be terribly damaging for our region.

I’m all about jobs. But the Trump budget would hurt our ability to prepare folks for the workforce -- cutting financial aid, job training programs, and funding to help kids make it to graduation. His budget blueprint undermines key tools for business growth, cutting the Small Business Administration’s small business loan programs and investments in roads, bridges, and wastewater that help our competitiveness. The 3,200 people in our region who work in the shellfish industry will be impacted by cuts to Puget Sound funding and clean water programs. Folks on the Olympic Peninsula would be hurt by cuts to the rural agriculture extension office and by the complete elimination of funding for coastal assistance and support for small, rural airports that are important to our economy.

On top of that, the Trump budget is unserious. It relies on gimmicks – giving a bunch of tax breaks to special interests and the rich and making absolutely no progress in the effort to address our long-term fiscal challenges as a country.

I would encourage the President to go back to the drawing board.

As Vice Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee I’m going to fight for a responsible budget that actually addresses our deficit and provides stability for working Americans and their families.

Let’s get money out of politics

Between a budget proposal and a fight over our health care system, it’s hard to keep up with the news these days! But there are other initiatives that deserve your attention. I often write about the work I do to make changes in campaign finance laws to ensure that money stays out of politics.

The Citizens United court decision unleashed loads of dark money into our political system. I disagree with it. I don’t think money is speech and I don’t think corporations are people. I’ve now sponsored two constitutional amendments in hopes of addressing this court decision, so we can put power back in the hands of “We the People.”

Beyond that, though, this issue illustrates the importance of the Supreme Court. With a new opening on the court, I want to make sure the seat is taken by someone who will reverse this trend. Consequently, I joined my colleagues in asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure that Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the court, details publicly his views on money in politics.

Our letter – signed by 110 members of the House – said “In our view, the Supreme Court has for decades embraced a deeply flawed approach to the laws governing money in our politics. The result has been a system that empowers the wealthy and well-connected, while drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. It is no surprise then that more than 90% of voters – including 91% of Trump voters – believe it is critical that the new Supreme Court justice be open to limiting the influence of big money in our politics.”

I’m pleased that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and others dove into this issue. I hope that this issue continues to get the attention that it deserves as the Senate considers this nomination.

A vote on healthcare

Last week Congress also took a vote on healthcare. President Trump pledged that his plan would provide "insurance for everybody" and be "much less expensive." But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had revealed that President Trump's plan breaks both promises.

I was opposed to this approach because it would have covered fewer people and cost people more. Indeed, if enacted into law, millions fewer across our nation and 40,000 fewer of our neighbors in this congressional district would have health coverage. Premiums would go up, particularly for seniors and folks in rural communities. And just last week, a last-minute provision was added that would make military veterans ineligible for tax credits to help them afford private insurance.

I’m willing to work with anyone that wants to improve our healthcare system by reducing costs and expanding coverage. In fact, I’ve sponsored bills to help small businesses better afford insurance, to address the challenges facing rural health care providers, and to improve access to primary care.

But I’m not willing to move backward.

While I am glad that the bill never ended up coming to a vote in the House, I hope that folks come together to fix the parts of our health care system that need fixing. This shouldn’t be about political point-scoring. It should be about ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.

Protecting our jobs

That’s not all that happened in the past two weeks!

You may have seen a story on 60 Minutes two weekends ago that highlighted problems with the H-1B visa program. You can take a look at here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/are-u-s-jobs-vulnerable-to-workers-with-h-1b-visas/

The H-1B visa program was originally created to help American companies find workers to fill job openings that require advanced skills. With an H-1B visa, workers from other countries with degrees and expertise in science and technology can be hired to fill those jobs.

The program has clear rules of the road that stipulate temporary workers can’t displace American workers or reduce their take home pay.

But recently, outsourcing firms have used H-1B visas as a tool for offshoring American jobs. As the 60 Minutes story details, firms have brought in foreign workers, had them shadow American workers with years of experience, had them record everything they saw, and then sent the foreign workers back to their country of origin. In other words, the foreign workers took their knowledge back and in the end, took American jobs along with them.

In my view, that’s entirely unacceptable. No one should be forced to train the person who is outsourcing their job.

To fix this problem, I reintroduced a bipartisan bill to protect American workers from outsourcing. My bill would establish safeguards in the H-1B visa program to prevent outsourcing. It would explicitly forbid businesses from using temporary workers to come here, learn how to do a job, and then return to a different country with that position.

As someone who worked in economic development for a decade, I want us to keep jobs here in America.

Working for you

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with people serving our community through AmeriCorps. I spoke with a veteran who works at the University of Washington - Tacoma to assist fellow veterans navigate their benefits. I spoke with folks from Rebuilding Together South Sound who do repairs for our low income neighbors to ensure they can stay in their home. Over 1,900 AmeriCorps members serve throughout our state this year. Unfortunately, the President's budget blueprint proposes eliminating AmeriCorps altogether. AmeriCorps is a win-win – providing amazing opportunities for participants, helping them pay for their education, and strengthening our communities. I’ll be fighting to protect it!

I had the pleasure of visiting Steph and Phyllis at the historic LeRoy Jewelers in Tacoma. It’s been in business in Tacoma's downtown since 1941! On December 2, 2016 they celebrated their diamond anniversary specializing in making custom jewelry by hand here in this very room. Small businesses like LeRoy are part of the fabric of an economy that works for everyone.

I also spoke to the largest transportation club in the United States, the century-old Transportation Club of Tacoma. Focused on policy and problem solving, members of this club advocate for smart and sustainable infrastructure growth and maintenance of our nation's roads and waterways. The National Society of Civil Engineers grades our national infrastructure a D grade. That's not good enough. To grow our economy, we need a transportation network that can get both people and goods to the market.

Finally, congratulations to the Port Orchard Rotary for a great dinner! It was a night supporting the club's important work in the community (and...ok...a lot of crab). Thanks to all of the Rotarians for putting service above self.

OK – that’s it for this update. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of assistance to you or someone you know.

It’s an honor to represent you.

Derek Kilmer