11.05.18

Bringing our Community Together

It has been a difficult few weeks since I last reached out. Between a spate of pipe bombs targeting elected officials and the press, and then a cowardly act of violence at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, there has been a lot of soul-searching going on across the country.

It is occasionally tempting to feel overwhelmed with bad actions like these. Having said that, we can also choose to feel consistently overwhelmed by the good that Americans are capable of. It says a lot about our country that, when the synagogue shooting suspect was brought into a Pittsburgh hospital spewing hateful things, he was treated professionally by Jewish hospital staff. Check out this article and watch the video associated with it.

What Dr. Cohen says in this video is both heartbreaking and profound. I think the care team’s actions on that day are a glimpse at our nation’s true soul.

Another thing Dr. Cohen said stuck with me too: “Words mean things.”

There’s no place in our society for anti-Semitism, bigotry, violence or hate.

I’ve recently used this newsletter to talk about civility and bipartisanship, and I’m going to keep banging that drum, because our republic functions best when we all work to dial down the toxicity and do our best to solve problems together.

PNW

Fixing Congress

This week, I spoke at the South Sound Summit about the need for more civility in our political system. In that regard, Congress can model good behavior or bad behavior. We’ve seen far too much bickering in DC - and far too little progress. That’s caused folks to lose faith in the idea that we can solve problems civilly.

south sound summit

The rules Congress sets for itself are part of the problem. Last Thursday, I penned an op-ed with Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, about the changes Congress should make to encourage bipartisan problem solving.

The two of us are co-chairs of the Congressional Reformers caucus. Over the last few months, we organized more than 130 meetings with more than 60 members of Congress from across the country and political spectrum.

Through those conversations, we developed a series of reforms that will help Congress work better. In the coming months, we will raise them with members of the House Rules Committee and leaders of both parties.

We outlined some fixes here.

Podcast

(A few months ago, I had Rep. Buck on my podcast. Get to know him here.)

While you’re reading The Hill, check out the op-ed from Rep. Steve Womack, who I recently hosted for an exchange. He’s the Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, and he’s the co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, a temporary committee tasked with fixing the way Congress funds the government.

I was appointed to be a member of this temporary Committee because so many folks in our region depend on Congress doing its job and passing budgets and appropriations bills. Whether you’re a government employee or someone who works for a small business adjacent to the National Park, you likely feel it when there’s a government shutdown. The servicemembers in our region depend on Congress to fund the training and equipment they need. Tens of thousands of families in our region make a living working for the federal government - whether for the Naval Base, JBLM, the Veterans Administration, the Park Service, the Forest Service, or someplace else. Their incomes and our economy are directly affected by the dysfunction.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks. The committee will be trying to work out a bipartisan plan when Congress is back in session.

I’ll keep working to fix Congress.

Ferry

Standing Up For Veterans

One place where Congress should continue to focus is on the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last week I was able to drop by UW-Tacoma for an update from student veterans, including some who have not received their GI Bill housing stipends on time.

UW Tacoma Vets

More than a year ago, Congress passed the Forever GI Bill. It included a housing stipend increase for veterans, and I was proud to cosponsor it. Despite having a year to roll out the increase, the VA hasn’t gotten the job done. That’s left hundreds of thousands of student-veterans with financial hardships and no GI Bill payments. At least 340,000 veterans nationwide have not received the increase, and about 140,000 veterans have filed claims for missed payments - a 50 percent increase from this time last year.

This is unacceptable. If you serve our country, the government should have your back, and you shouldn’t have to fight for benefits you’ve earned and deserve. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing on this issue November 14th, and I’m going to keep pushing the VA’s leaders to be more accountable.

This week, I also hosted a pinning ceremony for Vietnam veterans in Port Ludlow. Thank you to all who came and to all who served.

Ludlow

My team and I will organize more of these ceremonies in the months ahead. If you’d like to help us put on an event or if you’re a veteran who would rather seek recognition privately, please reach out to Rob from our team. He’s in our Tacoma office, and you can reach him at 253-272-3515.

Speaking of ceremonies honoring our veterans... More than 260,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans bravely served in World War II. Yet for far too long those efforts were never properly recognized. I joined an effort to award Filipino and Filipino-Americans the Congressional Gold Medal, and I had the chance to speak at the APCC Filipino American History Month Celebration. To all who served, thank you.

APCC

Helping First Responders

Congress should keep working together to fix the opioid crisis.

I recently did a ride-along with the Tacoma Fire Department’s CARES team, a group that is on the front lines responding to mental health and addiction crises.CARES

Congress needs to keep stepping up for communities as they work to expand mental health accessibility and address the opioid crisis. It should also provide more access to medicines that reverse overdoses like naloxone. I’ve worked to secure funding for this life-saving drug through my service on the Appropriations Committee.

Working For You

Here are some of the highlights from my last two weeks.

Promoting a Healthy Community

When it comes to health care, Congress should follow the same rules as doctors: first do no harm. I spoke with folks at the Coordinated Care Community Leaders Breakfast about ways to improve health care and the importance of protecting patients with pre-existing conditions.

Coordinated Care

Checking in With Local Businesses

I had another Kilmer At Your Company visit with Bradken Atlas, a local steel manufacturer that produces parts for the US Navy.

Bradken

Lifting Families Up

Travelling around our community, I’ve seen how the United Way of Pierce County is building a coalition that’s united in its goal to lift 15,000 families out of poverty by 2028. Thanks to Dona Ponepinto for meeting with me! Count me as a partner in the work to create more economic opportunities for more people.

United way

That’s all for now folks. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if I can ever be of assistance. I’m honored to represent you.

Derek