Fall Deadlines

Like a lot of families, the Kilmers are gearing up for back to school. It was a full summer for my daughters, Sophie and Tess, with trips to Hurricane Ridge, Neah Bay (this weekend – for Makah Days!), and a few summer camps. The highlight, for me, was watching their performance last weekend at the completion of their Theater Camp at the Admiral Theater in Bremerton.

I was proud to watch Sophie fly across the stage (not literally) as Peter Pan and Tess embrace the role of Maleficent. It speaks volumes that the talented directors at this camp were able to wrangle all these kids into putting on such shows.

Frankly, they accomplished more in two weeks than Congress has managed to do.

That’s especially troubling considering the number of deadlines Congress faces after Labor Day. For one, Congress must take action on the debt limit. And Congress must pass a budget. As a quick refresher, since the debt limit suspension expired on March 15, the Treasury Department has used ‘extraordinary measures’ to continue paying America’s bills. The department will be out of those options by October. If Congress does nothing, the resulting damage to the economy would make it more expensive for folks to borrow money to buy a car or home, start a business or expand one.

Simply put, America should pay its bills. I strongly believe our nation should get a handle on our long-term fiscal challenges. The debt is a problem that doesn’t get better by having Congress hide its head in the sand. That’s why, as I’ve written previously, I’ve pushed Congress to pass a “Fiscal State of the Nation” bill and to work in a bipartisan way to address our long-term debt. 

But defaulting on our nation’s existing obligations would make no sense at all. When folks have asked me about this, I’ve explained that it’s a bit like choosing not to pay the minimum balance on your credit card or your home mortgage. It’s a choice you could make, but it would do lasting damage to your credit score.

The TV show The West Wing did a good (and funny) job of explaining the challenges related to the debt ceiling in an episode 13 years (and trillions of dollars) ago. You can watch it here.

Beyond that, Congress needs to pass a budget. If things went according to plan, Congress would pass a budget in the Spring. As we sit here today, Congress has not even voted on a budget. As a consequence, federal agencies and the folks who depend on them are largely flying blind. I feel so strongly about the need for Congress to pass a budget, I’ve sponsored a bill that’s somewhat controversial in DC. It’s called “No Budget, No Pay.” It says that if members of Congress don’t do their jobs and pass a budget, they shouldn’t get paid.

But there’s more. Congress also needs to pass twelve appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year – September 30. Heading into September two-thirds of the appropriations bills the House needs to pass have yet to be voted on. The Senate hasn’t taken any up. That means we could see a shutdown at the end of the month.

If this sounds frustratingly like the movie Groundhog Day, then you’re right. We saw a few years ago how damaging a government shutdown was. It hurt federal workers. It undercut the ability of federal agencies to execute their missions. And it hammered local businesses too. Restaurants and hotels and shops near Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and near the National Park were hit hard. In fact, the last shutdown cost the American economy tens of billions of dollars. 

This is not an approach families or businesses would take to budgeting. Without a budget we could also see a return of the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. Again, that’s a mindless gimmick.

So, in the weeks ahead, I’m going to do everything I can to push for a smarter, more constructive approach. One that doesn’t rely on gimmicks and brinkmanship but, rather, that focuses on dealing with our nation’s financial challenges problems head-on.

Hate in Charlottesville

Today marks the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. In front of thousands of people – from near and far, rich and poor, black and white, faith community leaders, elected officials, union leaders, activists, and concerned Americans – Dr. King challenged this nation to live up to its creed – a creed based in the notion of equality as a basic right for everyone. He spoke of a dream of people of different races being able to join hands and live in harmony – “to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” 

That peaceful march and Dr. King’s words stand in such sharp contrast to what we saw in Charlottesville a couple of weeks ago. Rather than peace, we saw violence – and even a tragic loss of life.

Rather than standing in the shadow of the great American who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, we saw Neo-Nazis and white supremacists standing in front of painful symbols of the Confederacy.

Rather than an aspirational dream, we heard division and hate speak.

It was a reminder that, while we’ve made progress as a nation, we have a long way to go to fulfill Dr. King’s dream.

Let me say what I wish the President had said immediately, consistently, and clearly: There is no room in American politics for the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. Or any other group that seeks to oppress others. Violence is wrong. Racism is wrong. Bigotry is wrong.

Dr. King once said that: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because each of us work harder to build Dr. King’s dream. I was reminded of that when I recently sat down with the NAACP of Tacoma for their awards banquet. Every day in our community folks are going about the quiet work of making our country a better place. They deserve our gratitude.

An Afghanistan Update

The President also recently made news with a speech declaring his intent to send more troops to Afghanistan. It’s clear that the Taliban and other groups operating in that country wish to do us harm. But it’s critical for us to have a serious discussion about this plan before we put more American servicemembers in harm’s way.

A couple newsletters back I noted that Congress passed an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Al Qaeda following the attacks on 9/11. Rather than green-lighting decisions based on a 16-year-old authorization, I think it’s time for Congress to have a real debate regarding what exactly an authorization of military force should look like in our current world.

Congress needs to ensure the executive branch is acting responsibility to keep our nation safe and also keep our soldiers from getting bogged down in a never-ending conflict. A new AUMF is critical to ensuring we have a clearly defined mission and a strategy for success.

A Plug for 21st Century Apprenticeships

I’ve written about a bill I’ve cosponsored to further the use of tech apprenticeships to help us build the middle class. I recently stopped by Infoblox – a rapidly growing Tacoma company—to talk about how my legislation could help bring new folks from all walks of life through the Infoblox doors. We had a great discussion with local leaders and workers from the company and I’m excited about what we can do in the future.

You can read more about this initiative in my blog, and learn about my visit with Infoblox here.

Support for Local Initiatives

I’ve written extensively about my concerns with the President’s proposed budget. And in the past two weeks we’ve gotten some prime examples of why it’s important for the federal government to be a partner in our region. If we were to pass the President’s budget, some key investments that help businesses and folks in our region would be put at risk.

For example, the Department of Labor announced more than $2 million in grants to YouthBuild, a pre-apprenticeship program dedicated to supporting at-risk people ages 16-24. 

In our region, two groups received these honors. In Tacoma, Goodwill of the Olympics & Rainier Region received $1.1 million in funding, and in Bremerton, Olympic Educational Service District 114 received $1.078 million.

With this investment from the Department of Labor, we can make sure that opportunity is extended to folks in all communities – no matter their zip code.

Another recently announced change that will play an essential role in our community is an additional investment in the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System.

In the event of an earthquake off the coast of Washington, folks will have only minutes or less to get to higher ground. I've fought for this Earthquake Early Warning System because it will be a literal lifesaver for people in our region. Imagine what a few seconds of warning can mean for a teacher in a classroom, a doctor doing surgery, a commuter crossing a bridge, or an office worker getting into an elevator.

While the president’s budget proposed eliminating federal funding for this effort, I’ve played a leading role on the Appropriations Committee in keeping funding for the system going. The new award from the United States Geological Survey will put $4.9 million toward bringing the ShakeAlert system online.  

Celebrating a Legend

I was honored to be on hand with Dan Evans, our former Governor and former Senator for the dedication of the Daniel J. Evan Wilderness Area in Olympic National Park. In addition to thanking Dan Evans for his leadership, I had to confess to him that I wasn’t sure what to call him (Governor? Senator? This seems like the only time that the phrase “Governator” might actually be appropriate!)

The backdrop of the park reminded us that the outdoors bring together families, friends, and neighbors. There has been no greater champion for protecting these outdoors spaces than Dan Evans.

He helped create the North Cascades National Park, Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. His legacy helped shape our state and also shaped future generations of elected leaders who now carry the charge of environmental stewardship forward.

Most importantly, his work reminds us that when it comes to protecting precious outdoors spaces it’s not about Democrats or Republicans – it’s about Washingtonians.  

District Visits

Thanks to the entire Peninsula School District team for the phenomenal work it does. Great to see so many business and civic leaders at the Partners in Learning event to extend gratitude and wish the faculty, staff and administrators best wishes for a good school year!

I was happy to join the Earth Economics team in Tacoma to discuss everything from flooding to ocean acidification, and lands management to Puget Sound restoration efforts. They do really interesting work looking at how human economies interact with our environmental challenges. Thanks for taking time to meet with me!

I spoke to a group from the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges about the value of collaboration. Doing an outdoor speech during the eclipse was a bit …different. This is officially the first time that I gave a speech that blocked out the sun.

I had an awesome visit to the Clallam County Fair and met with a ton of people (including County Commissioner Randy Johnson with whom I talked cross-laminated timber). Then, my tour of the fried foods of Western Washington continued with a deep fried Snickers bar. 

I spent a recent afternoon visiting the leadership team at a great local community financial institution, Kitsap Bank. We chatted about their operations and growth in the region and discussed their upcoming EDG3 Fund finale in November. This is the 4th year that Kitsap Bank has offered this entrepreneurship competition focused on sustainability, with the winning small business getting a $20k prize!

I spent one of my lunch hours visiting with the employees of Skookum in Bremerton for an employee town hall (ok, we ate BBQ too). Skookum is a leader in providing training and jobs for people with disabilities, and have made a name for themselves in our region as a dedicated and community-driven organization. I want to thank President and CEO Jeff Dolven for giving me the opportunity to hear from the people who work there and to answer questions.

At Bremerton High School, I spoke to the West Sound teachers and highlighted the need for this education funding. I even got the chance to talk to some students who told me they were excited about the new school year. With great students and teachers, the school year is bound to be a success!

OK – that’s it for this time. Thanks for reading. And, as always, thanks for the opportunity to represent you!