12.23.19

I'm Honored to Represent You

Friend -

We’re quickly coming up on the holidays, and I’d love to write about presents and eggnog. But, let’s be honest... it’s been a challenging few weeks for our country - some of the most solemn and historic weeks that I’ve been part of as a public servant.  

I’ve always made it a priority to remain available, accessible, and accountable to the folks I represent. That’s why I held a Facebook Live town hall last week and a telephone town hall the very night of the impeachment vote because I didn’t want to hide from the views that people wanted to express. I work for you, and that makes it all the more important that we discuss some of these tough issues together.

Toward that end, let me catch you up on the past few weeks...

Upholding the Constitution

I didn’t come to Congress to pursue impeachment. Rather, as most of you likely know, my focus has been on trying to create more economic opportunity in our region and pushing to have a government that works better - period. Having said that, the very first thing I do as your representative is raise my right hand and swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. That’s a commitment I take seriously.

It matters to me that all elected officials are held accountable to the public. It should never be acceptable for a sitting president - or any elected official - to abuse their position of power to achieve their political aims. This is a value that extends beyond party politics and is critical to our adherence to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy.

To be clear, this cannot be and should not be about politics - now or in the future - nor should it be about re-litigating the 2016 election.

Rather, the focus must be on whether the president abused his office and obstructed Congress in its investigation to evaluate that abuse.

The two articles of impeachment that Congress considered laid out two important points. First, the President abused the power of his office. In testimony by members of the president’s own administration, it is clear that he withheld security assistance from one of our allies, demanding a “favor” from them in the form of an investigation of his political rival. Second, the President directed the White House and Executive Branch agencies to defy lawful subpoenas, prevent testimony and withhold documents that were within the scope of the impeachment inquiry.

Based on the evidence brought to light in the course of the impeachment inquiry, more than 500 constitutional scholars recently signed a letter saying that they believe the president committed impeachable conduct. This comes on the heels of over 300 national security professionals - Democrats and Republicans - supporting the impeachment inquiry based on the damaging ramifications of the President’s actions related to the Ukraine.

Having reviewed the evidence laid out in the impeachment inquiry and having evaluated these various assessments, I voted to support the articles of impeachment put before the House.

As I’ve said previously, this entire process is disruptive, and it may further polarize a country that is already far too divided. But in my view, these incidents should not be dismissed based on politics, party biases, or the fear of some predicted outcome. My approach on this is not grounded in politics or partisanship but rather a belief that simply ignoring these allegations sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents - and sends a frightening message regarding our adherence to the rule of law.

Some have asked, “why not just wait until the election next November?” Honestly, that is more difficult when the questionable conduct is specifically focused on a president’s effort to manipulate the 2020 election. In addition, our national security is impacted when any president uses their office to ask a foreign government for political help. In fact, the letter from national security experts states that the President’s actions should be considered a “profound national security concern.”

I understand that this issue spurs passionate views from all sides. I’m grateful to everyone who weighed in with their perspectives on this matter over the last few months. Regardless of your stance on this issue, please know that, as your representative for our region, I’ll keep working every day to grow jobs. And I will keep working to have government work better for the people.

Making Government Work Better: Securing Critical Investment in Regional Priorities

While the press was focused on impeachment alone, a lot of other things happened last week. Important among them was the passage of legislation to fund the government and avert a government shutdown.

As many of the readers of this newsletter know, the House passed the majority of its government funding bills before the summer. However, the Senate didn’t really get cooking. Consequently, Congress had a limited window to come up with a funding agreement this month that could pass the House, pass the Senate, and be signed by the President. There’s more work to fix the broken system that got us to this place, but thankfully, Congress managed to put together an agreement in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion that kept the government open and that funded critical priorities for our region that will create jobs AND help the environment. 

As a Member of the Appropriations Committee, I was pleased that this agreement included a number of priorities I’ve been advocating for - including vital investments in Puget Sound recovery and restoring our salmon, a much-deserved pay raise for our military and for civilian federal workers, support for Indian Country and veterans, investments in jobs at Naval Base Kitsap, and funding for broadband and rural economic development.

Let me be clear, this is not the agreement I would have written on my own. There are provisions of this legislation that I detest. But I don’t get to vote ‘yes, but I have concerns’ or ‘no, but I liked these parts.’ While there is a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, to avert a government shutdown we needed to reach an agreement with a Senate and a President whose values are different than those of a majority of folks in our region.

We saw the lasting damage caused when that process failed and our country suffered a government shutdown. Our region doesn’t want further chaos and shutdowns. This vote responsibly funded our government, prevented another damaging government shutdown, and invested in our region.

There were a TON of BIG wins for your region - which you can read about here - but I wanted to take a quick second to go over just a few highlights.

Promoting Salmon and Orca Recovery

In our region, we know that steelhead and salmon populations are critical natural resources that help maintain economically viable tribal, commercial, and sports fisheries, and provide prey for Southern Resident killer whales. In this bill, I worked to secure funding increases to help recover salmon stocks and support the fisheries that depend on them, including funds to implement the newly ratified Pacific Salmon Treaty and funds for hatchery production. I also helped secure key investments in the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to support efforts that protect and restore salmon habitat and maintain long-term monitoring to track the success of restoration efforts. This program is the primary source of funding dedicated to recovering wild salmon and steelhead populations listed as threatened and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Investing in Local Navy Installations

Recognizing the important role that the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard plays in our national defense and local economy, I fought to increase funding available for facilities improvements and upgrades at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and ultimately secured $20 million in additional funding for enhancements - including safety improvements to protect workers - at the Navy’s public shipyards.

I also worked to champion a $50 million increase for the Office of Economic Adjustment’s Defense Communities Infrastructure Program (DCIP), which helps communities near defense installations - like those around Naval Base Kitsap and JBLM - plan for and implement future infrastructure projects that improve the quality of life for people, including civilians and members of the armed services and their families, living in the surrounding areas.

In addition, the spending bill included a 3.1 percent pay increase for members of the armed forces and for civilian defense workers and other federal employees.

Restoring Puget Sound

In our neck of the woods, we understand how important Puget Sound is to our region’s identity and our economy. Generations of our friends and neighbors have built their lives and made livelihoods on the Sound. That’s why so many people from our region have joined me in advocating for steps to recover this vital body of water. 

While the Trump Administration had proposed zeroing out all funds for Puget Sound, the bill Congress passed increased funding by more than 18% above the current funding level. Specifically, the bill includes a $5 million increase in the program that provides grants to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects that protect jobs and local economies by improving water quality, enhancing fish passage, increasing salmon habitat, and protecting shorelines.  

Making the Economy Work Better: Growing Washington Jobs

Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation - with exports and Washington-made products supporting our economy and hundreds of thousands of jobs. We do better when our communities are better able to export wood products, apples, cherries, airplanes, technology, seafood, Almond Roca, and other “Made in Washington” products. With that in mind, the discussion regarding the rules that govern trade between the United States and our closest neighbors is an important one.

I’ve persistently been critical of NAFTA, the current agreement governing trade between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Under NAFTA, there were no enforceable labor or environmental standards within the agreement. Enforcement - in general - was severely lacking, hurting jobs in America. Beyond that, NAFTA no longer adequately meets the demands of a 21st century economy. For example, NAFTA is an agreement that mentions “telegraphs” but doesn’t mention the internet.

In 2018, President Trump brought Congress what many have called “NAFTA 2.0” - the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In my opinion, while that proposal looked to modernize the 25-year-old agreement, it failed to deliver enough for workers, or for the environment.

In response, House Democrats created a USMCA Working Group to negotiate transformational improvements. That group spent much of the last year working to improve up the agreement. On top of that, I personally met several times with the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure that there were changes to improve labor and environmental standards, prescription drug provisions, and overall enforcement.

Earlier this month, the USMCA Working Group announced that it had secured significant improvements, and a deal was signed quickly thereafter by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Consider it version 3.0 – a better, more modern agreement.

First, the new USMCA strengthens rules on labor enforcement and commitments - including the implementation of rapid-response labor provisions to protect American workers, the creation of stronger rules to protect workers from violence and prosecute labor violations, and the use of new monitoring tools to ensure that Mexico is complying with its commitments to labor reforms. As a consequence of these improvements, the revised USMCA was endorsed by the AFL-CIO and other voices on behalf of working Americans. 

Second, the new USMCA ensures that the deal recognizes the environment’s connection to trade, allowing for the implementation of stronger, higher-standard rules that are clear and enforceable, and establishing Environment-Focused Attaches in Mexico City that will regularly monitor Mexico’s environment laws, regulations, and practices. Additionally, the implementing text joining the agreement authorizes an increase of $225 million for the North American Development Bank to fund water and energy infrastructure along the US-Mexico border and an additional $300 million in grants for sewer improvements in the region. Now, there will be some folks that say that this didn’t go far enough, specifically on climate. And I agree. But the deal is undeniably better than the status quo.

Third, the new USMCA includes provisions to address concerns regarding prescription drug costs, to increase innovation, and improve access to life-saving medicines. Pharmaceutical provisions that had been included in the initial draft put forward by President Trump - and which were the subject of a fair amount of controversy - were dropped altogether. 

And finally, the new USMCA has the strongest enforcement mechanisms of any U.S. trade agreement in history - closing enforcement loopholes and streamlining dispute settlement systems to ensure that our trading partners live up to their commitments to labor, environmental, and other disputes.

After securing significant improvements with our partner nations on labor and environmental standards, prescription drug prices, and overall enforcement, I chose to support the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. I believe it will support the creation of more jobs in our region and to enable folks to sell more Washington-made products around the globe.

Working For You

Going Back to School

I recently visited the Industrial Design Engineering and Arts (iDEA) High School in Tacoma, and it made me want to go back to high school! While there, I learned about their innovative approach to curriculum. I am proud of our next generation of leaders, and I am grateful to the educators that are cultivating them with the tools they need to be successful.

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Promoting New Innovations at Local Schools

Speaking of inspiring schools... The team at Oakland High is putting students first! I stopped by for updates on some awesome projects - like a school-based health care clinic, an on-site daycare center, and a partnership with Community in Schools Tacoma to support students inside and outside the classroom.

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Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs

Two weeks ago, I was proud to support HR 3 - the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. You can learn about the bill here. I was grateful for the opportunity to visit with seniors at Brookdale Living in Tacoma where we discussed this important bill to ensure people have the access they deserve to less expensive medication as well as a bill to strengthen Social Security.

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Ok - that’s it for now, folks. As we head into the holidays, I pray that it will be a time of healing - in every respect. I wish you and yours all the very best this holiday season.

As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek Kilmer