Pancakes on Fourth of July

Not only are we fully in the summer season, tomorrow is also the Fourth of July! This Independence Day, I’ll be starting my day with two pancake breakfasts (because you can never have enough pancakes), and then I’ll be participating in three parades. I’m looking forward to seeing you out and about as we celebrate our country. Keep your eyes out and say hello if you see me.

Remember – I work for you!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks so let’s get on with the rest!  

Protecting our nation’s security

When you look around the world, it’s clear to see that threats exist. There are states and terrorist groups that wish to do us harm. That’s why it’s critical we maintain the best-equipped and trained military in the world. It’s also critical that we have a serious discussion and a sensible plan in place before we put any American servicemember in harm’s way.

A decade and a half ago, Congress passed an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al Qaeda following the attacks on 9/11. But the world has changed significantly since then. I believe that premising military activity on a 16-year-old authorization is very dangerous precedent. Rather, in my view, Congress must step up and have a real debate regarding authorization of military force.

With that in mind, last Thursday, I joined my Republican and Democratic colleagues on the Appropriations Committee in supporting an amendment to the defense spending bill to let the 2001 authorization expire, so Congress can debate and approve a new plan for when and how America can use force overseas.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had previously spoken out in support of a new AUMF. During his confirmation hearing, he stated, “I would take no issue with the Congress stepping forward with an AUMF. I think it’d be a statement of the American people’s resolve. I thought the same thing for the last several years, I might add, and have not understood why Congress hasn’t come forward with this, at least to debate.”

Now more than ever, vigorous Congressional oversight is needed to ensure the executive branch is acting responsibly to keep our nation safe from the threat of terrorist groups like ISIL. A new AUMF could be vital to defining our mission clearly. You can read more about that vote here.

Advocating for jobs in our district

That wasn’t the only big issue Congress came together on recently. The House also passed a bipartisan jobs bill that focused on workforce development. A bill called the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act was approved and sent to the Senate. Essentially, the bill provides resources to help people transition from public assistance into apprenticeships and other on-the-job training so that they can earn a good living.

Our country still has a lot of people without jobs. But we also have a lot of jobs without people – where employers can’t find applicants with the right skill set. With apprenticeships, folks can have more opportunities to develop the experience to be successful in fields that are in demand.

In my view, it’s important that people have economic opportunity regardless of the zip code in which they live. Consequently, I successfully added an amendment to the bill that ensures the Department of Labor focuses some energy on addressing employment challenges facing rural and Tribal communities too. You can watch a video of me on the floor talking about this here.

I think Congress ought to be doing even more to support apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can be just as transformational for a person as college. And skilled labor jobs can be just as valuable for supporting a family as jobs that require college. With that in mind, if we’re going to unleash economic growth, policymakers ought to acknowledge that and respect that. That’s an area I’m going to be diving into in greater depth over the coming months. So stay tuned.

Extending a hand to veterans

In our region veterans are our friends, neighbors, and family. We know that we must have the backs of those who served on our behalf. As a representative who represents so many veterans, I make it a point to make sure these men and women are getting a fair shake.

That’s why I joined a number of my colleagues in pushing back against a proposal from the Veterans Administration to eliminate Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits to retirement-aged veterans. This is a big deal. But don’t take my word for it. AMVETS, the oldest organization that focuses on issues impacting veterans, noted that, “these veterans have largely been disabled, out of the work force and not paying Social Security for many years before reaching 65. Many have been severely disabled as a result of their military service and unable to work since the day of their discharge.”

We are going to continue to oppose these changes. You can read the letter I sent here.

Making sure your voice is heard

Over the last few months, I’ve heard from a whole lot of you about health care. I’ve talked to nurses and doctors. I’ve met with people who are grappling with cancer. I’ve listened to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

I wasn’t in Congress when the Affordable Care Act was passed. There are parts of the law that undeniably represent real progress for the folks I represent. That said, there are also improvements that I believe ought to be made. In fact, I’ve sponsored several bills to try to reduce health care costs for small businesses, improve access to primary care, and strengthen care in rural areas. I’ve said that if there are reasonable proposals to improve the law, I’d be open to supporting such improvements.

Sadly, that has not been the approach in DC so far.

Thankfully, the Senate punted on a bill that would take our healthcare system backward, not forward. Many folks raised their voices with concerns about the Senate’s plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. It’s worth noting that the independent Congressional Budget Office found that the proposed changes would leave 22 million people in the next decade without their insurance and likely hike prices up for older Americans.

To me, this is about the people I represent. A bill negotiated behind closed doors will not include the voices or the interests of the folks I represent. With that in mind, I’m glad that the Senate has not taken up this bill. But we’ve still got work to do. I encourage you to continue making your voices heard. I’ll remain focused on working with anyone – regardless of party – to make our system work better for more people.

Protecting your right to vote

One of our most sacred rights is the right to vote—and we’ve seen recent attempts to suppress it. Sadly, things got worse following a U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Shelby County v. Holder. That decision took the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act.

That’s why I joined Rep. Terri Sewell in sponsoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act. This bill would address that court decision and safeguard voting rights. 

I spoke on the House floor about why we should ensure that no state can discriminate by creatingbarriers to the ballot box.

Fighting Cancer

Earlier this year, I became co-chair of the House Cancer Caucus, a group dedicated to combating cancer. Like many Americans, my family has been touched by cancer, and I’m dedicated to seeing us find a cure.

Last week at a briefing with fellow House Cancer Caucus co-chairs Rep. Charlie Dent and Kevin Yoder, I asked how many folks in the room had a family member impacted by cancer. As the hands shot up, I was reminded how important it is for our nation to continue investing in efforts to make medical breakthroughs. The researchers and doctors looking for a cure deserve our support.

That’s why funding for the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute remains so critical. The proposed budget from President Trump would cut the NIH by $5.8 billion and the Cancer Institute by $1 billion. That drop would mean 5,000 – 8,000 fewer research grants, slashing medical research.  Unfortunately, according to an independent analysis, such a cut would also cost 90,000 jobs.

Thankfully, there seems to be bipartisan support in Congress for protecting this vital funding and keeping our nation committed to fighting cancer. As Vice Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep working hard to ensure patients have access to the best treatment, alternative therapies, and pain relief. 

Watch this video to see my remarks before the briefing.

Art in the Capitol

Congratulations to Amaya Belden-Reeves, winner of the Congressional Art Competition. Her work now hangs in the tunnel on the way to the Capitol along with those of other high school students. Great work Amaya (and nice enthusiasm in the photo!)

Working for you

I had the honor of visiting Bremerton’s Emmanuel Apostolic Church for their celebration of graduates. Thanks to Bishop Larry Robertson for the kind welcome. And congratulations to all of the graduates!

Tess and I had a Fathom O Fun at the Port Orchard Fathoms O Fun Parade. We got to take a ride in an awesome 1962 Ford Galaxie Convertible)!


Derek Kilmer