March 04, 2024

Averting a Shutdown (Again) – and Supporting Our Local Maritime Industry

Hello Folks –

In honor of Leap Year, I re-watched the 2010 rom-com Leap Year on my flight back home on Thursday night. It’s no When Harry Met Sally (and I’m not even sure it ranks up there with Notting Hill), but it was a fun distraction from turbulence at 30,000 feet … and from turbulence in Washington, D.C.

With that being said, let’s get into the news.

Another Short-Term Funding Fix

As regular readers of this newsletter know all too well, I’ve shared update after update for the better part of a year on the government funding situation and the potential of a government shutdown. If it seems like, every few weeks or so, Congress gets to the verge of a government shutdown only to pass a short-term funding bill that kicks the can for another few weeks, that’s because that is exactly what has been happening this past year.

In a previous issue, I detailed congressional leaders’ agreement on a two-tiered, short-term funding bill aimed at averting immediate crisis by keeping different parts of the government afloat until March 1 and March 8. This was designed to provide Congress with enough leeway to finalize individual spending bills (that were supposed to be passed back in September).

Fast forward to today, and it’s clear that getting to an agreement on those Fiscal Year 2024 bills has proved more challenging than necessary. So last week, we saw another can kick. In a familiar turn of events, Congress reached another short-term agreement to extend funding, with some deadlines pushed to March 8 and others further into the month. This move aims to buy more time for Congress to negotiate and agree on the final details of the spending bills.


On one hand, last week was good news because it averted a partial government shutdown. It’s important to emphasize just how detrimental a government shutdown can be. While we can breathe a sigh of relief that a shutdown was avoided last week (for a fourth time since the fall), it’s hardly a moment for celebration. Congress simply keeping the lights on while funding government a few weeks at a time creates unnecessary instability and is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

It doesn’t need to be this dysfunctional. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some of the extreme members of the House Freedom Caucus (the very far right wing of the House Republicans) make a list of demands unrelated to passing spending bills, threatening to upend the House if they don’t get their way. Sadly, for many months now, that has held up passage of real spending bills that go for longer than a few weeks at a time.

In a period of divided government, neither party is going to get everything it wants (and both parties may need to swallow some provisions they don’t like). I’m hopeful that Speaker Johnson concludes that the only path forward is for the House to bills that, though they may disappoint extremists in the Freedom Caucus, are bipartisan and can pass the Senate and be signed by President Biden. The American people deserve better than can-kicking. I’ll keep pushing for progress.

Modernizing Congress - One Workspace at a Time

When I led the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, we learned that if we want things to be different in Congress, then we must do things differently in Congress. Between 2019 and 2022, our committee passed more than 200 bipartisan recommendations aimed at making Congress work better for the American people. An entire subset of these recommendations aims to address logistical headaches that plague schedules, streamline constituent services, and remove barriers to collaboration in the House – a major contributor to a lack of congressional productivity.

Now, those of us focused on improving Congress have been working to implement recommendations from the bipartisan Modernization Committee to make Congress work better. Some of the reforms have been big-ticket items (including some big changes to strengthen congressional staff and reduce the role of outside lobbyists). Other reforms have been more tactical.

Let me give you an example of just one recent small change.

This past month, Democratic and Republican reformers introduced a bipartisan co-working space meant to promote collaboration among congressional staff. Tucked away at the end of a nondescript hallway on the Cannon House Office Building’s fourth floor, it’s a small, unassuming space decked out with a cluster of couches and meeting tables, but it represents something much larger: a step toward a more collaborative institution.


Simply creating space for Democrats and Republicans to work together won’t fix Congress overnight. But, like other reforms we’ve worked to implement, it’s a start.

Be on the lookout for other big recommendations I’m pushing to implement – including some massive reforms to the budget and appropriations process. I’ll keep you posted in the months ahead.

Supporting Our Local Maritime Industry

Throughout our region, a shortage of skilled workers can be a barrier to growth for local employers. The maritime industry is at the core of local economies across Western Washington and ensuring that the industry can overcome these barriers is essential.


I’m so thrilled to share that the Biden Administration recently designated three local maritime organizations as Centers of Excellence for Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education. The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Jefferson County, Peninsula College in Clallam County, and the Flagship Maritime Training Center in Tacoma are newly eligible for federal resources to help train workers and meet the local need for experienced maritime technicians in our communities.

This announcement means more money in the pockets of local workers and a boost for our region’s storied maritime industry – that’s a big deal and I’m proud to be a partner to these organizations and the many more around our region!

Working for You


Supporting Small Business Owners

Across our region, I’m committed to building an economy that works better for everyone. It was inspiring to hear directly from small business owners at my recent Pierce County Black-Owned Business Roundtable. We shared information from the Minority Business Development Agency and from the Small Business Administration and heard a lot of insightful perspectives that I’ll bring with me to DC.


Celebrating a Local Leader

I recently had the honor of introducing Chairwoman Frances Charles at the National Indian Women’s Honor Lunch. Chairwoman Charles received national attention for her leadership in restoring the Elwha River and her commitment to her community. I’m grateful for the chance to celebrate her partnership, her leadership, and her friendship.


Supporting Sustainable Forestry

I had a great time meeting with Kelly Lawrence, Supervisor of the Olympic National Forest, and her team. We discussed the Northwest Forest Plan Amendment process and future timber harvest plans. I’m grateful for the collaboration and commitment of the Forest Service to sustainable working forests!

OK – that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer