September 18, 2023

Government Funding: Getting Down to the Wire

Hello Folks –

I’m back in Washington, D.C., and there’s a lot to cover. Let’s jump right into the news.

Government Funding: Getting Down to the Wire

For those who have been following things in D.C., you’ll know that the government funding process has been no simple matter. This past week, things took another turn in the House, and I want to make sure you’re informed about the moving parts.

Unfortunately, the House seems to be moving toward a shutdown of the government. As I shared in my last newsletter, a shutdown is terribly damaging, is utterly stupid, and is entirely avoidable.

Sadly, we saw Speaker McCarthy – at the behest of a far-right faction in his conference – renege on an agreement on spending levels for the upcoming fiscal year. That has already put agreement with the Senate and with the White House in jeopardy.

But things got even more bonkers over the past week.

First, House Republicans abandoned plans to have a vote on the Defense Appropriations bill last week because of internal disputes within the Republican party.

Next, the far-right Freedom Caucus balked at passing a stopgap bill to keep the government running while negotiations continue. Just to keep the lights on, they are demanding deep cuts to the social safety net as well as partisan provisions related to the Department of Homeland Security.

In fairness, a good chunk of Republicans are similarly frustrated with the shenanigans of the Freedom Caucus. Republican Don Bacon said, “We are just ... catering to the fringe. It’s just irritating. I feel like we’ve made a deal with the president. And yes, I would have liked to have had more cuts, but when you make a deal, you make a deal.” My Republican colleague Steve Womack, for one, compared the state of play as “Washington’s version of Burning Man,” adding, “We are stuck in the mud.” And Republican Mike Simpson said this about the lack of a strategy in the House: “It’s stupid. We’ve been seeing this coming for the last three or four months. I just didn’t think we were dumb enough to get there.”

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t the Speaker tell the Freedom Caucus to take a hike and work with Democrats to pass a bipartisan spending agreement? Isn’t that what is required if a bill is also going to pass the Senate and be signed by the President anyhow?” If you’re asking that – you’re right!

In fact, I have co-led a letter with my colleagues in the New Democrat Coalition to Speaker McCarthy regarding the FY 24 appropriations process. It said, “In the absence of viable appropriations bills from the House Appropriations Committee, we urge you to, at the very least, bring bills similar to the bipartisan bills that have already passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote on the House Floor. Whether the Senate bills pass or fail, all Representatives – Republicans and Democrats – deserve the opportunity to show their constituents that they are working to responsibly keep the government open.”

In sum, what we’re seeing can be chalked up to internal party politics, with major consequences for the country’s defense budget, servicemembers, their families, the possibility of a government shutdown, and our local economy. I’m hopeful that the Speaker will work with us to avoid a shutdown and land on an outcome that works for our country and for the folks I represent.

Investing in America

Last week, I spoke on the House Floor about the Investing in America Agenda: the policies Congress passed, and President Biden signed into law during the last Congress.

In the two years since the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law took effect, infrastructure investments totaling nearly $5.9 billion have flowed into our state. In fact, just last month, in Washington’s Sixth Congressional District, we celebrated grants totaling nearly $20 million to repair, build, and rebuild culverts that will protect salmon populations for future generations.

Whether you’re a sportsperson, a citizen of one of the 12 Tribes that call our region home, or just someone who appreciates nature, these investments matter.

At the same time, we’re making major improvements to our supply chain. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Port of Grays Harbor received a $25.5 million grant for a new export terminal, enabling American farmers to export their products all over the world. That’s a big deal!

At its core – the Investing in America Agenda has been all about the critical infrastructure investments happening throughout our nation every day. Why? Because infrastructure is fundamental for any thriving economy and community.

A while back, I visited a tribal library. When I asked if students used the computers there to study and for research, the response was, “Oh, we don’t have internet here.”

That’s not acceptable … because, today, high-speed internet is essential. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re expanding broadband in rural areas nationwide. Recently, the Biden Administration announced historic funding through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program – an effort to connect every American to reliable, affordable high-speed internet by the end of the decade.

The goal? To ensure every entrepreneur, senior, and student can get online, be it for business, health, or education.

The Investing in America Agenda stands as a commitment to re-energize and reshape all communities – including rural communities – toward a brighter future. I couldn’t be more excited about what’s ahead.

Making Connections

Nearly two weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting Under Secretary Jed Kolko from the U.S. Department of Commerce in Mason County for an “Economic Listening Tour”. Our shared goal? Shine a spotlight on the remarkable folks doing business in rural America.

We kicked off our visit with a stop at Sierra Pacific Industries at their Shelton mill. Here’s a fun fact: With roots that trace back three generations in forest product businesses, Sierra Pacific Industries is among the top lumber manufacturers in the country!

It’s great to see companies like SPI, anchored firmly in their commitment to sustainable land management, become the backbone of towns like Shelton. They're not just helping to create jobs – they’re bringing quality products and green energy to our region.

Staying in the realm of local enterprise, we made our way to Taylor Shellfish. Ever heard that Washington stands tall as the country’s prime shellfish aquaculture producer? That title owes a lot to establishments like Taylor Shellfish. A family-led venture since the 1890s, they lead the march in sustainable shellfish farming, positioning themselves as one of the nation’s paramount aquaculture producers.


Speaking of strong community bonds, we then headed to a working lunch with members of the Squaxin Island Tribe. It’s always an enlightening experience to hear about the Tribe’s rich history – from logging and fishing to their ventures in the gaming world. We had an opportunity to hear about the tribe’s aspirations and how the federal government can uphold its treaty obligations.

Rounding off our tour, we convened a roundtable to focus on a pressing issue: overcoming rural barriers in infrastructure and housing development. Local leaders and officials poured in, bringing their on-the-ground experiences, aspirations, and the hitches they hit along the way.

In a nutshell, it was a great day that was full of insights – and strong commitments to rural jobs.

Working for You

Celebrating Diversity

For over 20 years, the Asia Pacific Cultural Center has allowed our region to celebrate the vibrant diversity of our community. I was grateful to speak at this month’s groundbreaking for a new APCC building in Tacoma – and I was proud to have secured funding for the expansion project through my service on the Appropriations Committee.

Connecting with Community Leaders

It was great to reconnect with the folks at South Tacoma Rotary. I appreciated the club’s commitment to putting service above self – and its keen interest in addressing mental health challenges. Thanks for inviting me to share a congressional update and take a few questions!


Supporting Folks with Disabilities

I was honored to visit Exceptional Foresters in Shelton. Since 1957, they’ve transformed lives by providing invaluable employment opportunities to adults with disabilities. I appreciated their heartwarming stories and insights.

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

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer