January 23, 2023

Housing, the Arts, and Getting America’s Fiscal House in Order

Hello Folks –

I hope this finds you and yours doing well in the new year. January is well underway, and it’s all systems go in D.C. I’m up to my ears in constituent meetings and House votes, all while finding time to make it back to the district as much as possible, making myself available and accountable to you. Let’s jump right into the news.

Getting America’s Fiscal House in Order

Recently, there’s been a fair amount of press attention around the nation’s debt ceiling (also known as the debt limit). Our nation is a bit unique in that it puts in law how much debt can be incurred by the U.S. Treasury. Why does that matter? Well, it limits the amount the federal government can pay on debt the government has already borrowed. Raising or suspending the debt limit does not authorize new spending but allows the government to pay for previously made commitments.

So why is this in the press right now? Well, on Thursday the U.S. hit its debt limit. The Treasury Department has been forced to resort to “extraordinary measures” to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt – something that could be catastrophic for the American economy and folks across the country. The reality is this: if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, the government will automatically default on its payments – something that hasn’t happened in the 100 years since the limit was enacted.

In essence, failing to address the debt ceiling is a bit like choosing not to pay the minimum balance on your credit card. Sure, you can make that choice – but it definitely has bad consequences for your finances down the road. This clip from The West Wing explains it in a far more entertaining way than I ever could.


What could this mean for everyday Americans? Well, economists say a default would make it more expensive for folks to borrow money to buy a car or home or to start or grow a small business. Defaulting could mean financial hardship for millions of Americans – including right here at home.

That’s why last year, as Chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, I pushed for reforms to the budget and appropriations process so there’s less instability and dysfunction. What’s more, I’m pushing for Congress to do the responsible thing, and pass real, long-term fixes to avoid this crisis in the future.


Unfortunately, there are some shenanigans occurring in the U.S. House that have made the road forward a bit bumpy, to say the least. House Republicans are using the debt ceiling as a political football to make spending cuts that the Senate and the President have made clear they won’t accept.

So... all that said, I’m hopeful that in the next couple of weeks, sanity will prevail, and Congress can do the fiscally responsible thing to prevent a default.

The reality is that pretty much every bipartisan commission, nonpartisan commission, and think-tank that has looked at our nation’s debt problem has concluded the same thing – that this problem is too big to solely tax our way out of it, to solely cut our way out of it, or to solely depend on economic growth as a strategy out of it. Rather, we need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our nation’s debt. That’s going to require Democrats and Republicans to actually work together to solve it. Toward that end, some of the bipartisan recommendations of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress focused specifically on trying to fix the broken process.

Currently, Congress has a bad process that – not surprisingly – leads to bad outcomes. I believe that the reforms that our committee laid out could move things in the right direction, and I’m pleased that they were supported by Democrats and Republicans.

Let me add one final note on this. I think America should pay its bills. And I also think Congress should get a handle on our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. I’ve been pushing for action to put our nation on a path toward better fiscal sustainability and strengthened economic growth, and I’ll continue to do so.

Supporting the Arts

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Roxy Bremerton Foundation’s celebration at the Roxy Theatre. The nonprofit’s mission is to steward, protect, provide, and maintain the Historic Roxy Theatre, and I’m proud to support an organization committed to the preservation of our community’s historic sites. This month, the Roxy Theatre is slated to officially change hands when the Foundation purchases the downtown landmark.



Places like the Roxy Theatre are irreplaceable public treasures that must be preserved for future generations. And the Roxy is more than just a good-looking landmark, it’s important to the economic health of downtown Bremerton and the local economy. Last year, I was able to secure $2.5 million in new federal funding to help complete the construction phase of the Quincy Square Project, an effort to revitalize Bremerton’s downtown core. The Quincy Square Project will help support small businesses, create new jobs, and provide access to more affordable housing.

The theatre is a core piece of the Quincy Square project – and of this community. It was great to be there to celebrate the next chapter of The Roxy Theatre.

Investing in Affordable Housing

As someone acutely aware of the challenges folks are facing when it comes to the housing crisis across our region, our state, and our nation, I was thrilled to recently attend an important groundbreaking in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

For more than 50 years, the country has been in the grips of an affordable housing crisis – one that too often impacts the most marginalized and lowest-income people in our communities. From seniors to people with disabilities to families with young children, too many folks are left without an affordable space to come home to each night.


This shortage actively impacts the ability of Washingtonians – both young and old – to live with dignity.

We’ve got to fix that.

That’s why breaking ground on the Housing Hilltop project is a BIG deal for folks in Tacoma. Breaking ground on more than 200 affordable homes, spaces for businesses to grow, and a gathering space for the Hilltop community is something to be celebrated.


The federal funding process for Housing Hilltop started years ago. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ve been working to ensure the federal government is a strong partner as we work to knock down barriers to building more affordable housing in our region. The Housing Hilltop project is proof that with the help of local leaders, the federal government is ready to invest in affordable places for Washingtonians to call home.

This is also not the only federal housing initiative I’m working on in Congress. Last month, through the FY23 Omnibus spending bill, we made huge strides with passage of my Yes In My Backyard Act, legislation I wrote that will reward state, local, and regional jurisdictions that have made progress on inclusionary zoning and land use policies to support the development of affordable housing.

For folks in Washington State and across the country, it’ll help facilitate community-led developments like the one we celebrated last week. And importantly, by securing federal dollars, we’re ensuring that financial support for affordable housing projects doesn’t fall solely on the backs of local taxpayers. It’s an investment that’s being made to increase economic opportunity without raising costs for folks here in Tacoma.


I’ll keep fighting for more affordable housing, a revitalized local economy, and continued progress in neighborhoods like the Hilltop. And I look forward to seeing the Housing Hilltop project come to life!

Fighting for Reproductive Rights

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Year after year, the Roe decision weathered attacks from anti-choice activists. Unfortunately, as we saw last summer, that all changed. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has threatened reproductive freedom for millions of women across America.

Decisions about reproductive health care belong between women and their doctors. These are deeply personal decisions that don’t need the interference or judgment of politicians. That’s why I’ve strongly opposed efforts to roll back reproductive rights. It’s why I voted consistently to support the Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine the rights granted under Roe v. Wade into federal law.


As we move ahead in this new Congress, I’ll continue to stand up against attacks on reproductive freedom.

Working for You


Supporting Our Armed Forces

If you serve this country, Congress should invest in you and your family. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti stopped by my office to discuss Navy priorities in our region, including how to support our hardworking sailors and their families.


Representing New Faces

With the recent redraw of district lines, it’s important to me as your Member of Congress to get to know folks who are new to our district. Friday I visited with leaders from the City of Fife and folks from the Fife, Milton, Edgewood Chamber of Commerce. And I visited Fife’s Emish Market, a local family-owned, full-service Ukrainian grocery store, deli, bakery, and café. It is the only full-size grocery store within Fife city limits and has become a staple in the community as a place to meet, grab lunch, or shop. Welcome to the sixth Congressional district!

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


Derek Kilmer