October 30, 2023

The House Has a Speaker … So, What’s Next?

Hello Folks –

The Halloween season is finally upon us! Whether you find yourself out trick-or-treating with the kiddos, dressed as your favorite Star Wars character (Han Solo, obviously), or carving pumpkins while enjoying one, two, or too many candy bars, I hope this newsletter finds you well. I’ve got a whole lot to cover on what’s been going on in the House, including a new speaker.

But before we dive in, I want to address the mass shooting that took place in Lewiston, Maine, last week. No one should have to fear for their safety when they go to a restaurant, bowling alley, or anywhere else, and I’m praying for the victims. Beyond that, I’m committed to working for commonsense reforms, like the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, to prevent tragedies and keep folks safe.

OK, let’s get to the news.

The House Has a Speaker … So, What’s Next?

Nearly a month ago, a group of House Republicans ousted the speaker and plunged the House into a state of chaos and inaction. For weeks, House Republicans fought amongst themselves and repeatedly failed to pursue a bipartisan path toward electing a new speaker. Finally, last Wednesday, the Republicans elected Representative Mike Johnson as the 56th speaker of the House.

While that means Congress can finally get back to doing the people’s business, there are reasons to be concerned. By choosing Speaker Mike Johnson, Republicans unanimously selected as their leader a key architect of the scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election, someone who supports a national abortion ban, someone who opposes civil rights for LGBTQ+ folks, and someone who denies climate science.

The fact of the matter is this: House Republicans had an opportunity to choose an enlightened, bipartisan path forward to minimize the chances of a government shutdown, pass a bipartisan farm bill, provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, and get out of this cycle of chaos. Instead, they selected a speaker who comes from the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.

The consequences could be significant – and could be felt soon. We are once again closing in on the deadline to pass a new government funding bill. If Congress doesn’t pass that legislation by November 17, we’ll face a government shutdown. That would be stupid, but it’s also entirely preventable.

In a closely divided government, bipartisanship is still the only way we can tackle key priorities. With that in mind, I sincerely hope Speaker Johnson will put partisanship aside and work with Democrats and Republicans to deliver for the American people.

An Update on the Investing in America Agenda in Our Region

During the first two years of President Biden’s tenure House Democrats led the way in passing historic legislation to ensure that our country maintains the most competitive and resilient economy of the 21st century – where every American can succeed.

Across the country, the Investing in America agenda is mobilizing historic levels of private sector investments in the United States, bringing manufacturing back to America after decades of offshoring, and creating new, good-paying jobs, including union jobs and jobs that don’t require a college degree.

And we are seeing the benefits here at home. Earlier this month, the Biden administration made two major announcements that will lead to growing the economy right here in Washington state.

Leading the Country in Clean Energy Investments

The U.S. Department of Energy selected the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNWH2) to receive up to $1 billion in federal funding to become a “Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub” under a landmark new federal program. The new Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs Program connects communities across the country to clean energy investments; good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector; and a steady, reliable supply of clean energy.

Simply put, this is a big deal. With this announcement, our state is poised to lead the nation in the clean hydrogen revolution. Harnessing our region’s extraordinary resources, the PNWH2 will not only showcase the potential of an integrated hydrogen economy but will also serve as a beacon for sustainable innovation across America.

Driving Innovation in the Timber Industry

Just last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce designated the Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub (PNW Tech Hub) as one of the 31 inaugural Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs in regions that show potential for rapid growth in key technology sectors.

The PNW Tech Hub will build off the region’s wood products research and development expertise and the density of architectural, engineering, and construction firms, to position mass timber as a viable and sustainable construction alternative. This, in turn, will lower the construction industry’s carbon footprint while increasing housing affordability.


The designation of the Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub underscores the unmatched potential of our region in pioneering sustainable solutions. By leveraging the expertise of folks in our communities, academia, and local industry, we’re positioning mass timber – including cross-laminated timber – at the forefront of construction innovation. That’s good for jobs, good for housing affordability, and good for the environment.

Having the Backs of Federal Workers

Today, many Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employees, postal workers, and other hardworking folks face a predicament: exiting the federal service without complete retirement benefits or having to delay retirement to achieve full benefits.

Individuals who started as temporary employees and later moved to full-time roles may need to work additional years to attain the same retirement benefits as their peers. Before 1989, the Office of Personnel Management allowed federal employees to make catch-up payments to account for years they hadn't contributed to their retirement funds. However, this option was discontinued when the government adopted a new retirement system for federal employees.

To fix this, I wrote a bill called the Federal Retirement Fairness Act (FRFA). It’s bipartisan legislation to address the gap for federal employees who began their careers as temporary workers and were unable to make retirement contributions. The FRFA will allow these workers to make catch-up contributions to ensure they can retire as planned.

It’s important that all federal employees have the freedom to retire on time after their years of service if they have made the necessary contributions to do so. This bill – supported by Democrats and Republicans – ensures that all employees, regardless of their initial hiring status, are granted the same retirement opportunity for the same amount of work.

Working for You


Standing Up for Reproductive Rights

I met with local folks from Planned Parenthood to hear firsthand about the critical role of Planned Parenthood health centers. I’ll continue to oppose policies that restrict reproductive freedom.


Representing Our Region on the Global Stage

I spent last Monday at the United Nations in New York. Our bipartisan congressional delegation met with U.N. leadership, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and ambassadors from Pacific island nations to discuss the climate crisis and other critical issues impacting our world.


Fighting Back Against Cancer

It was great meeting with the folks from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. As a co-chair of the House Cancer Caucus, I remain committed to advancing funding for research and treatment and other priorities for the cancer community.

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

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer