January 08, 2024

Upcoming Government Funding Deadlines and My Work to Build Civic Bridges

Hello Folks,

Happy New Year! I hope this message finds you and your loved ones in great spirits and enjoying the beginning of 2024! I’m currently heading back to Washington, D.C., feeling rejuvenated after a terrific holiday season.

As we dive into a busy week, there’s also a wave of excitement for tonight’s game, where our very own Washington Huskies will face off against the Michigan Wolverines in the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. It’s been a fun season filled with amazing wins (and a fair amount of elevated blood pressure). As for tonight – Go Dawgs!

OK – let’s get on to the news!

Government Funding: A New Year Means New Deadlines for Congress

For the past seven-plus months, you have heard time and time again what I think of a potential government shutdown. To summarize, shutting down the federal government is stupid, incredibly damaging, and entirely avoidable. The good news is that Congress passed a continuing resolution to get us into the New Year. As we step into 2024, there’s both a challenge and a promising development to share. Let me explain.

The week before Thanksgiving, members of both parties came together to pass two bipartisan bills – one keeping part of the federal government funded through January 19 and the other keeping the rest of the government funded through February. Just yesterday, party leaders in the House and Senate announced a bipartisan topline appropriations agreement. This agreement is a step toward averting a shutdown this month and allows Congress to act swiftly and without extreme “poison pill” policy changes as part of the process.

Additionally, the bipartisan agreement aims to protect services like veterans’ benefits, affordable health care, and efforts to reduce hunger in our communities. Now, the Appropriations Committee – on which I serve – will work on putting the finishing touches on full-year appropriations bills before every member of Congress has an opportunity to cast a vote in the coming days.

As the situation develops, I remain hopeful about passing a budget that supports our regional economy and the folks who live here. Stay tuned for more updates.

Standing Up For Our Servicemembers

If you serve this country, the federal government should have your back. As a Co-Chair of the House Military Mental Health Task Force, I’m deeply committed to addressing the mental health challenges faced by our service members, including those in the Reserves and National Guard not federally activated during their service. The alarming suicide rate among veterans underscores a critical gap in our understanding and support of these brave individuals.

Unfortunately, after 2020, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) stopped publishing statistics on the suicides of former members of the Guard and Reserve, who were not federally activated. That’s exactly why I recently introduced bipartisan legislation to direct the VA to include former members of the Reserves and Guard in its annual suicide report. By including these former members of the Reserves and National Guard in the VA’s annual suicide report, Congress can take appropriate action toward addressing this crisis.

Not too long ago, I asked a senior military leader from our region what kept him up at night. He didn’t say “budget cuts,” or “terrorists.” Rather, he told me, “The thing that keeps me up most is mental health. I’ve lost more soldiers to suicide than I have to enemy combatants.”

That’s got to change. The House Military Mental Health Task Force I help lead was created to improve overall health among our servicemembers and ensure that Congress is well equipped with data to act on behalf of those who serve. We owe it to every person who has served our nation in the armed forces, in any capacity, to ensure they receive the support they need and deserve to live long and healthy lives.

Building Civic Bridges

It can be concerning to watch the polarization and division that often pulls us apart. But thankfully, there are organizations throughout our region doing important work to bring people together. That work matters, and I believe the federal government ought to support it.

That’s why, last Congress, I introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Building Civic Bridges Act – cosponsored by 12 Democrats and 12 Republicans – to empower communities to tackle sources of division while assisting local civic and community organizations with ongoing efforts to address contentious issues and ultimately, bridge divide.

In December, I was honored to speak before the House Committee on Education and Workforce on its Member Day, where I had the opportunity to voice my support for my bipartisan bill and speak out against toxic polarization.


Currently, the United States focuses substantial resources on fostering social cohesion and building civic bridges as a means of strengthening democracy – in other countries (through the National Endowment for Democracy). But increasingly we need that work here at home. That’s why my bipartisan bill would create a pilot program within AmeriCorps focused on building bridges across lines of difference through grant and research opportunities. It would also train AmeriCorps participants in the skills related to civic bridgebuilding and combating polarization.

Instead of accepting toxic polarization as the new normal, community, faith, and civic leaders are leading efforts to foster dialogue, defuse and address sources of conflict, and bridge differences. The bipartisan Building Civic Bridges Act would lend some support to these civic bridgebuilding efforts. I’m about to reintroduce this bill – and seeing it cross the finish line remains a top priority in my final year as your representative in Congress.

Working for You

Growing the Economy

Huge thanks are owed to Marc Abshire and the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce for their assistance in kick-starting my holiday shopping. It was a thrill to meet with small business leaders, engage in discussions about their concerns, celebrate their successes, and explore strategies to boost rural economies.

Promoting Sustainability in Timber

I was in high school when the timber industry on the Peninsula took it on the chin. It’s been my life's work ever since to promote economic development in rural communities. I got to visit with folks involved with the Natural Resources Innovations Center, a great step forward to bringing both economic and environmental sustainability to the Olympic Peninsula.

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

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer