“If you’re dissatisfied with what’s been going on in Washington, you should be,” U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-6th District, told the North End Neighborhood Council and those who attended the council’s meeting Monday night. “What’s Congress doing? Not enough.”
It’s good news that Congress finally passed a budget in December that ended sequestration, Kilmer said in a presentation that focused largely on the economy. But it’s troubling that after two years is up unless more budgets are passed, sequestration comes back in full force for another eight years.
Sequestration did not end without leaving havoc in its wake. It was intended to be a poison pill so terrible that Congress would take action on a budget. “Instead Congress swallowed the poison pill.”
Three quarters of a million jobs have been lost as a result, Kilmer said. Countless programs were lost or gutted. “Kitsap County ended mental health outreach to senior citizens because of sequestration.”
“What Congress ought to be doing,” he said, “is passing a budget every year.”
December’s budget was the first passed since 2009. Kilmer said it is unacceptable that Congress has made the transition from passing a new federal budget each year to the practice of “lurching from crisis to crisis.”
Kilmer, who just finished his first year in office, said that since one of the main jobs of Congress is the budget, he would support a “no budget, no pay” for legislators.
One of the biggest challenges for the federal government is to “get the economy cooking again” as we’re emerging from the nation’s longest and deepest recession. His top three priorities toward that end are spending cuts, tax reform and growing the economy.
For the last, Kilmer said the country needs to shore up small business, which he likened to the economy’s “star running back that has been tackled at the line of scrimmage.”
He pointed out that of the 53 bills that Congress passed last year, not one dealt with jobs or small business.
The congressman said the news isn’t all grim from D.C. There are glimmers of bipartisan cooperation on some issues. Every Wednesday, he said, he is part of a bipartisan working group.
“Keep the faith,” Kilmer said. What’s needed is “targeted and strategic course correction over time.”
- On National Security Administration monitoring of cell phone conversations, Kilmer said he’s sensing a growing consensus that the NSA is overreaching. But he said he doesn’t think it’s a question of “either national security or civil liberties – we need to do both.” But said he can’t imagine how it makes sense “from a resource standpoint to be listening in, for example, to the conversations of Chancellor Merkel.”
- On STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) education, Kilmer said it’s crucial that we raise our game in order to compete globally. He’s working on a bill to help reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.
- On the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, launched by Kilmer and Rep. Denny Heck to focus on cleanup efforts, Kilmer said results might take some time, but the effort is vital. “Puget Sound is an icon and it’s very truly at risk right now.”
Rep. Kilmer urged North Enders to be in touch with him, or his Tacoma office manager Meadow Johnson, if there are any programs or issues locally he needs to know about.