PORT ORCHARD — After a busy August and September, 6th District U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer is now back in Washington, D.C., and gearing up for more legislative action in the House of Representatives.
But before jetting off to Capital Hill, Kilmer, a Democrat, kept a busy schedule meeting with district constituents at town halls, group meetings at Kitsap County companies and, more casually, at fall fairs and community festivals.
His most recent Town Hall session, however, was conducted via a telephone bridge connecting Kilmer and district constituents earlier this month. The congressman had just returned to the nation’s capital after flying in from the Pacific Northwest.
Kilmer told the telephonic gathering that he has been working “like a laser” on two issues: making government work better and making the economy work better for the people of the 6th District.
“I came to Congress knowing it was a fixer-upper,” Kilmer said.
“There’s a lot of systemic problems playing out on the evening news each night. We’ve seen over the years [a number of] government shutdowns and continuing resolutions. You’ve seen far too much partisan bickering and not enough progress on behalf of the American people.”
Kilmer said he was encouraged by a promising development in the House earlier this year: the passage of a bill that strengthens ethics rules toward prohibiting gerrymandering that he said often contributes to the toxic strain in our politics. He said the bill also includes a number of provisions to reform the current campaign finance system, which he said is “broken.”
“I was really pleased to see that bill move forward,” the congressman said. “The bill was really a high priority to me and, frankly, included a lot of bills that I [sponsored].”
One of those bills included the Disclose Act, which Kilmer said is an attempt to increase transparency so citizens get a better sense of who is trying to influence electoral outcomes. Another bill, the Government By The People Act, also was written to reduce the role of special interests in the political system. Kilmer also noted he had two other pieces of legislation — the Honest Ads Act — and a bill to reform the Federal Elections Commission.
The Honest Ads Act, he said, would put the same disclosure requirements that exist for television and radio political commercials on internet-based ads. It’s also a bill that is bipartisan with the support of 18 Democratic and 17 Republican sponsors in the House. In the Senate, Kilmer said a version of that bill was sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobacher, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican.
“Because of that bipartisan support, my hope is the bill can pass the House and Senate, and be signed into law, because we’re coming up to another presidential election.
“To me, this isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue, this is about trying to protect the integrity of American elections.”
Kilmer said he will be intricately involved with a new committee in Congress — the Select Committee on Modernization of Congress, nicknamed the “Fix Congress Committee” — of which he is the committee chairman.
“About every 20 or 30 years or so, Congress realizes things aren’t functioning as they ought to and they create a committee to do something about it,” the congressman said.
“You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve now passed 29 recommendations, all which have passed unanimously. They focus on things like trying to increase transparency and accountability within our government and making sure that Congress is better positioned to actually solve problems on behalf of the American people.”
Kilmer said that although economic indicators have been strong in most parts of the nation, “the reality is that there still are a lot of American middle-class families that are feeling squeezed. And there are a lot of communities I represent that are not enjoying the economic recovery we’ve seen in other areas.”
The congressman said a “silver bullet” to fix that problem doesn’t exist. Whatever attempts have been made to make changes have spread much like buckshot — with scattered results.
He said he’s working on education and training initiatives that would help boost technical education, particularly by introducing new and expanded vocational programs. Kilmer also has some bills lined up to reduce student debt and promote lifelong learning, he said.
Another major looming issue is how to deal with the nation’s sagging, outmoded infrastructure. Kilmer said investments to upgrade U.S. utilities and service networks are critical to the nation’s future economic growth.
“According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, American infrastructure grades out to a D-plus,” he said. “We see that with traffic problems in our region. We see that in our region with far too many people who don’t have access to the internet.”
Kilmer said many of those issues will be taken up by Congress now that legislators are back in session.