Congressman Kilmer upbraids colleagues in telephonic town-hall meeting
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Post offices' hours cutHours were cut at three post offices on the North Olympic Peninsula earlier this year, according to U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson.
■ Joyce in Clallam County had four hours eliminated. It is now open from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
■ LaPush, also in Clallam County, also had four hours eliminated. It is now open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
■ Nordland on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County was cut by two hours. It is now open from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
There are no plans to make further cuts on the North Olympic Peninsula, “but that is always subject to change,” Swanson said Friday.
Peninsula Daily News
Repeating twice that the Congress he is part of “is held in lower regard than head lice,” the Port Angeles native upbraided his colleagues during the 6 p.m. Wednesday event for not being more bipartisan while touting his own efforts to work with them.
Kilmer also said a small number of House colleagues were blocking efforts to end the shutdown.
He noted the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” has proceeded forward despite numerous attempts to repeal it and ongoing attempts to make ending the shutdown contingent on linking changes to the sweeping new health care law.
The law was passed by the House and Senate in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.
“Congress needs to deal with keeping the government open, and having it tied to a disagreement about the Affordable Care Act, in my view, doesn't make sense,” he said.
Kilmer's 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, though none of the nine questioners at the town hall forum said he or she was from the Peninsula.
While Kitsap County was the home of seven participants who identified their residences, Kilmer, of Gig Harbor, briefly referred to two issues related to the North Olympic Peninsula: the U.S. Postal Service's financial woes and Olympic National Park furloughs.
The national park closed to all visitors at 6 p.m. Thursday, furloughing without pay most of its 134-person workforce and leaving 31 rangers and other critical staff to mind the 960,000-acre recreational area.
“Anyone on the Olympic Peninsula who is listening knows how important the national parks are to the local economy in terms of being an attraction to tourists,” Kilmer said.
He is one of 152 co-sponsors of HR 3223, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which was introduced Sept. 30 and was under consideration Saturday.
The measure would cover the salaries of up to 800,000 furloughed federal workers during the shutdown.
Park rangers, food-safety inspectors and other federal workers “shouldn't be punished because Congress can't get the job done,” Kilmer said.
Hours cut back
The Postal Service this year cut back hours at its Joyce and LaPush post offices in Clallam County and Nordland in Jefferson County.
One questioner cited “the travesty foisted upon us” by the requirement to fund retirement benefits for Postal Service workers.
The agency, which is not supported by taxes, is required to pre-fund the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund.
Kilmer said he supports the Postal Service Protection Act of 2013, which would eliminate the pre-funding requirement, restrict post office closures and maintain levels of service.
Kilmer said its passage would prevent cuts in hours like that imposed in Nordland in Jefferson County, where the hours of operation were cut from eight hours to four hours earlier this year.
“Hopefully, Congress is going to take action on this,” Kilmer said.
Low chance of passage
The Postal Service bill has a 4 percent chance of getting out of committee and a 2 percent chance of passage, according to www.govtrack.us, which has calculated that only 11 percent of bills made it past committee and only about 3 percent were enacted in 2011-13.
Kilmer spread the blame to both parties for lack of action in Congress.
“You need to see an end to either party defining success as making the other guy look stupid,” he said, decrying “decision-making by politics rather than the interests of our country.”
His own efforts to reach compromises with Republicans include meeting regularly with a bipartisan working group of House members and the Problem Solvers Caucus, another bipartisan group, to try to get Congress to avoid “governing from crisis to crisis.”
On Obamacare, Kilmer said provisions in the law should protect rural medical providers who give a disproportionate share of care to Medicaid patients, which makes it difficult for them “to keep the lights on.”
That's an aspect of the law that “needs fixing,” he said.
But Kilmer praised provisions of the law that protect people with pre-existing medical conditions from being denied insurance coverage and that allow young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26.
Problems with the law can be resolved if members of Congress act in a bipartisan manner, he said.
He implored members of Congress to “check their snarky talking points at the door and do what's right for the nation.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: October 05. 2013 7:03PM