By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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In answer to questions, the Democrat, who was born and raised in Port Angeles, would not say whether or not he would support introduction of the proposed Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, repeating his call for more discussion.
Kilmer, 39, spoke to some 150 citizens in a mid-session tour of the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, on Friday.
“Our Congress' runway for fooling around is up,” Kilmer said.
“Other nations are not sitting back and having government shutdowns.”
Parts of the federal government, including Olympic National Park, were shut down from Oct. 1 to 16.
House Republicans also refused to up the government's borrowing authority so the U.S. could pay its bills, raising the specter of a catastrophic default.
That ended with last-minute congressional approval of a budget deal that keeps the government open through Jan. 15.
The deadline for default on debts is now Feb. 7.
Kilmer spent much of the two-hour session discussing ways to fix the federal budget.
Without giving many specifics, he called for a combination of tax increases and tax reform, cuts to federal programs and a more open trade policy to help the national economy grow.
Following his speech, Kilmer fielded questions from the audience, most of which centered on the proposed Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
The legislation would ban logging on more than 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest by declaring it wilderness and creating a protective buffer around Olympic National Park.
“Our supporters are curious as to what timeline you might have in mind for the potential introduction of the Wild Olympics bill,” said Connie Gallant, chair of the Wild Olympics campaign.
Kilmer reiterated the position he has taken since August 2012, calling for a “thoughtful conversation” among timber industry, forest managers and environmental protection advocates to find a balance between protection and production.
“I think it's important to have a conversation about both the short-term and the long-term needs of the timber industry,” Kilmer said.
“There are things in the timber industry that you can do that protect long-term forest health as well.”
Drawing a solution from those groups would work better for all than declaring certain areas off-limits, he said.
“I could sit and draw a bunch of lines on maps, but the only people that would employ would be attorneys, and not folks in the timber industry,” Kilmer said.
Rein in the spies
Kilmer criticized National Security Agency monitoring policies that include tapping the phones of U.S. citizens and foreign leaders, and blasted the intelligence system as inefficient.
“When you're dealing with limited resources, I have to believe there are better things to do with them than listen to [German] Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone,” he said.
Reauthorization of the intelligence act will provide an opportunity for reforms, he said, giving more power to judges in security courts, more oversight from Congress and special court advocates to argue on behalf of civil liberties when intelligence agencies ask for special powers.
“You need both. You need to both protect the American people and protect civil liberties,” Kilmer said.
“It's not an either-or.”
Kilmer also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United 2010 ruling that some regulations on campaign speech were unconstitutional.
“I don't think corporations are people, and I don't think money is speech,” he said.
He also didn't think Congress would pass an immigration bill anytime soon.
He said the House of Representatives stalled a bill passed by the Senate.
“I'm an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform,” Kilmer said. “But we did get a proposal from the Senate, so I wouldn't say there's not a chance.”
Kilmer also called for diplomats to replace the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said soldiers told him “they're ready to come home” when he visited Afghanistan in August.
“My sense is, it's time for our troops to come home,” Kilmer said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.