'No budget-no pay': Kilmer tells of frustration in his first year in Congress
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U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, left, chats with Jefferson Land Trust Executive Director Sarah Spaeth as Jefferson County Commissioner Phil Johnson, center, listens. Kilmer addressed the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — After nearly a year in Congress U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, is stymied by its absence of accomplishment.

“I support a proposal that's pretty simple — it's called 'no budget-no pay,” Kilmer told a meeting of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on Monday.

“That means if Congress doesn't pass a budget, it doesn't get paid.”

Kilmer addressed a crowd of about 100 people pressed into a smaller Elks Lodge space because of a blood drive next door.

“I have never had a job in my entire professional life ever since I was a teenager working at Westside Video in Port Angeles where I got paid if the job didn't get done,” Kilmer said.

“One of the fundamental duties of Congress is the power of the purse and passing the budget, and I think it needs to step up and do its job.”

Looking at the Chamber of Commerce audience, Kilmer stressed the importance of small business.

“It's a common saying that small businesses are the backbone of the economy, but I prefer to say that small businesses are your star running back; they are your Marshawn Lynch, although not yesterday,” said Kilmer, referring to the Seattle Seahawks' squeaker defeat Sunday.

“When you look at how we usually make it out of recessions, it's not Microsoft or Boeing that drives most of the job growth.

“It's small businesses [that] are the ones who are raking up the yard and making the touchdowns, but too often they are getting jammed up at the line of scrimmage.”

For those who didn't cotton to sports analogies, Kilmer threw in a film reference.

“You've seen not a single bill make it out of the House side this year having to do with climate change or having to do with any other environmental challenge,” Kilmer said.

“You've seen immigration reform pretty well stymied in the House, even though it passed the Senate.

“It's a bit like the black knight in Monty Python where his legs have been chopped off, and he's saying, 'I'm not dead yet.'”

Part of Congress' dysfunction is attributable to opposition to the Affordable Care Act, Kilmer said.

“I've been in Congress since January, and I've voted three times on the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Kilmer said.

“That is not a productive use of your government's time. I think we have stuff to do, and it bothers me that our time is being wasted on this.

“It's an issue of leadership. You need to see to see on the very highest level a willingness to engage the problems that our country has, rather than just playing games.”

Kilmer said that gerrymandering has hurt Congress as it has prompted the election of Congress members who are tied to extreme ideologies.

He told the story about six congressmen, evenly divided between the parties, who were having a cordial meal until he suggested they use the social occasion to build a compromise.

“He told me that he had won his seat by defeating a conservative incumbent by saying that he wasn't conservative enough,” Kilmer said of the meeting.

“He told me he voted against [House Speaker] John Boehner because he was too compromising and said to me, 'Derek, I like you, but there is no way I will compromise with you or anybody else.'”

This situation begs for a fundamental change, Kilmer said.

“You've seen people so afraid of having a primary opponent that they've set aside the interests of the public.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 09. 2013 6:46PM
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