WA Rep. Kilmer: American people ‘justifiably frustrated’ by inaction in Congress

Nov 5, 2021, 12:02 PM
President Joe Biden speaks about his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda at the NJ Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex on Oct. 25, 2021 in Kearny, New Jersey. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

As U.S. Congress faces a few bills that have yet to be passed, the question everyone wants to know is whether they have a bill or not?

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“The ball is on the 1-yard line. I think what I’ve learned from my history of being a Seahawk fan is hand it off to Marshawn Lynch,” said Derek Kilmer, the U.S. Representative of Washington’s 6th Congressional District.

“But I really think we’re really close,” he added. “There’s two bills that we’re talking about. Obviously, the infrastructure bill, which has bipartisan support to modernize our investments in roads and bridges and broadband. And then the second bill, which is the President’s Build Back Better act. That’s a bill that’s about lowering costs for families, the cost of child care, the cost of health care, the cost of sending a kid to college. It’s about lowering taxes, extending the child tax credit.”

That alone, Kilmer says, will help 121,000 kids just in his district.

“Third, it’s about putting people to work — putting people to work in addressing the climate crisis and constructing affordable housing,” he continued. “Just acknowledging, as the president has said, we can’t just go back to normal, we need a new normal. A lot of folks were hurting even before we had heard of COVID-19.”

Dave asked Kilmer why these have to be in one giant bill and can’t be broken up.

“I’m for trying to break up these big bills as much as possible, having discrete bills that are focused on specific subjects,” Kilmer said.

But, he says, the challenge is the filibuster in the Senate. The process through which the Build Back Better bill will pass is under what’s called “reconciliation.”

“It’s a unique process in that it only requires 50 votes in the Senate,” Kilmer explained. “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen time after time after time, and again, it’s happened this week on issues like voting rights, trying to protect our democracy. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have basically chosen to filibuster nearly everything.”

So the reason to gather this all together and take one vote is to apply the rules of the reconciliation process, which is a way to outflank the filibuster. That, Kilmer explains, can only happen once or twice a year, “so there’s the rub.”

Otherwise, he says, they could do it one at a time.

“I’ll give you a quick example. In the Build Back Better act is a bill that I’m the lead sponsor of called the RECOMPETE Act to help communities that have faced persistent economic distress and to provide them with some flexible, long-term, 10-year grant assistance, which would be, as you know, that would be a game changer for some of the communities on the Olympic peninsula,” Kilmer said.

“That is a bill that’s bipartisan. I’m the lead sponsor, but my partner in crafting the bill was Jaime Herrera Beutler from the southern part of our state. And so that is the type of thing that could be done as a discrete bill — I would sure like it to be done as a discrete bill,” he explained.

But the most important thing to Kilmer, using a hockey analogy, is “I just want to get some pucks into the net for the folks I represent.”

To take Kilmer’s example of a bill where he has a Republican co-sponsor and it’s something good for his district, Dave says every member must have a bill like that that’s good for their district. So then why would it be filibustered?

“It’s a good question for Mitch McConnell,” Kilmer replied.

“You’re telling me, for real, that even a bill like that he would filibuster just because that’s his way? He would rather just get nothing done than help people, even when members of his own party are on board with helping their local constituents?” Dave asked.

“Well, I think you’re on to why recent polling has Congress as less popular than head lice and colonoscopies and the rock band Nickelback,” Kilmer said. “At some point, the American people are justifiably frustrated when Congress can’t even seem to move forward on things upon which there is agreement.”

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WA Rep. Kilmer: American people ‘justifiably frustrated’ by inaction in Congress