This morning, in his first speech on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Representative Derek Kilmer highlighted the local impact and concerns that people around our region have about the upcoming across-the-board cuts that will go into effect at the end of the month. For instance, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard announced it postponed its job fair and will not be filling 500 vacant positions.
Representative Kilmer also emphasized the need for Congress to act and advocated a balanced, long-term solution for addressing our nation’s fiscal challenges and growing the economy.
Kilmer's full remarks on the House floor are listed below:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with sincere appreciation for the opportunity I have to represent my region in our nation’s capital.
Throughout the past year, whether it be in Grays Harbor or Port Angeles, Bremerton or Tacoma, what I heard from folks around my region is they want solutions to our problems.
People want to get to work. They want to start new businesses. They want to explore new frontiers of science and technology. They want to help build our nation’s bridges and roads. They want to refurbish our schools and our buildings.
I am passionate about these issues and I am committed to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to find new ways to help move this economy forward.
Over the past six weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many constituents to talk about their top concerns. And whether it’s back in Washington State or visits with folks who’ve traveled 3,000 miles to our nation’s capital, the number one thing I hear about is the reckless and devastating impact that impending, across-the-board cuts would have on our families and on our communities.
I’ve heard from educators and administrators that they face dramatic cuts that would lead to ballooning class sizes and significant cuts to financial aid.
I’ve heard from parents who are afraid for their kids who have autism, fearful that their kids won’t be able to get the services that they rely on.
I’ve heard from tribal leaders who say that these cuts will scale-back community policing on our reservations and jeopardize patients’ access to the Indian Health Service.
And as someone who has spent the last decade working in economic development, I’ve heard from small business owners who say that all of this uncertainty is making them hesitant to hire new workers and expand production lines.
Virtually every meeting that I have had has detailed how reckless and wrong-headed across-the-board cuts would be.
Yesterday, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter pointed out that these cuts aren’t happening because we’ve thought about them strategically. They’re not happening because we’ve identified wasteful spending. They’re not happening because we’ve discovered some new technology that makes it cheaper to keep our nation safe. They’re only happening because they are as he put it “the collateral damage of political gridlock.”
We’ve already seen the effects of these looming cuts in Washington State. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the largest employer in my district, had to postpone its career fair because of all this budget uncertainty.
This is a no brainer - we have the work and we have the workers but they can’t hire because Congress hasn’t done its job. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard needs to be able to actively recruit and hire workers. Our local economy needs it and our national security depends on it.
And, yet, here we are. Later today, we’ll be focusing on legislation doesn’t solve this problem, isn’t going to pass the Senate, and isn’t going to become law.
After we finish legislative business tomorrow, we’re all being sent back home for a week.
This leaves us with just four legislative days for us to act before these across-the-board cuts go into effect.
We were elected to this body to help people. Stopping these damaging, nonstrategic, across-the-board cuts to avoid undermining our economy should be our top priority – we should be working day and night until we have a solution.
By doing nothing, we risk putting our fragile economy back into a recession.
By doing nothing, we refuse the commitments we’ve made. We’re cutting education, kicking kids off Head Start, hurting small businesses, and gutting research and innovation. The foundations of our long-term economic growth
By doing nothing, we hurt the men and women who spend their days protecting our nation and providing essential services to the American people.
And by doing nothing, Congress is sending the wrong message to the American people.
Mr. Speaker, we need to get America back to work. And Mr. Speaker, we need to get Congress working again too.
Doing nothing is not an option.
Let’s put an end to these gimmicks and let’s stop kicking the can down the road.
Let’s stop this series of self-imposed crises that fissure the trust and predictability that the private sector needs.
Let’s work together to reach a balanced compromise to replace the across-the-board cuts with a smart, balanced approach to addressing our fiscal challenges and getting our economy growing again. Let’s maintain our commitment to our nation’s most vulnerable and preserve retirement security for our seniors. And let’s get America back to work.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.