tv Newsmakers Rep Derek Kilmer CSPAN July 21, 2019 6:00pm-6:33pm EDT
scientist and human ginsburg, author of "what washington gets wrong: the unelected officials who run government and their misconceptions about the american people." greta: this week on newsmakers, congressman derek kilmer, the chair of the new democrat coalition. thank you, sir, for being with us. rep. kilmer: great to be with you. greta: we also have scott wong, a congressional reporter with the hill, and kate ackley for cq roll call. describe for our viewers what the new democrat coalition is. rep. kilmer: it is a group of members, democratic members in the house who are forward-looking, pro-innovation, pro-economic growth. there are a lot of new members but that is not why we are called the new democrats. in fact, of the 40 seats that flipped from republican to democrat, 32 are members of the
new democrat coalition. we call ourselves the new dems because we try to look at old problems through a new lens. when we talk about economic policy, for example. while there is a lot of focus on redistributive policies, our focus is on how do you grow that economic pie and make sure everybody can earn a slice of it. often times in washington, d.c. the debate is government as always the problem and in some instances seeing government is always the solution. the new democrats say, how do we reinvent government? have government work better to solve problems for the american people? we are 103 members strong. that makes us the largest ideological coalition within the house democratic caucus. we have some terrific new members. some folks involved in the national security space, military veterans, business leaders. we even have an nfl linebacker.
it is a great coalition working hard on behalf of the american people. greta: would you say you are moderate? rep. kilmer: we are often described that way. on economic policies, our big focus is how to grow that economic pie for everybody? as you look at some of the priorities that have been laid out by the house already, when you are in the majority, hr's 1 through 9 is for the majority. every bill gets a number. hr 1 is focused on campaign-finance reform. three, for prescription drugs. hr 4 for voting rights. a new voting rights act. 5 for non-discrimination for the lgbtq community. 6 for dreamers. the dream and promise act. to protect rumors. 7 is the paycheck fairness act. to provide equal pay for equal work. 8, universal background checks
for gun purchases. and 9 is the climate action now act to have the u.s. reenter the paris climate agreement. not only is every new dam in support of all of those bills, there is unami an entity -- una nnimoty. i think oftentimes there is some false divisions within the caucus. the reality is i think all democrats are working to move things forward for the american people. scott: this was by all accounts an extraordinary week in american politics. in the congress, you saw the house vote to condemn the words and tweets of president trump attacking the four congresswoman of color. in your party, an effort to strike down nancy pelosi's words about the president on the house floor. that was unsuccessful. there was a push to impeach that was also rejected on the house floor. finally, there were successful
efforts to hold in contempt of congress two members of president trump's cabinet. people watching back in washington state and around the country, how do you explain what they are seeing? it must feel confusing and chaotic to voters around the country. rep. kilmer: the bulk of the folks i represent want to see congress work on things that make their lives better. they want to see forward motion on health care. on prescription drugs. they want to see congress finally do something about infrastructure. having said that, congress needs to walk and chew gum at the same time. there is a role in terms of oversight and accountability. when the president says something that is offensive and irresponsible, having congress serve as a check and to say that is not ok is a legitimate action for congress to take, particularly in an instance that was as offensive as it was.
my hope is as we roll into next week and we roll into the fall, you see congress continue to move forward on some of those priorities on behalf of the american people. i mentioned infrastructure, prescription drug pricing. election security is something a lot of our members would like to see forward motion on. there is an election coming up in 18 months and there has not been enough progress to make sure that will be secure. kate: congressman, tying up to the question that scott just asked, we saw one of your colleagues from the selection committee which you are chairing. emanuel cleaver, he did something i've never seen before, he abandoned the chair in presiding over that debate in condemning the president's tweets as well as to strike the speaker's words.
he said later he had been frustrated and embarrassed by the debate. i am wondering if that is something you are hearing from other lawmakers, maybe privately in your role as chairman? if you are hearing widespread frustration about the state of partisanship and the discussions in washington? rep. kilmer: on one hand you get a sense of why congress is held in lower regard than head lice. it is because far too often you see far too much partisan bickering and not enough focus on progress on behalf of the american people. that gets evidenced in heated debates like the one you saw. it gets evidenced when there are debates on -- unfortunately one of the few times every member of that house is on the floor is
for the most toxic debate, the motion to recommit which no matter who was in the majority or minority is kind of a gotcha debate and a gotcha vote. that doesn't contribute to the civility of congress and i think that erodes public faith in the process. that is what you saw in congressman cleaver's reaction to that. he is someone who has done a lot of thinking about how to drive more civility in the legislative process. in fact, you mentioned we have served on the select committee on the modernization of congress together. for your viewers who may not follow this closely, every 20 or 30 years or so congress recognizes things are not working the way they ought to and they create a committee to do something about it. it is called the select committee on the modernization of congress. it is nicknamed the fix congress committee. we have passed five recommendations, primarily
focused on improving transparency. next week, we are going to take up about two dozen recommendations focused on issues around staffing and specifically out of concern you have seen massive, massive turnover in the legislative ranch. -- branch. what fills that void is the executive branch and lobbyists. that does not serve the interests of the american people. you will see recommendations focused on technology. importantly, one of the recommendations i think you will see moved is a recommendation at the beginning of each congress that there were some effort to have a joint meeting by democrats and republicans to identify things that can be worked on together. right now at the beginning of congress democrats go to their side of the room, republicans go to their side. the parties will do retreats where the discussion is focused on how do i jab the other party.
one of the ideas mr. cleavers put on the table is why don't we have a collective effort to identify things congress can work on together? that democrats and republicans can work on together on behalf of the american people. even have some of these conversations about how do members of congress engage each other in a more civil way. it is modeling good behavior to the next generation of leaders. scott: democrats have been united this week, probably more than any time condemning the president's remarks about the four congresswoman. -- congresswomen. at the same time, democrats in recent weeks have been engaging in very incendiary rhetoric of their own against each other. specifically progressive leaders have called your group and other moderate groups child abusers for positions you took on border
aid. there have been other pretty heated remarks made towards one of your members, sharice davids. can you talk about -- how are you responding to some of these attacks coming from within your own party? rep. kilmer: i think it's important that members and their staffs be mindful of what gets communicated about other members, other members's motives. it's important often says. -- it is important to embrace what the speaker often says which is our diversity is our strength. our unity is power. i appreciate and respect the voices of every member of the house democratic caucus. from the furthest left to the furthest right. that doesn't mean i agree with them on everything. but that is ok. that is healthy to have debate and discussion about that. it is important not to impugn or cast aspersions about a
perspective someone might have different than others. having that sort of disagreement, that is ok. that is healthy. one of the things that i would point out, the reality is 100% of house democrats believe we need to address the problems at the southern border, make sure people are being treated with dignity. in fact the new democratic coalition voted to endorse a bill that would set humanitarian standards in terms of how people are treated. because it is never ok to have someone die because they didn't have access to clean water or food or medical care. i don't look at that as a new democratic perspective. i look at that as an american value.
that is part of the reason we have endorsed that bill. i hope it is something they will take up soon. scott: a quick follow-up if i could. should the chief of staff you referenced, alexandria ocasio-cortez, calling her racist, should that person be fired? rep. kilmer: at the very least, it is safe to say those comments are not appropriate. i think it is up to each member to determine who is going to work for them and what the standards are. it is not something i would allow someone on my team to say publicly or on social media. i think the point i would say is it is important for everybody to be mindful of what they say, how they communicate. not just about our democratic caucus but just period. it is concerning for the american people to see this dialogue.
there is a way to disagree with folks on the merits of an argument without casting aspersions about where they are coming from. that diversity of opinion, that is healthy. we see that in other arenas as well. the reality is 100% of house democrats are on board with the notion we should expand access to quality, affordable health care. there is debate and discussion about what that should look like. what a contrast with the folks in charge of previous eight years who are actively trying to repeal the affordable care act. 100% of house democrats believe climate change is real and we should do something about it. there is debate and discussion about which levers ought to be pulled. what an extraordinary contrast with the last congress. you literally had hearings on the myth of climate change. you have now and appreciation for the fact it is real and
requires big, bold action. that to me, those discussions about how do we move forward on that, that is healthy. an extraordinary contrast to the last congress for those discussions by a march that not happen and we saw more bills written behind closed doors without really a healthy debate. kate: you mentioned hr 1 in terms of the campaign-finance big picture overhaul that all democrats in the house supported. when it comes to political money, there is a division among democrats. growing number of democrats we saw in the last election, over 50 at this point, are rejecting donations. you have not taken such a stand.
you got about half of your money so far from business and other types of pac's. do you feel any pressure to reject that type of money? rep. kilmer: i have been a big advocate for campaign-finance reform. i don't say that as someone who has a personal exhaustion with the process. i say that because i think it's important in restoring faith in the system. there is too much money in our political system. two, there is a concern for everyday americans, their voice may be eroded in that process. that is why if you look at nearly -- i cannot think of a campaign-finance reform bill i am not a sponsor of. i am supportive of a constitutional amendment to repeal the citizens united. i don't think corporations are people. i think that supreme court decision was terribly misguided.
it has seen the advent of the super pac's. at the end of a cycle they can simply flood my into a district. -- money into a district. i have been supportive and a cosponsor of a bill by a congressman to establish a citizen financed system. not unlike the matching funds systems the city of seattle has started up. you have citizens financing small dollar election campaigns. i think that would be better than the status quo. i am a sponsor of a bill called the disclose act. if you are going to see these groups influence elections, they should put their name on it. we as americans should have a right to know who is trying to influence our elections. there are some bills frankly that have bipartisan support that i hope it be able to cross the finish line. i'm a sponsor of a bill called the honest ads act. if you're a political candidate or a group trying to influence electoral outcome, if you run an ad on television, that information is publicly
disclosed. we as americans have a right to know who is trying to influence the election and how. if you run an ad on radio, that information is publicly available. if you run ads on facebook or google or any of the large-scale internet entities, there are no laws governing or requiring disclosures. that is a problem. it's a problem for anyone he who has read the mueller report and knows that russia tried to actively influence our election. we are coming up on another election and the fear is forward entities might choose to spend money through internet-based advertisements. it's a real threat. i'm also the sponsor, the lead sponsor on a bill to reform the federal elections commission. it was set up after watergate to be the referee and blow the whistle on political candidates that cheat. it worked for some time until
recent years from the federal election commission has been almost as dysfunctional as congress. it was set up with three democrats and three republicans on the commission. as most of your viewers can understand nearly every decision that comes out is nearly a 3-3 stalemate. there was an article, i think it was in the new york times, when they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the creation of the federal election commission, they stalemated whether to serve bagels or donuts at the anniversary celebration. everyone knows the right answer was doughnuts. the concern is in the absence of having a referee to blow the whistle on candidates that cheat, you can see further erosion of public faith in the process. that is why i feel as strongly as i do about modernizing our campaign-finance rules. there are other systemic changes we need to look at.
things like partisan gerrymandering and other systemic changes we are taking up on the select committee on the modernization of congress to make sure our political system is working for the people. greta: we have about five in his -- five minutes left. kate: he mentioned the fec is deadlocked 3-3. it was interesting. you are in this modernization committee. it is split equally between republicans and democrats. you have tried to show this bipartisan nature of the committee. number one, is the vice -- bipartisanship going to lead it to be deadlocked and not productive? or is there something you can do there is a congress maybe cannot do in terms of bipartisan collaboration? rep. kilmer: if you going to see systemic change in the house, it needs to be bipartisan.
i give great credit to our rules committee chairman mcgovern and to the speaker. this committee was established with equal membership. six democrats and six republicans. tom graves from georgia is not my ranking member, he is my vice chair. we are trying to do things a bit differently. for any recommendation to pass, under the rules, it requires a two thirds vote. we are required if we are going to make recommendations to work with a each other. what that means is it is frankly driven a process i wish you would see far more often and our nations capital. we have looked at these problems together. we have tried to define the problem statement together. we have tried to define potential solutions together. hopefully we will be passing the solutions together. we already passed five
recommendations focused on transparency. our plan is to introduce that as a resolution. with the goal hopefully all of the members of the committee will sign on as cosponsors. with the hope it sees action. the idea is not to create a port -- a report that will get stuck on a shelf and ignored. the idea is to make changes so congress functions better for the american people. scott: what are your expectations for the robert mueller hearings coming up in a few days? you were one of the ones who decided not to move forward on impeachment this past week, along with a majority democrats. do you think these hearings are going to move the ball at all? >> we will see. i have read it twice. you can't be anything but alarmed about the findings. very alarming to see really
active, intentional efforts by foreign entities to engage in our election process in 2016. deeply troubling information about what the president and those around him did and did not do with the goal at times of seeking to impede the work of director mueller. that information and report is far she troubling to ignore. it's important these hearings are happening. it's important that we take this one step at a time and see where the facts lead. we will see where things go. i hope director mueller is exceedingly forthcoming about what they found and what they did not find.
and further provides direction not just to the congress but the american people. kate: the new democrats have historically been pro-free trade. can you talk about whether the this is a congress for the renegotiated north american free trade agreement? rep. kilmer: quite possibly yes. i will say in part because there is a general understanding that improvements need to be made to nafta. there is value in having a nafta 2.0 or the u.s.-mexico-canada agreement. there are efforts to make changes. the speaker has established four taskforces. one focused on labor, one on environmental standards, one on pharmaceuticals and one on enforcement. the new democrats sent a letter
to the administration saying work with those taskforces. address those outstanding issues. don't send legislation until those issues are resolved. we will not support it. >> i know that other folks in -- scott: one final question that i'm curious about. what is next for you. i know that other folks in washington state have mentioned you as a possible candidate. for higher office. perhaps the governor in 2022. maybe if an opening open suppan united states senate, or do you see the possible path in the house leadership? do you have plans about what is next after the coalition? rep. kilmer: it was not part of my ambition to come here.
i worked in economic development into,, washington and went to bed evident trying to figure out how to create more economic opportunities for folks in our region. even in this job that is what i go to bed thinking about. how do we create more economic opportunities for more people in more places? my hope is we resolve some of these issues about the functionality of congress so we can do more. to actually make more of a difference for the folks i represent. i don't represent seattle. a lot of the areas i represent are still struggling economically. i care far more about their economic future than i do my career. that will be the focus. how do we make more of an impact for folks i represent? i like what i'm doing right now. i think this select committee has potential to make some real impact. i like what the real dems are doing because there's
opportunity to earn a good living. those of the types of things to keep me coming to work. greta: congressman derek kilmer, thank you for being our guest on newsmakers. scott wong, we began talking about the new democrat coalition. what is their number? how strong are they? what sort of sway do they have over the speaker and the leadership offices? scott: they are the largest -- with the democrats in control of the house -- they are the largest caucus in the house of representatives with over 100 members. however it is often the progressives like ocasio-cortez and ilhan omar who we hear the
most about. the president attacked those women the most. they generate the most headlines. we often hear more about the progressives, including of the presidential campaign trail, but in terms of actual numbers, kilmer and the moderates are the larger group in town. greta: how do you see them pushing the leadership legislatively, politically? what is the outcome? kate: they are a little quieter. maybe they are not getting all the headlines, but they are a quiet bunch and they have allies outside of congress as well. in the business community. this is viewed as a collection that can really get things done potentially, as much as congress is able to get things done. i think you see a lot of interest from outside organizations, the business world, as well as people inside the capital looking to this group of lawmakers as one that
can potentially be dealmakers. greta: have they, scott wong, threatened to and followed through on using their coalition to thwart what the leadership wants to do? scott: i would not say necessarily thwart, but they did make a big impact in the recent border eight fight that led to all the finger-pointing and recriminations among progressives and moderate democrats. the moderates, including the problem solvers caucus and the new dems coalition and the blue dogs said we will support the bipartisan senate border eight -- aid bill, a more moderate proposal than what progressive wings wanted. ultimately forced the leadership and the progressives to cave. the leadership pushed through the more moderate bill through the house and they headed off into the july 4 recess. we have seen in recent weeks the
moderates flex their muscle. greta: in the coming weeks or next week before they go on the august recess, where you see the new democrat coalition? and the moderates flexing your -- their muscles? kate: it depends on what the narrative of the day is. you see the president's controversial tweets, and republicans defending the president. bringing together the moderates. you are seeing maybe not solidly unified. you can see with a united front more so than last week. the president's controversial tweets have brought them together. maybe again not on all issues but you saw widespread support this week for an increase in the minimum wage to $15. that is something many of these
new democrats or more moderate members were able to get on board with after some changes were made. i see them as more of a quiet force. they are not out on twitter as much. i think they will be a forced to -- force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to getting closer into the 2020 election cycle. these are going to be some of the most vulnerable members. democratic leaders understand that. speaker pelosi has called some of them the majority makers. without the more moderate members there may not be a democratic majority. there has to be some push and pull. greta: kate ackley is from cq roll call. scott wong, congressional reporter at the hill. thank you for being part of newsmakers. appreciate it. scott: thank you.
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