Over the next few weeks the 113th Congress, currently in a lame-duck session, will need to figure out some big issues, including how to fund the federal government before the current spending measure runs out Dec. 11, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene told a Ferndale Kiwanis lunch group Tuesday, Nov. 25.
“Hopefully we will get on a path of putting together some long-term solutions,” said DelBene, a Democrat who represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District. “One problem is that we fund things in short-term increments. My hope is that when we go back, even in the next two weeks, we put together a package that gets us through the end of September — the end of the fiscal year.”
During the lunch hour DelBene gave the small audience an overview of what the current Congress is still working on and what might be tackled in the coming session, which starts in January.
The recently re-elected congresswoman started by saying she thinks people would be better served if more districts were as diverse as hers, a swing district that covers most of Whatcom County except for Bellingham, Sudden Valley and areas to the southwest. It also covers most of eastern Skagit and Snohomish counties and part of King County.
“We have one of the most diverse districts in our state and the country,” DelBene said. “We have agriculture, technology, manufacturing. That means I’m hearing all sides of an issue when I go to D.C.”
That’s not the case for many legislators in D.C., who serve districts drawn to be more homogenous, DelBene continued.
Despite the gridlock in D.C., DelBene said, she helped pass at least one large piece of legislation — a farm bill that includes assistance for specialty crop farms like those in Whatcom.
In coming weeks and into the next session, immigration and tax reform could be two critical issues facing members of Congress, DelBene said.
She co-led a comprehensive immigration reform bill sponsored by more than 200 in the House, but the bill has yet to see a vote on the Republican-led floor and likely won’t before the year is up and lawmakers have to start over as newly-elected members take office.
A similar bill, which passed in the Senate, also has not gone for a vote before the House.
“It’s a critical issue, one I’m disappointed we haven’t made more progress on,” DelBene told the crowd.
In response to an audience member who asked what she thought about President Barack Obama’s recent executive action, which temporarily defers the deportation of people whose children are U.S. citizens or legal residents, DelBene said more action is needed.
“The only way we solve issues today is with legislation Congress passes,” DelBene said. “His action doesn’t help our farmers out. I’m a big believer we need comprehensive immigration reform. Congress needs to act.”
Find specific information about legislation DelBene is involved with and contact information for her offices online at delbene.house.gov.