Guest opinion: Pragmatic Kilmer, McMorris-Rodgers will be missed

Unfortunately, too many pragmatic Democrats and Republicans in Congress are retiring at a time when we need them most. Two are from Washington: Reps. Derek Kilmer (D) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R).

McMorris Rodgers and Kilmer cut their political teeth in Washington state’s Legislature. While they faithfully followed their parties, they found ways to come together on issues vital to our state and nation. McMorris Rodgers was elected to Congress in 2004 and Kilmer in 2012.

Recently, problem-solving Democrats and Republicans broke the caustic spell to overwhelmingly pass military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan and force the divesture of Chinese-owned social media outlet TikTok.

While both houses approved the legislation by wide margins, the linchpin was the House where Republicans have a slim majority and are guided by an even keeled, gutsy leader.

The small faction of hardliner Republicans already unceremoniously deposed Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and targeted his replacement, Louisiana’s Mike Johnson. All it takes is one Republican calling for the speaker to step down to trigger another internecine war.

The consternation of Republicans is understandable. President Biden continues to thwart legislation and side-step executive action to secure the southern border and stem the flood of undocumented (illegal) immigrants.

“As of January 2024, more than 7.2 million migrants had illegally crossed into the U.S. over the Southwest border during U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration — a number higher than the individual populations of 36 states,” reported.

Too many drug (Fentanyl) smugglers, human traffickers and convicted criminals are infiltrating our nation from Mexico, assaulting everyday citizens, and costing debt-ridden American taxpayers trillions by stretching the limits of our health care, education and law enforcement.

Sadly, until recently Congress, (to apply an age-old idiom) let “the tail wag the dog” implying that our national legislative body has been controlled by small vocal factions on the far left and right. Hopefully, after the recent flurry of high-stake votes, our elected members seem to have changed.

Refreshingly “the dog seems to be again wagging its tail.”

That is where McCarthy, McMorris Rodgers and Kilmer will be missed. Achieving compromise is arduous work and risky business especially in achromous times. However, our nation benefits when Congress and the President set petty differences aside, forget retribution and not kowtow to extremists.

Coalescing has happened throughout our nation’s history.

For example, 50 years ago, Congress and the President were embroiled in the Watergate investigation which led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. It was a very divisive time; however, loads of good legislation was hammered out and enacted during Nixon’s six-year presidency because elected leaders put their differences aside and worked for the national good.

During the height of Watergate, Congress and the President hashed out the Safe Drinking Water, Endangered Species and Employee Retirement Income Security Act laws.

Although a Republican occupied the White House, Democrats had strong majorities in the Congress. Emotions were high and sentiments were strong during the Watergate; however, Republicans and Democrats melded and got things done.

The Watergate-era was a tough time for America; however, looking back, it was a “cake walk” compared to today. That cooperation has been overshadowed for more than a decade in Washington, D.C. Too many of the elected personalize differences and selfishly fight for media spotlights on a plethora of broadcast networks.

While many key problem-solvers are retiring, it is important voters elect people who will come together and act in the public interest.

Despite America’s imperfections, our system economic and political system remains the best in the world. It needs fixing by elected officials who are dedicated to thoughtful and careful change which is in the public interest.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer, and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business. During Watergate (1972-75), Brunell was press aide to Western Montana Congressman Dick Shoup (R), in Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at