Heard on the Hill

Kilmer's Podcast Connects Constituents and Colleagues

New outlet aspires to help constituents connect with members

Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer interviews Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum for his podcast in the House Democratic Caucus Studio last Thursday before Congress left for the October recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Washington Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer broke the news of the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie breakup on his podcast — at least to Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

“I asked about her commute,” Kilmer said. “And she said, ‘I like to sit on the airplane and read People magazine,’ and I said, ‘Why not learn about the Brangelina breakup?’ And she was like, ‘Wait a minute — Brangelina broke up?’ I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t mean to traumatize you.’"

Kilmer launched his podcast series, ‘Quick Questions About Congress With Kilmer,’ this summer as a way to connect with his colleagues from both sides of the aisle.

“I didn’t know a lot about my colleagues. I didn’t know [Rep. James B.] Renacci was a former firefighter or that he owned a football team,” he said. “And I didn’t realize that Jaime read People magazine.”

He starts with asking why his guests are in Congress in the first place and questions them about their goals. He then asks about their general take on Congress and how it works.

“I’m pretty struck by the fact that faith in government is super low,” Kilmer said. “One of the things that I consistently say is what will surprise you, [which] is while it is indeed super dysfunctional in the aggregate, there are a bunch of good people on both sides of the aisle. Many of whom you’ve never heard of, who don’t show up on MSNBC or Fox News, who actually are good people who want to get some stuff done.”

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Kilmer said when he goes back home to Washington, his constituents remark about how difficult it must be working in Congress.

“I already feel like there’s some value in it just in terms of relationship development and also we’ve heard from our constituents — those who have listened to it — have been like, that’s really cool. People feel a little more connected to their government and that I see value in,” he said.

The two-term congressman is part of the Bipartisan Working Group, which meets for breakfast once a week during session. They discuss what they’re working on and some big issues in the country, Kilmer said.

“It’s not like we’re holding hands and singing, ‘We Are The World,’ or closing our eyes and doing trust falls into each other’s arms. We stopped doing that because it was creepy,” he joked.

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On his podcast, he also asks what every guest’s favorite movie is.

“[Rep. Mark] Amodei said Liam Neeson in 'Taken.' And I said to him, ‘If you pass my bill, that will be the end of it. If you don’t, I will find you and I will kill you," appropriating one of Neeson's lines from the film.

Kilmer hasn’t yet interviewed a colleague he’s never spoken to before but he hopes to.

“I’m going to randomly walk up to a colleague. There’s 435 people here,” he said. "So inevitably, we will ask somebody that I don’t know."

Last week as Congress was about to leave for recess, Kilmer sat down with Minnesota Democrat Betty McCollum.

“If you have a 10-minute block that would otherwise be used to go to the bathroom, we do a podcast,” he said.

He talked to McCollum about why she's in Congress, the Mall of America and the flying monkeys in her favorite movie, "The Wizard of Oz."

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