Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith Calls for Criminal Justice Reform

Congressman Smith released the following statement about the need to comprehensively reform our criminal justice system, highlighting current efforts at the federal level that can begin the process:

November 6, 2015

“The American criminal justice system is fundamentally broken.

“As a nation, we incarcerate more of our own citizens than any other country in the world – often times for non-violent drug offenses. Past reforms meant to keep our communities safer have resulted in disproportionately high incarceration rates among people of color, splitting families apart and helping to perpetuate cycles of poverty. Despite the creation of innovative tools at the local level in King County to institute diversionary “safety valve” mental health, drug rehabilitation, and veterans treatment courts, these resources do not currently exist at the federal level. Communities of color still face disproportionate mandatory minimum sentences, with charges often stacking on top of one another. The vast majority of inmates leaving prison face long-term unemployment, with employers often unwilling to consider them due to their records. Make no mistake, I believe that the justice system must work to protect the innocent, and hold those committing crimes accountable – but a central goal of our corrections system must also be rehabilitation and reintegration. As a society, we must do more.

“As a former prosecutor, I have had a unique exposure to the intricacies of our judicial system. The men and women who work in law enforcement, as prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and corrections officers shoulder the immense duty of keeping our communities safe. These individuals must balance this responsibility while at the same time assuring that the system remains fair and balanced, and that individuals are treated and judged equally under the law.  I believe the time has come to make important adjustments to the way we handle criminal justice in our country.

“I applaud the President’s recent statements on the need for criminal justice reform, including his Executive Action to “ban the box” on initial paperwork for federal employment applications, which mirrors legislation that I became a cosponsor of earlier this year. Banning the box is a good start, however, there is no singular solution—we must make across-the-board changes if we are to truly reform our broken justice system and begin to address the unintended negative consequences of the 1994 Crime Bill. This bill has been criticized for its enactment of mandatory minimum sentences and other reforms that have disproportionately harmed disadvantaged communities.

“To address our broken system, I have laid out a “roadmap” of criminal justice reform initiatives to make improvements throughout the judicial system. Congress should pass the SAFE Justice Act, a comprehensive bill that I cosponsored which utilizes evidence-based, state-tested reforms across the spectrum of criminal justice – from sentencing reform and safety valve programs, to changes in post-release supervision. I support establishing federal grant programs for Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) because we must work with and support our men and women in law enforcement, promoting accountability and transparency. I also strongly support funding for legal help to low income individuals, as well as legislation that implements evidence-based changes in our prisons and supports the reentry of those who have completed their sentences back into society. Leveling the playing field on federal job applications by “banning the box” is a crucial step, but we must go further.

“As we work towards common-sense reforms to our criminal justice system, I greatly value the continuing information, opinions and experiences shared with me by my constituents about these critical topics. We must chart a new course if we are to build a stronger tomorrow.”

“Congressman Smith will be an invaluable partner in building support across party lines to pass comprehensive criminal justice reform,” stated Congressman Bobby Scott, the lead Democratic cosponsor of the SAFE Justice Act.  “His dedication to educating our colleagues about evidence-based practices and addressing the underlying causes of recidivism have been a great help as we continue to push for meaningful reform in Congress.”


Ranking Member Adam Smith Statement on Passage of NDAA

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement following the passage of the revised National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016:

November 5, 2015

“Today, House Democrats and Republicans agreed on a revised National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016. This bill provides the Department of Defense with a stable and predictable budget with which to plan for the next two years. This bill reflects what Congress can do when it takes a bipartisan approach to the issues of the day. The robust discussion and participation from both Democrats and Republicans produced legislation that supports our troops, advances acquisition reform, and protects our national security.

While the bill is much better than where we started, it still contains a number of problematic provisions. The bill does not address the need to reform how Overseas Contingency Operation funds are used and does not close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The $5 billion cut from the President’s budget will create difficulties but was necessary under the terms of the Congressional Budget Agreement passed by the House last week.

Make no mistake: the issue of sequestration and budget caps has impacted our national security.  Other departments charged with protecting the nation, such as the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and others, deserve budgets, certainty, and the opportunity to plan.  Until we directly address these issues, our security will be at risk and key national priorities will continue to suffer. The past five years have made it very difficult for the Pentagon—and many others—to plan in a manner that best advances our national security interests. 

I support this bill. The National Defense Authorization Act has never been perfect, and it will never be perfect. We must empower those charged with protecting our nation’s security by giving them the means to plan.  Moving forward, the House, Senate and President must continue to work together to eliminate sequestration altogether and implement a long-term spending plan that provides certainty to our economy, the Department of Defense, and the entire federal government.” 

Smith Statement on Joining Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity

Today, Congressman Smith joined the Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, chaired by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Congressman Smith released the following statement regarding his new membership in the Task Force:

November 3, 2015

 “Today, I am honored to announce that I have joined the Democratic Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, chaired by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. This Task Force examines inequities in our society and looks at policy proposals to expand opportunity in areas including higher education, job training and employment, and stable housing. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues on the Whip’s Task Force to work to remove barriers that stand in the way of hard-working Americans reaching the middle class. Over the past few decades we have institutionalized barriers that too often keep people in poverty and limit economic prosperity. This cannot stand and we must do better.

Americans today are confronted with a system where upward mobility has become increasingly out of reach. As the son of a ramp serviceman at the SeaTac airport, I often wonder how my family would fare under the same circumstances today. My father made upwards of $15 an hour with benefits for United Airlines in the 1980s. In today’s economy, similar jobs in our region often only earn $9.47, an amount that simply isn’t enough to provide for a family in King County.

I am committed to increasing the jobs here at home and ensuring that we have a strong, well-trained workforce.  Throughout my time in Congress, I have been working to do just that.  Not only have I supported robust investments in education and workforce training and development, but I have also supported programs to assist American manufacturers access new markets. Additionally, I have pushed to increase the minimum wage to ensure our workers are compensated fairly for their work and can be part of our country’s middle class.

In the coming months, the Task Force will continue to consult with key stakeholders and work closely with the Administration to develop support for a national strategy to eradicate poverty. We will evaluate the impact of anti-poverty programs, as well as the long-term economic outcomes of the Americans who receive assistance; and remove barriers and obstacles that prevent low-income Americans from joining the middle class. I am looking forward to working with the Task Force to develop policies that reduce poverty and create a better future for all Americans.”

“I am thrilled to have Congressman Adam Smith join the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “In Congress, Rep. Smith is a tireless champion for working families and good paying jobs. His work to advance American manufacturing in the Puget Sound region and across the country has helped lift families into the middle class. I look forward to working with Rep. Smith to build pathways out of poverty by raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and strengthening our safety net for vulnerable families.”

“I’m pleased to welcome Rep. Smith to our Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. “From pushing for an increase in the minimum wage to supporting investments in workforce development and training, Rep. Smith has been a tireless advocate for working men and women. I thank him for his dedication to lifting more of our people out of poverty and into the middle class, and I look forward to working with him to continue to advance our agenda of job creation and economic opportunity for all Americans.”

Ranking Member Smith Statement on Bipartisan Budget Agreement

Congressman Adam Smith made the following statement on the bipartisan budget agreement:

October 28, 2015

“Republicans have finally engaged in constructive conversations that have produced a two year bipartisan budget deal. This agreement, reached by House and Senate leaders, would increase funding equally for defense and non-defense investments and will help ensure that our economy continues to grow while providing opportunities for middle-class Americans. Unfortunately, this deal does not eliminate cuts mandated by sequestration and does not fix our core budget problems in the long-term.

During the disastrous debt ceiling debate in 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which I opposed. While that legislation temporarily addressed the debt limit, it also stipulated that if Congress did not find $1.2 trillion in savings, sequestration would take effect. Sequester cuts were designed to be so damaging to our national defense, the economy, and other important federal programs, that Congress would be forced to act.  Since then, Congress has only been able to make progress with limited-term budget agreements.

Ideally, a budget must support our working families, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and advance comprehensive immigration reform. A responsible budget must create jobs and strengthen the middle class.  This budget agreement is not perfect and much of it needs careful review, but it is a move in the right direction. This agreement is preferable to governing from budget crisis to budget crisis and will allow for the American people to plan for the future.

This budget deal is paid for in a balanced way by ensuring that Wall Street pays the taxes they owe and cuts billions in wasteful spending. Furthermore, this agreement protects critical priorities, keeping intact programs that working families depend on and protecting Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries from harmful cuts. The deal will avoid cuts to the Social Security Disability Insurance program that are projected to take place at the end of next year and also avoids an increase in Medicare Part B premiums.

I have long called for Congress to permanently address the sequester. While the bipartisan budget agreement does not eliminate the sequester, this deal is a necessary compromise. The agreement will more reasonably fund our national and economic security through 2017, while ensuring the full faith and credit of the United States is not put at risk. Moving forward, Congress must eliminate sequestration altogether and implement a long-term spending plan that provides certainty to our economy, the Department of Defense, and the entire federal government.” 

Congressman Smith Supports Reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank

Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement supporting reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank:

October 27, 2015

“The reasons to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank’s charter grow each day. In 2014, the Ex-Im Bank supported 2,400 jobs and $28,586,427 in exports to minority and women owned businesses in the 9th Congressional District of Washington state.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been a strong supporter of the Ex-Im Bank. I am a cosponsor of the bill introduced by Congresswoman Waters, the Promoting U.S. Jobs through Exports Act of 2015, which would extend the bank’s authorization through 2022 and would ensure that American businesses can continue to compete globally.  The bill also increases Ex-Im Bank’s financing limit to $160 billion and expands opportunities for small-and medium-sized businesses.

On October 9, 2015, I joined a bipartisan majority of Representatives in the House to sign a discharge petition to bring to the Floor a measure that would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. The most recent extension expired on June 30, 2015. Without the necessary re-authorization, many of Washington’s exporters will be unable to match increasing international competition from foreign companies that receive robust support from their own export credit agencies.

Today, I was proud to join my colleagues in the House in supporting the passage of H.R. 597 that reauthorizes the Ex-Im Bank. Extending support to the Ex-Im Bank is critical to maintaining and creating jobs in Washington state and around the country.”