Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C.Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement today on the two articles of impeachment against President Trump:

“After careful consideration of the evidence and witness testimony, I plan to vote in support of both articles of impeachment against President Trump. Accountability is a central tenet of our democracy, and in this solemn moment, it is crucial that Congress sends a strong and clear message that President Trump—and all presidents who follow him—will be held accountable and will not be given a free pass to abuse the presidency for personal gain.

“We must uphold the ideals of our republic against this test of our democratic resilience. We cannot ignore the evidence before us, and we cannot allow our vision to be clouded by partisanship. We must uphold our country’s values.

“As always, I will vote with the interests of the constituents of Washington’s Ninth District at the top of my mind. They deserve better than a president who actively undermines our electoral process and repeatedly jeopardizes our national security. They deserve a president who respects, rather than corrupts, his or her office. This president has defied our system of checks and balances by ignoring congressional subpoenas and obstructing Congress. By pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political opponent, he has blatantly abused the power of the presidency. His actions fly in the face of the democracy that our founding fathers boldly established and that our uniformed men and women work dutifully to secure every day.

“Since the launch of the impeachment inquiry, I have read messages from my constituents, heard their questions at town halls, and met with them in our community. On countless occasions, I have heard deep concerns about the damage this president has done to our country; I have also heard from constituents who oppose impeachment. I want all my constituents to know that my decision to vote for articles of impeachment was not a political one, and I will continue my work on issues that are important to our congressional district—from reigning in the costs of health care and medications to addressing the affordable housing shortage to enhancing and expanding infrastructure. Representing and advocating for those in Washington’s Ninth Congressional District is not a responsibility I take lightly. In order to fulfill this duty, I will continue working to secure fairness, integrity, and accountability in our government.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement after voting to pass H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which will help lower the cost of prescription drugs and level the playing field for American patients who are paying more for medication than patients in other countries.

“The costs of prescription drugs have been an increasing burden on individuals and families, forcing many to choose between their medications and basic needs such as paying rent or putting food on the table. Today’s passage of H.R. 3 is a necessary and bold step to reduce prescription drug prices, expand access to care for Medicare beneficiaries, and invest in the health of our communities.

“H.R. 3 will give Medicare the power to negotiate directly and transparently with drug companies and ensure those prices are available to plans outside of Medicare. The legislation also sets a cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and limits the ability for pharmaceutical companies to drastically raise prices. In addition to dramatically reducing prescription drug prices, H.R. 3 invests drug costs savings into Medicare beneficiaries and the health of our communities. The bill would finally add coverage of dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare and make significant investments in biomedical research, maternal health, the opioid crisis, and Community Health Centers.

“House Democrats continue to fulfill our commitment to work hard for the people and pass legislation that will have a positive impact on the lives of everyday people.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy:

“Today the House passed the most progressive National Defense Authorization Act in decades. It takes important strides toward strengthening our national defense, supporting service members and their families, and preserving the American values we share. It increases oversight and accountability of the Department of Defense (DOD), promotes a more inclusive and diverse military, and takes steps to protect public health.

“Under the Democratic majority in the House, the NDAA takes a historic step to support families and children by providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers across all agencies – benefiting millions of federal workers and their families. 

“Democrats also secured some of the strongest environmental and climate-related provisions of any NDAA, continuing our work to put DOD at the forefront of planning and mitigating for the impacts of climate change and adopting strong energy efficiency and resilience practices. It nearly doubles funding authorization for the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program for projects that improve energy resiliency or energy conservation efforts at military installations, and it increases funding for the Readiness Environmental Protection Initiative that supports land conservation efforts in cooperation with local communities.

“I was successful in working with my colleagues to include the most significant legislative action on PFAS ever. The House prevailed in securing a total ban on DOD use of firefighting agents containing PFAS by 2024 and forcing DOD to prioritize the effort to find a safe alternative. In addition, the bill immediately bans the use of firefighting agents with PFAS for training and any uncontrolled release of PFAS for any purpose other than putting out fires. While this agreement contains crucial, initial steps to improve the health of families, Senate Republicans refused to compromise on additional provisions to hold polluters accountable and protect vulnerable populations against dangerous PFAS ‘forever chemicals.’ The Democratic Caucus remains committed to moving legislation in the House that takes additional action on PFAS and speaker Pelosi has vowed to make this issue a priority in the New Year.

“This NDAA recognizes the valuable role that immigrants play in our military and communities across the country. The bill prohibits a member of the armed services who is protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from being involuntarily separated from the military and requires that a veteran’s military service shall be considered in any determination for removal proceedings. The bill allocates an additional 4,000 visas allowing Afghans and their families to immigrate to the United States whose services to the U.S. government puts them at great personal risk. Furthermore, our bill requires counseling to service members who are not citizens on how to apply for citizenship.

“I also fought to ensure provisions promoting diversity and inclusion in the military were included. The bill requires the DOD to update and implement its Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan and address racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the military justice system. The NDAA increases funding and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions. In addition, the Marine Corps will finally be required to gender integrate basic training at Parris Island within five years and San Diego within eight years.

“This NDAA secures long-overdue changes to provide the protections and benefits that military families need and deserve. This includes an end to the unjust ‘widow’s tax’ and significant reforms and increased resources to enhance oversight and management of military housing. Additionally, the NDAA provides a 3.1 percent military pay raise for service members – the largest increase in a decade.

“I must admit, however, that certain Democratic priorities are not included in this legislation. As Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, I fought for months with my Republican colleagues in the Senate to include provisions relating to Yemen, Iran, the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), and the border wall. I fought for these provisions until the final moments, however, Senate Republicans and the White House were completely unwilling to negotiate. Instead, they threatened to kill the bill. If we had allowed them to kill the bill, Democrats would have gotten nothing. Not a single one of our priorities.

“But that is why I so am proud of this bill – because of everything that is contained in its 1,249 individual provisions and more than 4,000 pages. I am proud that this bill will change the lives of millions by providing paid parental leave. I am proud that this bill will better provide for the widows and families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And I am proud that this bill reflects Democratic priorities and American values.

“And make no mistake about it, I will continue to fight for the provisions we did not get, hopefully at some point with a Senate and President who better reflect the values of our country. I know how important these provisions are.”

Background:

Key provisions in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act include:

Reforms the FERES Doctrine

  • Under current law, service members on active duty who are victims of medical malpractice in a Military Treatment Facility are prevented from filing claims for personal injury or death.

Water Contamination: PFOS, PFOA, AFFF

  • Bans DOD use of fire fighting agents containing PFAS by 2024 and forcing DOD to prioritize the effort to find a safe alternative.
  • Requires DOD to ensure that when disposing of AFFF and supplies used to remediate PFAS contamination (such a water filters) it does so in a manner that is safe and does not create further pollution.
  • Bans the use of PFAS chemicals in the packaging of the meals (MREs) our service members eat when deployed in combat areas and for training.
  • Closes a loophole in the DOD Environmental clean-up accounts that was keeping the National Guard from being able to access these funds to address PFOS and PFOA contamination.
  • Authorizes DOD to provide alternative water to farmers effected by PFAS contaminated agricultural water.
  • Bans the uncontrolled release of fire fighting agents containing PFAS for any purpose other than putting out fires.
  • Agrees to all portions of the Senate PFAS package except Safe Drinking Water Regulation because the Senate would not agree to protect vulnerable populations.

Afghan Special Immigrant Visas

  • Allocates an additional 4,000 visas allowing Afghans (and their families) whose service to the U.S. Government puts them at great personal risk, immigrate to the United States.
  • Modifies eligibility requirements for the program to all who, “provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. Government,” consistent with the original language of the “Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009.”
  • Requires the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, to work to ensure the meaningful participation of Afghan women in the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan.

Takes Care of Service Members and Their Families

  • Comprehensive Mental Health Policy: This provision requires the Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive mental health policy that looks at the availability of mental health services for service members and the effectiveness in how these services are delivered.
  • Report on Suicide Prevention Programs: Requires a report on the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs and the development of metrics evaluating treatment plans, mental health screenings and resiliency programs.
  • Deferred deployment for members who give birth: Mandates a 1-year deployment deferment for mothers after birth of a child.
  • Adopts the Fentanyl Sanctions Act to combat the opioid epidemic, which implements a number of economic and financial sanctions to cripple the operations of foreign traffickers of opioids.
  • Parole in Place: Requires the Sec Homeland Security to consider whether granting a request for parole in place from a member of the Armed Forces for a family member would enable military family unity that would constitute a significant public benefit.

Addresses Military Housing Issues

  • Military Family Housing: Adopts numerous provisions that reform the oversight and management of military family housing; and establishment of rights and responsibilities of military family housing landlords and tenants.
  • Prohibits the use of non-disclosure agreements in connection with entering into, continuing, or terminating a lease for on-base military housing.
  • Authorizes an additional $140.8 million to hire additional civilian personnel to improve oversight and management of military family housing.
  • Creates a public database for complaints related to military housing, requires annual financial audits of randomly selected privatized military family housing, and annual congressional reports on the condition, maintenance, and management of privatized military family housing.
  • Housing Hazard Assessment Tool: Requires the Department of Defense to develop a health and safety hazard assessment tool for housing and provide a summary report to potential occupants.

Protects Victims of Sexual And Domestic Assault

  • Defense Advisory Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct: Requires the Establishment of a Defense Advisory Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct.
  • Training for Special Victims’ Counsel on civilian criminal justice matters in the States of the military installations to which assigned: Requires training for Special Victims’ Counsel (SVCs) on local criminal laws in order to adequately advise sexual assault victims on their choice for prosecution jurisdiction.
  • Improvement of Special Victims’ Counsel authorities: Requires SVCs to advise sexual assault victims on rights related to retaliation.
  • Consideration of request for transfer of a cadet or midshipman at a military service academy who is the victim of a sexual assault or related offense: Establishes regulations providing for timely consideration of transfer applications for military service academy students who are the victims of sexual assault and related offenses.
  • Legal Counsel for victims of alleged domestic violence offenses: Requires the DOD to establish a program by 2020 to provide legal counsel to domestic violence victims and to report to Congress on how they will structure and implement the program.

Military Construction and the Wall

  • Border Wall Backfill: Does not authorize any backfill of military construction funds taken for the President’s border wall.
  • Disaster Related Military Construction: Authorizes $4.1 billion for emergency-designated military construction projects necessary to support disaster recovery and reconstruction at military installations impacted by hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes.
  • Requires an assessment of the impact of any planned or proposed border wall construction would have on the volume of illegal narcotics entering the United States.

Protects Dreamers in the Armed Services

  • Prohibition on involuntary separation and consideration of military service in removal determinations: Prohibits a member who is protected under DACA or TPS from being involuntarily separated from the military, and requires that a veterans military service shall be consider in any determination for removal proceedings.
  • Citizenship: Requires counseling to service members who are not citizens on how to apply as well as inclusion of questions on the pre-separation counseling checklist on immigration status to ensure those leaving the military know how to apply for citizenship.

Promotes a Diverse, Inclusive Military

  • Diversity Plan: Requires the Secretary of Defense to update and implement the Department of Defense Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.
  • Diversification of the research and engineering workforce of the Department of Defense: Strengthens and diversifies the Department’s science and technology workforce and infrastructure.
  • Marine Corps gender integration: Requires Marine Corps to gender integrate basic training at Parris Island within 5 years and San Diego within 8.
  • Assessment of racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the military justice system: Requires DOD to record and maintain information regarding race, ethnicity, and gender and requires the Secretary of Defense to establish guidance to further identify any disparities and to take action on any identified disparities during the justice process.
  • Requires DoD to submit an initial report, within 120 days of enactment, and an annual report for two years thereafter, setting forth information about the number of transgender applicants and transgender service members who sought and received a waiver or an exception to policy to permit their enlistment, accession, or retention in the military.
  • National study on defense research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Other Minority Institutions: Establishes a National Study on Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.
  • HBCU/MSI Funding Increases: Increases funding and support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.

Adopts the Fair Chance Act

  • Prevents the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage;
  • Prohibits federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage;
  • Includes important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law; and
  • Requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.

Climate Change and Environment

  • Readiness Environmental Protection Initiative: Authorizes $100 million, $25 million above the budget request, for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI), supports land conservation efforts in cooperation with local communities to prevent incompatible development around military bases and ranges.
  • Climate Resiliency Provisions: Contains a number of provisions that require DOD to identify, mitigate, and plan for the material impacts of climate change on military installations and infrastructure.
  • Requires DOD develop installation master plans that assess current climate vulnerabilities and plan for mitigating the risks to installations from extreme weather events, mean sea level fluctuation, wildfires, flooding, and other changes in environmental conditions using projections from recognized governmental and scientific entities.
  • Limits DOD’s ability to spend planning and design funds until it initiates the process of amending the building standards for military construction (Unified Facility Criteria) to ensure that building practices and standards promote energy, climate, and cyber resilience at military installations.
  • Requires all proposals for military construction projects to consider potential long-term changes in environmental conditions, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, as well as, industry best-practices to withstand extreme weather events.
  • Requires DOD to report on the feasibility of transitioning installation planning from 100-year floodplain data to a forward-looking predictive model that takes into account the impacts of sea-level rise.
  • Establishes a pilot authority for the Department of Defense to carry out military construction projects, with prior congressional notification, that enhance military installation resilience, mission assurance, support mission critical functions, and address known vulnerabilities.
  • Direct Air Capture and Blue Carbon Removal Technology Program: Creates a program for air capture and blue carbon removal technology to strengthen the sustainment of our Navy and combat climate warming.
  • Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program: Authorizes $283 million, an additional $133 million, for military construction projects that improve energy resiliency or energy conservation efforts at a military installation.
  • Requires the DOD to consult with experts from other agencies to adapt or develop a tool that can help them better assess and plan for climate risk.
  • Requires the DOD to identify and remove barriers to resiliency and to reform policies and programs to better address climate vulnerability.
  • Requires DOD to have a dedicated budget line to address resiliency to extreme weather events.
  • Requires Navy to purchase, with a $10 million authorization, a portable detonation chamber to reduce the amount of open detonations on Vieques, Puerto Rico .
  • Requires the Comptroller General to complete a study on the Federal cleanup and decontamination process on Vieques and Culebra, Puerto Rico, to include an assessment of the impacts on public health and safety of the clean-up activities.

Improves Nuclear Oversight and Strategic Deterrence

  • Nuclear safety: Increases the legal authority of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to conduct nuclear safety oversight of the nuclear security enterprise.
  • Nuclear weapons budget: Mandates that DOD and NNSA budget officials participate in Nuclear Weapons Council meetings to inform requirements and program decisions on nuclear weapons programs; also requires CBO report on acquisition costs of nuclear modernization, including as percentage of acquisition, to increase transparency of nuclear weapons costs.
  • ICBMs: Extends prohibition on development of mobile ICBMs.
  • Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent: A reduction of $40 million to the program.
  • No First Use: Requires an independent report on a U.S. policy of not using nuclear weapons first.
  • Arms control/strategic stability: Limits withdrawal from the New START and Open Skies treaties (120 day wait period and requires consultation).
  • Nuclear non-proliferation: Authorizes $20M for research and development on using low-enriched uranium for naval reactor fuel to reduce the use of nuclear weapons-grade uranium.
  • Study of risks of nuclear war: Independent report on risks of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism.
  • Waste reclassification: Limits the Administration from reclassifying high-level waste in WA state for FY2020.
  • INF-range missiles: Prohibits production and deployment of ground-launched missiles in FY2020; Requires report on analysis of alternatives, on basing options and whether deployment in Europe would require NATO consensus.
  • Independent study on impacts of missile defense development and deployment: Requires an independent assessment on the impacts of U.S. missile defense development on the security of the United States as a whole.
  • National Missile Defense Policy: Updates the national missile defense policy to state that U.S. homeland missile defense will be targeted against rogue states, and will rely on nuclear deterrence for near-peer adversary ballistic missile threats.
  • Improvements to missile defense testing and reporting: Requires increased operationally realistic testing, specifically with regards to countermeasures, of missile defense systems and increased analysis and reporting on the results of those tests.
  • Next Generation Interceptor: Increases oversight of the ground-based midcourse defense system and places a 50 percent fence on FY20 efforts for a next generation interceptor until the Department of Defense provides a report on validated requirements and technical, programmatic, and cost analyses of the program’s path forward.
  • Space-Based missile defense: Repeals FY18 NDAA requirement for a space-based missile defense test bed.
  • Conventional Prompt Strike: Directs the Secretary of the Navy to develop a conventional prompt strike hypersonic capability for deployment on surface ship platforms (instead of limiting it to ambiguous sub-launched which could increase the risks of miscalculation).

Addresses Civilian Casualties

  • Annual report on strikes undertaken by the United States against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities: Directs a two-year reporting requirement to the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense to submit a coordinated, corroborated report on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. strikes against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities.
  • Partially reinstates the previous administration’s Executive Order to report on U.S. activities outside areas of military engagement.
  • Modification of annual report on civilian casualties in connection with United States military operations: Directs additional reporting requirements in the annual Department of Defense report on civilian casualties, increasing accountability and transparency by the Department in the way civilian casualties are accounted for, tracked, and reported.
  • Assessment of standards, processes, procedures, and policy relating to civilian casualties: Directs an independent study of Department of Defense standards, processes, procedures, and policy relating to the accounting, tracking, and reporting of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations.
  • Independent assessment on gender and countering violent extremism: Directs the Secretaries of Defense and State to coordinate on an independent study of the relationship between gender – specifically the role of women – and violent extremism as a means of highlighting and advancing the role(s) of women as key contributors to peace processes, under the auspices of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017.

Iraq, Syria, And Iran

  • Requires stricter Congressional oversight of U.S. military activity in Iraq and Syria. Fences funding if DOD fails to provide all past, overdue reports related to U.S. military activities in Iraq and Syria by January 1, 2020 and requires DOD to consult with the Government of Iraq on its activities in Iraq.
  • Includes a rule of construction that nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act may be construed to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

Afghan Security Forces Fund

  • The authorization continues to include requirements to develop Gender Programs for the recruitment, retention, and professional development of women in the ANDSF.

Yemen And Saudi Arabia

  • Prohibits in-flight refueling to the Saudi-led coalition for two years, unless and until a specific authorization from Congress is enacted.
  • Drives accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and highlights Saudi human rights abuses. The NDAA requires an intelligence assessment from the Director of National Intelligence, naming those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. It also requires a report from the Secretary of State detailing Saudi Arabia’s gross human rights violations.
  • Enhances transparency and accountability through the establishment of additional civilian casualty reporting elements. It also requires an independent assessment of the Department of Defense standards, processes, procedures, and policy relating to civilian casualties resulting from United States military operations. Additionally, it requires the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to submit a report detailing the number of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen.

Russia & Europe

  • Increases funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides support and assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, by $50 million, bringing the funding level to $300 million in order to provide robust ongoing support of Ukraine’s efforts to counter Russian aggression. Adds coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles to the categories of appropriate security assistance and intelligence support.
  • Prohibits the use of federal funds to suspend, terminate, or file notice for withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).
  • Expresses the sense of Congress in strong support of the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.
  • Includes numerous provisions countering Russian influence and election interference efforts as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), which is included in the NDAA.
  • Extends the prohibition on funding for any activity that would recognize the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea.

Turkey

  • Prohibits the transfer of an F-35 aircraft or related materials to Turkey, now that Turkey has taken possession of the S-400 air defense system.

Acquisition Policy

  • Incentivizes contractors to invest in workforce development programs to address the workforce needs of the Department of Defense by requiring the Secretary of Defense to include an evaluation of contractor workforce development programs in the contract past performance system.
  • Establishes a small business contracting credit for subcontractors that are businesses located in United States territories.
  • Directs agencies to accelerate payment of small business prime contractors to the fullest extent possible, with a goal of 15 days after receipt of proper invoice.

Security Cooperation, Stabilization, And Human Rights Accountability

  • Encourages DOD to integrate gender perspectives and meaningful participation by women in security cooperation authorities.
  • Authorizes the use of up to $18 million to provide logistical support to stabilization activities of the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal agencies in certain countries emerging from conflict.
  • Requires a report that assesses the human rights climate in Brazil and whether Brazilian security-force units that engaged in human rights abuses received or purchased United States equipment or training.
  • Requires a report that assesses the human rights climate in Honduras and compliance of the military and security forces of Honduras with international human rights laws and standards.
  • Requires a report on security sector assistance for the Philippines National Police, including an identification of any units determined or credibly alleged to have committed human rights abuses and a description of the relationship of those units with units that receive U.S. assistance.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement ahead of the House vote on the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

“Before my colleagues and I cast our votes on the FY20 NDAA, one thing must be made clear: This is the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.

“After months of hard-fought negotiations, our bill is now final, and contains major wins for Democrats and working people and promotes our national security. Despite this sweeping success, some have decried the bill, saying it fails to live up to progressive values. To those detractors I ask one simple question: Which of the provisions that did not make it into our final bill did President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe not hate?

“From the moment we passed our bill through the House without the support of a single Republican vote, it was clear that our counterparts in the Senate and White House fundamentally opposed the Democratic priorities included in the bill.

“Do you know what they also hated? The repeal of the ‘widow’s tax’ and granting paid parental leave for federal employees. But, because of our tireless work, we succeeded in getting these provisions included. Because of this hard work, our bill will have real impacts on Americans leading real lives.

“Throughout the negotiations I failed in one way: I was unable to turn President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe into Democrats and convince them to suddenly accept all of the provisions they despise. Nonetheless, we have accomplished more with this bill than anyone ever thought possible given the realities of a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Senate, and we should be proud of that.

“To those who say that this bill isn’t enough – I could not disagree more. When I look at the widows, the parents, and families who will benefit from the bill, it is enough. We are delivering more for families across this country than anyone even conceived of going into this year. 

“To those who say that we should have ‘fought harder’ or ‘held the line’ – I can assure you we fought the entire time until the very end. President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe would have killed the bill over these provisions. If we kill the bill, we would have gotten nothing. Not a single Democratic priority.

“Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe would have been thrilled to pass a ‘skinny NDAA’ with zero Democratic priorities. That alternative bill would have none of the key policies we fought so hard for – no paid parental leave, no “widow’s tax” repeal, and nothing to address PFAS. 

“That is why I so am proud of this bill – because of everything that is contained in its 1,249 individual provisions and more than 4,000 pages. I am proud that this bill will change the lives of millions by providing paid parental leave. I am proud that this bill will better provide for the widows and families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And I am proud that this bill reflects Democratic priorities and American values.

“And make no mistake about it, I will continue to fight for the provisions we did not get, hopefully at some point with a Senate and President who better reflect the values of our country. I know how important these provisions are.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) released the following statement today following the introduction of the Safety Net Health Plan Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Fairness Act. This legislation would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and expand access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness to employees working for certain safety net health plans.

Currently, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives remaining federal loan balances after a borrower performs 10 years of work for qualifying public service employers and makes 120 months of qualifying payments. Recently, the DOE has begun more narrowly defining what employers qualify as “qualifying public service organizations.” As a result, some borrowers who were formerly making qualifying payments under the program are being denied, despite working for employers that formerly qualified as PSLF-eligible employers. Included among those impacted are employees for certain safety net health plans.

“Safety net health plans provide access to quality Medicaid, Medicare, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, and employees of these government and non-profit health plans deserve access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF),” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “The Department of Education’s recent decision to rescind some of these employers’ eligibility for the PSLF program has resulted in employees having the rug pulled out from under them.”

“These plans exist entirely to support recipients of federal safety net health care programs, and employees who work for them should continue to qualify for the PSLF program,” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “This bill would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the PSLF Program and expand access for employees working for 501(c)4 safety net health plans while retroactively ensuring current borrowers who were denied loan forgiveness or qualifying payments are able to obtain credit for payments they already made.”

Organizations such as the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and the Community Health Plan of Washington have echoed these sentiments and showed their support:

“Congress has long recognized that safety net health plans serve a unique role in America’s health care system,” said Meg Murray, CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans. “This legislation furthers that commitment by recognizing what ACAP and our members have long known – that we could not serve our 20 million plan enrollees without the dedication of staff committed to our mission. We appreciate Reps. Schrier and Smith’s strong support of the people who make SNHPs so successful.”

“Student debt is a significant economic and social burden many individuals face and can further deter people interested in pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector,” said Leanne Berge, CEO of Community Health Plan of Washington. “In addition, it is no surprise low-income students and people of color are disproportionately burdened by debt which further contributes to the systemic and racial inequities present in society. As a local not for profit safety net health plan providing high quality care to the most vulnerable, it is vital we provide opportunities to help ease loan burden for employees dedicated to working in the nonprofit sector and making contributions to their communities. This bill is a huge step in increasing access, removing burden and working towards equity.”

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