Press Releases

U.S. Reps. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) and Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) introduced legislation this week to authorize $38 million for a new nursing care home at the VA’s American Lake facility in Lakewood, Washington.  The new home would replace the current facility, which the VA has cited for seismic and other safety risks.

"The American Lake home is unsafe and the veterans there are at risk," said Rep. Smith. “These brave veterans have served our nation proudly and our now some of the most frail and vulnerable among us.  We owe it to them to fix this problem.”

The legislation aims to end a Congressional delay in approving funding for the facility. While the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee have approved bills appropriating funds for the project, neither chamber has authorized the funding—a requirement for major construction projects.  The FY07 budget submitted by the President recognized that the American Lake project is a top priority, and included a request that Congress provide the $38 million for next year.

Rep. Dicks noted that, "The decision made by the VA to seek replacement funding for the American Lake facility recognizes not only the immediate safety issues involved but also the urgent need for nursing care services to a substantial population of veterans in the greater Pierce County area. Congress now needs to act on this authorization bill to match the urgency of the Administration's efforts."

Rep. Smith added, “We need to get this funding approved immediately, and this bill would remove the last remaining obstacle,” said Smith.  “We’ll keep working with Senators Murray and Cantwell and other supporters to get this done.”

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) today offered a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 4157, the Health Information Technology Promotion Act of 2005. The amendment allows for the creation of a demonstration project that will provide a more efficient and effective system for managing disease by using health information technology on disease management for the Medicaid population. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote and was included in the final bill that passed by a vote of 270-148. The bill will now be sent to conference. 

"Under the current paper-based healthcare system, patients and their doctors lack instant access to medical information,” said Adam Smith. “This lack of connectivity and shared knowledge leads to medical errors, increased costs, and inefficiency.  This demonstration project would leverage information technology as a tool to increase the efficiency of the healthcare system, improve the quality of care for Medicaid patients and it will decrease costs to states and the federal government, which are facing record deficits.”

The McMorris-Smith amendment directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct 2-year pilot projects in selected states to demonstrate the beneficial impact of health IT on chronic disease case management for the Medicaid population. It allows for the creation of a virtual case management tool that provides patients and providers access to a real-time electronic medical records.  This amendment was based off a bill that Reps. McMorris and Smith introduced last fall, H.R. 4331, the Medicaid Access Project through Information Technology (MAP IT).

"Health IT has the potential to reduce costs with Medicaid, empower patients with the necessary tools to manage their disease, and improve quality of care by reducing errors,” said Cathy McMorris. “The United States lags behind other industrialized countries regarding investment in health IT, and it is time that we begin using 21st century technology for 21st century health care. Washington state is already a nationwide leader in health IT and could benefit by applying to be a candidate in this demonstration program.”

Without changes to our health care system, analysts predict that Medicaid will bankrupt every state in as little as twenty years. By providing online access for managing chronic disease, states will be able to significantly reduce costs within Medicaid. An August 2005 study by the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis at Eastern Washington University found that for ever dollar spent on technology-enabled disease management program, it provided up to ten dollars in medical savings and even more in terms of non-medical cost savings.

In addition to cost-savings, the use of Health IT ensures that overall health care delivery is safe and more comprehensive. According to the Institute of Medicine, at least 1.5 million Americas are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing, dispensing or taking medications. By allowing providers to access real time data, doctors can treat patients with the most recent advancements in medicine and according to the best practices in medicine.

This amendment is endorsed by American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Healthcare Information Management Systems Society, American Health Information Management Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Northwest Physicians Network, and Othello Community Hospital. It is also supported by the entire Washington state delegation. 

 

Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith expressed disappointment with a resolution considered in the House regarding Iraq and the war on terrorism.  The non-binding resolution expressed the House of Representatives’ support for American troops and commitment to achieving success in Iraq and the war on terrorism.  While Smith ultimately voted in favor of the resolution, he decried the inadequacy of the measure and the Congress’ failure to address the ongoing challenges in Iraq.

“This resolution does nothing to address the real challenges in Iraq or to hold the administration accountable for their mistakes,” said Smith.  “Yet another resolution expressing support for our troops and commitment to success is fine, but does not help us get any closer to actually achieving that success so that we can bring our troops home.  We should be talking about how to accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, including reducing our troop levels in a responsible way and working with allies and regional players to bolster the new Iraqi government.”

Smith continued, “This administration has made, and continues to make, many costly mistakes in Iraq, and this Congress has failed to ask the tough questions that will help us change course and move more quickly to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.  I want to make clear that my vote in favor of this resolution is not an endorsement of this administration’s conduct in Iraq.”

During House debate on the resolution, Smith expressed his disappointment in a speech on the House floor.  The full text of Smith’s floor speech follows:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in disappointment – though I must say, not in surprise – about the exercise the House is engaged in today.  This is not a true debate about our policy in Iraq.  A real debate on Iraq would allow us to consider alternative proposals and vote on meaningful amendments that could help us improve the very difficult situation there.  Instead we have before us an un-amendable, rhetorical document about the war on terrorism that barely focuses on Iraq itself, and certainly doesn’t deal with the real challenges we face there.  This process is an offense to our democracy.

What is even more troubling, Mr. Speaker, is that this kind of undemocratic approach is precisely what led to the Bush administration’s many costly mistakes in Iraq.  Americans have seen how the administration’s stubborn single-mindedness and refusal to consider alternative views and dissenting opinions have cost us dearly in Iraq.  The facts are all-to-well-known:

When General Shinseki said that far more troops would be needed to secure the peace in Iraq, he was ignored and soon retired – and the result was that the troops we did send struggled unnecessarily to prevent and control a massive insurgency.

When advisors warned the administration not to de-Baathify and disband the Iraqi military and security forces, they were ignored.  As Prime Minister Tony Blair has publicly admitted, this was a grave mistake that effectively pushed thousands of military-trained, disempowered Sunnis into the streets, fueling the post-war insurgency.

And the administration’s refusal to heed dissenting views on Iraq continues to this day.  Now that the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has brought to light massive amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse in the reconstruction contracting, I understand that the administration and the Republicans in Congress are trying to prematurely end his mandate.

This is a clear pattern, Mr. Speaker, and the consequences of this arrogant, undemocratic approach are real.  It has cost us dearly in American lives and resources, undermined our efforts to build peace and stability in Iraq, and delayed our departure from the country.

Mr. Speaker, I supported the use-of-force authorization in October 2002 in order to give the President the leverage to hold Saddam Hussein accountable for his threatening behavior and refusal to submit to weapons inspections.  And that is what makes it all the more frustrating that the President misused that authority by rushing to war and committing so many grave and costly mistakes in Iraq.

So no, Mr. Speaker, this is not a real debate.  A real debate would allow us to consider the important questions in Iraq: Can we afford to make an open-ended commitment to staying in Iraq?  Has our troop presence there reached the point where it is inhibiting a successful transition to full Iraqi sovereignty?  Can our strained military and ballooning national deficit handle it? 

How can we accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty and responsibility for their own country?  How best can we engage in more robust diplomacy with our allies and key regional players who can help bolster the new Iraqi government and contribute to its reconstruction?

How can we improve Congressional oversight so that we can identify and rectify the enormous mistakes the administration has made in Iraq?

These are the questions we should be debating, Mr. Speaker, because they directly affect our ability to achieve success in Iraq.  We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform and to the American people to ask these questions.  But instead, we have a resolution before us today that is basically irrelevant when it comes to the real issues in Iraq.  It says, essentially, that we support fighting terrorism and that we are committed to achieving success in Iraq.  I agree with that, but that doesn’t say anything about how we get there.  That is the important question. 

Mr. Speaker, today Congress is continuing to utterly abdicate its oversight responsibility.  Since the outbreak of war, this Congress has done little more than endorse the administration’s policy in Iraq, instead of asking the tough questions and scrutinizing that policy, as the Constitution requires us to do. 

Mr. Speaker, I hope, despite this Congress’ refusal to conduct oversight, that we can be honest today as we look ahead in Iraq.  We all want to see an Iraq that is stable, secure, and free.  Our troops are doing an outstanding job, and they deserve our full support and respect.  But the fact is that success or failure in Iraq increasingly depends on the decisions of Iraqi leaders, and they must understand that.  In order to achieve success in Iraq we must accelerate the transition to Iraqi sovereignty. 

I believe that significantly reducing our military footprint is critical for making that happen.  While we cannot simply abandon Iraq at this point, drawing down our forces levels in a responsible way in the coming months will force the Iraqis to take greater responsibility for their own security and reduce their dependence on U.S. forces.  It will also send an important message to the Iraqi people that Americans are not there to occupy the country, but rather seek to begin leaving as Iraqis take control of their own country.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as we move forward in Iraq, both the future and the past matter.  We must make the best of a difficult situation by working diligently to help Iraqis take full responsibility for running their country so that our overburdened troops can come home.  And we must do so in a manner that does not give the violent Islamic terrorists in the world any greater strength.  Yet we must also be willing to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes so that we can chart a new path forward.  That requires holding the Bush administration and this rubber-stamp Congress accountable for their failures.”

Congressman Adam Smith voted against legislation today to provide $94.5 billion in emergency supplemental funds for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gulf Coast rebuilding.

“I fully support our troops and I believe we must assist the hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, but Congress cannot keep rubber-stamping these spending bills while the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress utterly fail in their oversight of the spending,” said Smith. 

Smith has been vigilant on the issue of Iraq contracting accountability and has cosponsored legislation to establish a bipartisan congressional committee to investigate war contracting modeled after the successful WWII Truman Committee.

“I am also disappointed that Congressional leaders continue to fund our operations in Iraq through off-budget ‘emergency’ spending packages with little-to-no oversight.  This is extremely dishonest and fiscally irresponsible.  After more than three years and over $300 billion spent on the Iraq war, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be fully budgeting for and scrutinizing this funding.”

Smith was further dismayed with the fact that the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders are seeking to prematurely end the mission of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and prohibit him from overseeing future Iraq reconstruction money, including the funds in the bill Smith opposed today.  The legislation provides $1.6 billion in new funding for Iraq reconstruction, but does so through accounts over which the SIGIR has no oversight authority. 

“The Special Inspector General has been the only reasonably effective way to investigate and expose any waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq contracting.  I could not sit silent while this bill effectively cuts off the IG’s oversight of new funds,” said Smith. 

Oversight is also critically important for the spending related to Hurricane Katrina relief.  While there is clear need to provide assistance to the affected region, Smith has been troubled by cases of fraud, theft, and the mismanagement of many contracts.  The supplemental bill does not go far enough to ensure that such mismanagement and inefficiency has been adequately addressed. 

 “I stand with our troops who are serving so bravely overseas, fighting to protect our nation.  And I am committed to advocating on behalf of Katrina-related recovery.  We need to address these priorities in a responsible manner.  Unfortunately, Congress has failed to conduct rigorous oversight, leading to too much wasteful and inefficient spending.  Such wasteful spending will only make it more difficult to fund our nation’s future needs.  As a result, I believe the responsible vote today was ‘no’.” 

Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith was pleased to vote for H.R. 5522, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY 2007.  While not perfect, the bill increases funding to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria, and to assist developing countries through Millennium Challenge Account (MCA).  It also provides critical funds for humanitarian relief in Sudan and more focused assistance for trade capacity building.

“Fighting poverty and disease in the world is not only a moral imperative, it’s in our interests as a nation,” said Smith.  “This bill takes positive steps to improve America’s leadership in that fight, but we must do more."

Added Smith, “I’m pleased that the bill includes $3.43 billion to combat AIDS, TB, and malaria, an increase of $750 million over the current level.  The scourge of AIDS and other infectious diseases are destabilizing continents and condemning generations to death, and this is a needed step to provide more help.”

“I was pleased to see that funding for the MCA was increased over the current level, but I was disappointed that the House budget allocation for the Foreign Operations subcommittee was reduced so that providing more funding for the MCA and other anti-poverty programs was not possible,” added Smith.

The bill provides $2 billion for the MCA, $248 million more than the current level but $1 billion lower than the President’s request.  The MCA provides assistance to developing countries that meet minimum standards of good governance, economic and political freedom, and investing in their people.

“I was also disappointed that the House rejected an amendment to increase funding for targeted poverty-reduction efforts such as safe water, health, and basic education programs.”  The amendment would have increased funding for the Development Assistance Account $250 million.

The bill also provides $450 million for humanitarian relief in Sudan, where the suffering continues in the Darfur region despite a fragile peace agreement.  “This critical funding is just one component of what must be a greater U.S. commitment to stop the atrocities in Darfur,” said Smith.

Smith also applauded the bill’s creation of a new $522 million account to consolidate existing assistance for trade capacity building.  “This provision will better focus our efforts to help developing countries reap the benefits of international trade,” said Smith.