Press Releases

Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith along with House Ways and Means Ranking Member Charles B. Rangel requested the Comptroller General of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to evaluate and report to Congress on several aspects of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Created in 1962, the TAA program helps workers who lost their jobs due to international competition learn new skills through worker retraining programs and respond to changing realities in the global environment.  Once a worker or group of workers are certified by the Department of Labor to be eligible for TAA, the benefits would include (1) funding to use towards training programs or an advanced degree, (2) healthcare coverage tax credit, and (3) wage insurance. 

As the GAO request states, “however, as indicated in several recent GAO reports and data reported by the Department of Labor (DOL), the TAA program has failed to live up to its promise, largely as a result of limitations on worker eligibility, inadequate funding and outreach, and unnecessary and burdensome procedural requirements.”

“Overall, we are asking the GAO to look at the effectiveness of the TAA program, including the steps taken by the Department of Labor and state workforce agencies to inform workers and employers about the TAA program,” said Smith. “We also want to look at what are the major reasons for denial of TAA petitions by the Department of Labor.”

The request also addresses the lack of training currently available and asks the GAO if those funding levels require an increase. The Congressmen also seek information regarding how many workers are adversely affected by shortages in training funds and what level of funding would be necessary to adequately meet the training needs of all workers enrolled in TAA.  Many states, including Washington, run out of training funding every year and as a result, many eligible workers are not able to access necessary skills and training programs.

Also, many workers eligible for certain programs under TAA, including the wage insurance program and the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), do not take advantage of these programs and the request asks the GAO to look into this discrepancy.

In October of last year, Smith introduced the TAA Improvement Act (HR 4156) with over 100 Members of Congress supporting the bill and over 10 labor unions and organizations endorsing the bill. The request asks the GAO to look at some of the key points in this legislation including:

  • What would be the expected increase in petitions and enrollment if TAA eligibility criteria were expanded to cover all service workers?
  • What would be the expected enrollment if the DOL could certify TAA petitions on an industry-wide basis, i.e. certify as eligible for TAA all workers within a domestic industry subject to a trade remedy under U.S.  antidumping, countervailing or safeguard laws, or all workers laid off from an industry otherwise certified as being adversely-impacted by trade?
  • What would be the effect on enrollment in the HCTC if the credit was increased to cover 80% of the cost of health insurance premiums?

“The TAA program is an important component of our commitment to continually improving the ability of our workers to upgrade their skills and compete in the global economy,” said Smith. “I hope that the GAO will look at the serious issues that affect TAA and I will continue to work with my colleagues to pass real TAA reform.”

 

Today, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) voted for H.R. 5441, the Homeland Security Appropriations for FY 2007. The bill appropriates $33.1 billion, an increase of five percent from FY 2006, including $19.6 billion for border security and immigration enforcement and $4.2 billion for port and cargo security, a 12% increase over this year.

“While not perfect, I was pleased that this legislation increases funding for vital aspects of homeland security: our first responders and our ports,” said Smith (D-WA). “The $4.2 billion allocated for our ports and cargo security is an increase of $448 million from FY 2006 levels. Our ports are a vital part of our economic infrastructure and it’s critical that we provide the necessary funds to ensure that they receive the equipment and manpower necessary to be safe and efficient. The Port of Tacoma, in my District, as well as the entire Puget Sound region will benefit from these increased funds. As the nation’s sixth largest port by container volume, the Port of Tacoma handled over 2.1 million containers last year and continues to be a major economic engine in the state. It’s critical that we protect this important national asset.”

The bill mandates the development of a strategy to double the amount of cargo currently inspected, screen 100% of cargo through the Automated Targeting System and establish minimum security standards for cargo containers. The bill further requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to double the amount of cargo entering the U.S. screened for radiation.

Earlier this month, Smith helped pass the SAFE Port Act, H.R. 4954, of which he was an original co-sponsor. That legislation will enhance our security, improve the efficiency of trade and provide necessary funding for the critical missions of our Coast Guard, Customs and Border Agents, and others involved in the maritime industry. 

H.R. 5441 also provides $3.2 billion for first responders, including grants to high threat areas, firefighters and emergency management.

“This bill also includes important funds for those on the frontlines each and every day in homeland security: our first responders,” said Smith. “Since September 11th, and including the funds in this bill, $37.4 billion has been provided to first responders. We must ensure that we are providing the necessary funds so that our first responders have the equipment and training to do their vitally important jobs.

As this bill goes to conference, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure increased funding for port security and that our first providers have the funds they need to continue their vigilance and the good work that they perform each and every day.”

The following is a statement from U.S. Rep. Adam Smith about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend:

“As Americans across the country gather with friends and family to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, we must all take the time to remember those who have served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces. We must also honor the ultimate sacrifice that thousands of American servicemembers have made over the history of this nation for the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. Our men and women in uniform are engaged in conflicts around the world and are away from their families. I have been fortunate to travel to Iraq and witness, firsthand, the dedication with which our troops have served.

On Monday, I encourage every citizen to take a moment to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation, to give thanks for the servicemembers currently overseas, to be thankful for the peace that we have within our country and to pray for a more peaceful tomorrow.”

Today, Senator Maria Cantwell along with U.S. Rep. Adam Smith  sent a letter to the Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao applauding the Department's decision to "allow, for the first time, workers who produce 'intangible products,' like software, to benefit from TAA [Trade Adjustment Assistance]," that "represents an important and long-overdue change in the Department's policy."

However, the letter notes that the decision to extend TAA eligibility to workers who produce software "was made only after several years of litigation and represents just a small step towards ensuring that the TAA program meets the needs of today's diverse workforce."

"This is fundamentally about fairness," said Cantwell. "In today's global market where so much of our economic growth is in the IT sector, we need to make sure that  IT workers have access to the same retraining opportunities when they are displaced as other workers currently do. Every American worker deserves access to additional training and education so they can update their skills and continue to contribute to the growth of our economy."

The letter also notes that legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Baucus and sponsored by Cantwell (S. 1309) and introduced in the House by Smith and Rangel (H.R. 4156) to extend TAA benefits to all service sector workers adversely impacted by foreign competition, "including information technology (IT) workers, engineers, customer services and call center employees."

"Extending TAA benefits to all service workers must be a priority," said Smith. "Hard-working Americans will be better able to compete in the global marketplace if we make a real investment in education and retraining opportunities."

The letter also urges support for efforts to broaden the eligibility criteria for TAA to include all service workers.

"It is time for the U.S. Government to recognize that the global economy is changing," said Marcus Courtney, President of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a local chapter of the Communications Workers of America. "Today service sector workers, like their manufacturing counterparts, need TAA assistance to retrain themselves to meet the changing demands of the labor market. Congress should use the new decision by the Department of Labor as the guide post that TAA program does need to include more workers and pass TAA reform legislation this year" 

Today, Congressman Adam Smith voted against the latest attempt by the Republican majority to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. The bill on the House floor today, H.R. 5429, repeals the prohibition against production or leasing of oil and gas resources in ANWR and is similar to recent efforts to open the Coastal Plain of ANWR for exploration and drilling.

Smith said, “Our country needs to develop a long term sustainable energy policy. It is in our national interest to become more energy self-sufficient.  However, drilling in ANWR will not provide us with enough oil to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil in a meaningful way.  Estimates show that drilling in ANWR would only account for six months of our nation’s entire oil supply, and that assumes we are able to extract every last drop of oil.  The percentage of our oil supply that comes from domestic sources would increase by just a very small amount.  Also, we could not even begin to use that oil for at least ten years.  The bottom line is that we are dependent on oil, and this bill does nothing to reduce that dependence. Instead of drilling in ANWR, we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by developing real alternatives.”

“I am committed to crafting an energy plan that focuses on the long term needs of our country,” said Smith.  “A balanced, forward-thinking plan takes into account our dependency on fossil fuels, but also harnesses the technologies of the future, to make our current energy use far more efficient, and to develop new, cleaner sources of energy.”

Smith also notes, “We have made great strides in the past 100 years in developing numerous technologies that have vastly improved our standard of living. Those accomplishments demonstrate our capability to take on any challenge by developing new innovations.  We should work towards making the United States a net exporter of energy rather than a net importer within our children’s lifetime.  With new energy sources such as solar panels, fuel cells, and geothermal under development, our country could one day serve as the largest energy provider to the world.  We would fulfill not only our own energy needs, but have other countries rely on us to fulfill theirs, a complete reversal from the present situation we find ourselves in.”

“The bill that was before the House today did not have the vision to lessen our dependence on oil,” said Smith. “I voted against this bill because we should make the commitment to developing alternative energy sources, not drilling in pristine nature reserves.”