Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) today issued the following statement in recognition of Labor Day, which is this Monday, September 4.

“Labor Day is a time to remember the long, hard-fought struggle for workers' rights to organize, get fair wages and receive training to compete in the global economy.

“That fight continues today.

“The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $5.15 per hour since 1997.  We in Washington State set a higher minimum wage: $7.63 per hour.  Democrats want to increase the federal minimum wage to help bring the rest of the nation up to Washington State's level.  This important step will help address the growing gap between rich and poor in our nation.

“Unfortunately, when the House of Representatives last considered a minimum wage increase, the Majority would only consider a bill for wage-earners after attaching a massive tax cut package for the heirs of the wealthiest fraction of one percent of Americans, a move that would deepen our already massive national debt.  In addition, the bill would have forced Washington State tip-earners to take a pay cut.  Americans are not fools; we know an exercise in political cynicism when we see it.

“But raising the minimum wage alone is not enough.  Workers also need continuing education and training to compete in the global economy.  Congress should provide adequate funds for trade adjustment assistance (TAA), and we should expand TAA to service-sector workers.  These much-needed funds for continued job-related education will help our workers meet the changing demands of global trade.

“We have made some progress to improve the TAA program.  Regrettably, Administration policies leave behind many workers who qualify for TAA benefits.  This failure to support TAA will only get worse as the Majority continues to push fiscally irresponsible spending and tax cuts that severely hamper our ability to invest in our workers.

“It is time for a new direction.  While House Leadership and the President fail to stand behind our working families, we must come together to ensure that all Americans can share the American Dream.  Labor Day reminds us we must keep fighting to expand opportunity and work to restore hope and broad-based prosperity for our nation.”
 

U.S. Reps. Adam Smith (WA-09) and Mike Honda (CA-15) today submitted a letter to Thomas F. Gimble, Acting Inspector General for the Department of Defense, requesting a quick completion of the investigation into the Army’s treatment of Captain James Yee.  Yee was arrested in 2003 on espionage charges and held in solitary confinement for 76 days, only to be released and honorably discharged from service. 

Smith and Honda, along with Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04) and Vic Snyder (AR-02), requested in June 2004 that the Department of Defense investigate the Army’s treatment of Yee.  The department began an investigation in December 2004.  The Defense Department has still not completed its inquiry despite repeated requests by Members of Congress for an expeditious resolution.

“Our servicemembers deserve to be treated fairly by the Department of Defense.  Captain Yee’s arrest, incarceration, and release raise serious questions as to whether the department follows its own rules when troops are accused of a crime,” Smith said.  “The Department of Defense needs to conclude its inquiry into this matter as quickly as possible.  This investigation has already taken too long.”

Below is a copy of the letter that Smith and Honda sent to Acting Inspector General Gimble.

August 31, 2006

Thomas F. Gimble
Acting Inspector General
Department of Defense
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-4704

Dear Mr. Gimble:

We write to urge you to complete, as expeditiously as possible, your office’s evaluation of the Army’s handling of the criminal investigation of Army Chaplain, Captain James Yee.

As you know, in September 2003 Captain Yee was arrested on suspicion of espionage and other treasonous conduct, later charged with separate crimes, held in solitary confinement for 76 days, and ultimately released, with all criminal charges dropped.  Captain Yee was later honorably discharged from the Army in January 2005.

Due to the unusual facts surrounding Captain Yee’s case, in June 2004 we requested that your office investigate the Army’s handling of the case to determine whether Captain Yee was treated appropriately and in accordance with applicable military regulations, policies and procedures.  In December 2004, your office initiated such an evaluation.

We write to inquire as to the status of the evaluation and to urge your office to complete it in a timely manner. A recent written update from your office indicated that the evaluation is still ongoing, and gave no target completion date.  In response to earlier telephone inquiries from our offices, your staff had indicated that the evaluation would be completed during the spring of 2006.  Most recently, your staff indicated that there has been a delay in the evaluation and that the new tentative target completion date is mid-October 2006.

We hope that you will be able to complete this evaluation expeditiously and meet this October 2006 target completion date.  The completion of a fair and thorough investigation is critical not only to bring closure to Captain Yee’s case, but to ensure the integrity of our military justice system.

Thank you for your continued work on this matter.  We look forward to the results of your evaluation.

Sincerely,
Adam Smith                            
Member of Congress

Mike Honda
Member of Congress


Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) today issued the following statement on the upcoming one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastating the Gulf Coast:

“One year after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, New Orleans and the surrounding region remain in shambles, and more must be done to help storm survivors rebuild their shattered lives.

“From the beginning, the federal response to the storm has been inadequate to meet the needs of affected Americans.  As the flood waters receded, Congress and the President pledged to help Gulf Coast residents rebuild their communities.  But as Congress turned to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of rebuilding the coast, compassionate rhetoric gave way to partisan opportunism and cronyism. 

“Relief funds were understandably rushed to the floor of Congress.  But when the funds were doled out, the Administration handed out lucrative no-bid reconstruction contracts that may have inflated the cost to taxpayers.  Then, to ‘offset the cost of reconstruction,’ Congress cut $50 billion from other key programs including Medicaid and food stamps. 

“Weeks later, the House of Representatives cut taxes for the heirs of the wealthiest fraction of one percent of Americans.

“It is contradictory and irresponsible to cut programs that are lifelines for Katrina survivors, citing a budget crisis, and then provide massive tax breaks to those who need it least with no regard for the cost.

“On the ground in New Orleans, the return to normalcy has slowed to a crawl.  The city’s water system still leaks massive amounts of water, utilities have not been restored in many neighborhoods, and sinkholes caused by broken pipes are destroying many of the remaining roads. 

“But one year after Katrina, just over half of the money allocated for reconstruction has been spent.  Eighty percent of small business owners affected by Katrina with approved Small Business Administration loans still wait for the money.   Roughly 7,500 families still wait for trailers promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and many who received them now find any number of keys can open their locked doors.

“Incredibly, when Congress appropriated billions of dollars for disaster relief, Congress and the Administration failed to establish procedures to track the money.  FEMA reports to Congress on their relief spending, but several other federal agencies have slices of relief funds to distribute, and they do not report their expenditures.  In many cases, these agencies do not even track whether the money has actually been spent. 

“If Congress were serious about fiscal responsibility, they would appoint a special inspector general to oversee Katrina spending.  I cosponsored a bill, House Resolution 3737, to do just that.  Months later, House Leadership has yet to bring this common-sense measure up for a vote.

“In addition to failing to oversee tax dollars, Congress and the Administration have failed to live up to many of the President’s promises to survivors.  Both the President’s proposed Worker Recovery Accounts and the Urban Homesteading Act, billed as needed help to get evacuees working and in their homes, have stalled in Congress and have not moved since January.

“All this led us to where we are today in New Orleans:  fraud and continued delays getting relief money where it is needed, infrastructure and housing still in disarray, and a growing health and mental health crisis burgeoning among the survivors.  Cost estimates for reconstruction continue to balloon, painting a dark picture of our nation’s fiscal future.

“The track record for this Administration and Congress before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina shows they do not understand effective government.  Fiscal responsibility and effective planning are nowhere to be found.  The problem is systemic:  we see it in our Katrina response, in our Iraq troubles, and in our lack of fiscal discipline. 

“Americans want more than just tax cuts from their government.  Liberals, moderates, and conservatives can all agree that we want our government to spend our tax dollars wisely and to provide effective disaster response.  Cutting taxes and increasing spending during times of crisis is neither responsible nor conservative; it’s reckless and dangerous.

“The American people know what good governance looks like.  Unfortunately, as a result of the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, they surely know what corruption and incompetence look like:  decimated neighborhoods untouched by rebuilding efforts while billions of dollars in reconstruction money float around federal accounts without accountability or oversight.  Katrina’s aftermath is a symbol for the wrong direction in which our country is headed. 

“We deserve effective, efficient government that spends money wisely in line with our values and priorities.  But a year later, Congress and the Bush Administration have not corrected mistakes made before, during and after Katrina.   It is time for a new direction.  Americans deserve more than just a ‘heck of a job’ and it is time for Congress to give it to them.”

 

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.