Press Releases

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) was pleased to vote for the fiscal year 2006 Defense Authorization Act Conference Report. The bill authorizes a total of $441.5 billion for programs in the bill which include all the activities of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy, among others. The bill also includes an additional $50 billion authorization for a “bridge fund” to fund the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for six months, until a further formal supplemental request for these costs can be considered next year.

The language against prisoner abuse by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was included in the legislation. The language prohibits all U.S. personnel, including agents of the Central Intelligence Agency and other civilians, from engaging in torture, or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of foreign detainees by the government.

“As a conferee that helped shape the conference report, I was pleased with the McCain language in the report that sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that the United States is unequivocally stating that torture and mistreatment do not work and that they are not representative of American ideals or values. This is a critically important provision in the legislation.”

The Conference Report also adopts a Sense of the Congress that says 2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq. It also creates quarterly reporting requirements until all combat brigades have been redeployed from Iraq.

Provisions for our servicemen and women were also included in the report. Some of these provisions include a 3.1% pay raise for all uniformed service members and for the first time ever, all reservists who agree to continue service in the Selected Reserves will have an opportunity, depending on their status, to buy into a government subsidized TRICARE Standard health care program for themselves and their families. Finally, the conference report increases the bonuses for enlistment and reenlistment and raises the eligible enlistment age to 42.

“This bill is a positive step forward in providing for the needs of our brave servicemen and women serving at home and around the world,” said Smith. “They are the ones who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and ensuring that we take of them, as well as their families, is the least we can do.”

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) was pleased that H.R. 3402, which reauthorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) programs for fiscal years 2006-2009, passed the House of Representatives. The bill would authorize approximately $24.4 billion for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and $3.4 billion for the U.S. Marshals Service, which is charged with protecting federal courthouses and our domestic airliners, among other duties. Another $3.9 billion is authorized for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

I am proud to announce that the DOJ bill includes an important provision that creates the Crystal Judson Domestic Violence Protocol Program. This program would provide funding to law enforcement agencies, nonprofit nongovernmental victim services providers and State, tribal, and local governments for the development and implementation of training for local victim domestic violence service providers. This program would also fund victim service personnel, to be known as “Crystal Judson Victim Advocates,” which provide support services and advocacy for victims of domestic violence committed by law enforcement personnel.

“I am extremely pleased that this bill creates and authorizes the Crystal Judson Domestic Violence Protocol Program,” said Smith. “Domestic violence knows no boundaries and it’s important that victims receive the help and support they need. We can all learn from the tragic and unnecessary death of Crystal Judson that anyone who commits acts of domestic violence must be held accountable and that, as a nation, we must do better to prevent violence and protect our citizens.”

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) voted against H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism & Illegal Immigration Control Act. The bill claims to increase security at the international border and at ports of entry into the United States. It changes immigration law by making illegal presence in the country a criminal offense, increasing penalties for immigration-related offenses and allowing new grounds for the deportation of immigrants who commit certain crimes.

“I believe in a sound and reasonable immigration policy that strengthens our homeland security,” said Smith. “We need real immigration reform that decreases the number of illegal immigrants entering this country, punishes businesses that hire illegal immigrants and will provide greater security for our borders.  This bill fails to meet that standard. 

Also, the immigration reform bill before the House today is fiscally irresponsible and puts a further strain on our overburdened first responders. The bill would dramatically increase the burden on our legal system by automatically detaining all illegal immigrants and holding them indefinitely. The cost of building new facilities and the needed legal infrastructure surrounding the number of detainees is astronomical.”

Smith goes on to note, “Of even further concern to me is that an amendment was attached to the bill that expands the existing authority for state and local law enforcement personnel to apprehend, detain, remove and transport illegal immigrants in the routine course of their duties. I’m concerned that this added burden will take away from their needed duties to fight crime and keep our streets safe. They have critically important duties to attend to like protecting our communities and fighting meth and should not also be forced to assume the federal government’s responsibility for catching illegal immigrants.”
 

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Lewis (D-GA), along with 18 co-sponsors, introduced the High Performance Buildings (HPB) Act of 2005. The legislation is aimed at helping millions of families living in affordable housing units. The bill encourages communities to include sustainable development in their strategic housing plans and provides grants to non-profit organizations that increase sustainable development capacity in low-income communities. It also establishes an institute at the National Science Foundation to research indoor environmental quality and its effect on health and productivity, as well as to encourage the development and deployment of innovative energy-saving techniques.

"I have long been a proponent of incorporating new technologies and innovative ideas to improve the daily lives of Americans,” said Smith. “This bill provides the incentives to study the impact of sustainable development models and how these techniques can improve the quality of life for millions of American families. This bill also has the added benefit of creating more energy efficient construction which will reduce our nation’s energy dependence by encouraging innovation in building technologies."

"One of the ways to make a community more livable is to incorporate principles of sustainability into real life practice,” said Blumenauer. “Buildings are the second largest consumer of energy in the country.  The sooner we implement changes to make buildings more energy inefficient, the sooner we will see the dividends of our investment."

Residential and commercial buildings account for nearly two-thirds of our nation’s electricity consumption and more than one-third of our total energy use. Sustainable architecture addresses this challenge through creating buildings that use significantly more energy-efficient materials and designs.

"As the largest consumer of energy in the world, “ said Rep. Lewis, “the United States must find viable ways to conserve the resources of this little piece of real estate we call Earth.  We are not here to stay.  We are simply stewards of the land, the water, and the air and all their precious bounty.  As a nation and as a people, we have to find ways to live in harmony with nature, to use her resources wisely, and in ways that help preserve and conserve natural resources for generations yet unborn.  This bill is one important step toward demonstrating the practical benefits of energy conservation to American citizens.   Residents of sustainable housing will save money on their energy bills, and at the same time they will help extend the longevity of valuable natural commodities for the benefit of all Americans and generations yet to come."

Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) voted for H.R. 2830, the Pension Protection Act of 2005. HR 2830 is a comprehensive pension reform bill that would apply to both single- and multi-employer pension plans.  The bill would increase the funding requirements for defined pension benefit plans, shorten the period of time over which funding shortfalls must be eliminated, require sponsors to disclose more information about pension funding, restrict benefit payments and benefit accruals in underfunded plans, and increase the premiums that plan sponsors pay to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).

“I supported this legislation because we need to ensure that American workers pensions are protected,” said Smith. “Americans have worked too hard, for too long, to lose their pensions overnight. Voting for this legislation takes a step in the right direction.”

In general, plans would be required to fund 100% of their “funding target” which under current law is referred to as the plan’s “current liability.”  The plan would have to repay any funding shortfalls over seven years.  Under current law, a plan’s unfunded liability can be repaid over periods of up to 30 years.  Additionally, this bill would raise the base annual PBGC premium from $19 to $30 per participant per year.  For those plans that are 60% or less funded, benefits would be frozen and no new benefits could be earned until the company reached a funding level of at least 80%.  It is Smith’s hope that the bill will help ensure greater transparency and accountability in the PCBG, inclusion of shutdown benefits for older wokers, and the overall tightening of rules so that companies will meet their financial obligations to their employees and retirees.

“Although I voted for today’s legislation, it is my hope that in the Conference Committee process, many of the concerns that I have will be addressed,” Smith continued. 

Smith expressed concern that these reforms could encourage employers to terminate their pension plans and in turn, the PBGC will pick up the tab for these pensions.  He noted the cases of the airline and steel industries, where pension plans that are taken over by the PBGC were bad for taxpayers as well as workers.  He further stated that because the PBGC will only guarantee a capped amount per person, employees may end up receiving less money than what they were originally promised. Smith also regrets that the bill lacks language to ensure fairness between pensions for workers and executives.

“I believe that the objective of pension reform should be to strengthen retirement security for workers and retirees, while also addressing the economic pressures facing businesses today,” said Smith. “It is also my hope that the airline industry specific language in the Senate version of this bill will be included in the final Conference Report. I will continue to work with my colleagues to create policy that helps retirees keep the pensions that they have earned and allows businesses to flourish in the dynamic U.S. economy.”