Press Releases

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) voted against H.R. 3010, the conference report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act for FY06.

“This conference report is the latest example that the Republican majority in Congress is out of touch with the values and needs with the majority of Americans,” said Smith. “As a matter of fact, the Republicans will have spent more on tax cuts this year than they will on all education and labor programs. This is unacceptable.”

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, an important tool in rehabilitating America’s troubled public schools, is cut by more than $700 million. Funding for Title I, which is the core of NCLB’s efforts to improve reading and math skills for disadvantaged children, received the smallest increase for Title I in 8 years, which means 3.1 million low-income children will be negatively affected by this cut. Also, Pell Grants, which help many lower-income students attend college, remain at $4,050 for the 4th straight year, despite the 35% increase in college costs since 2001.

“States and local school districts are also hurt by this bill,” said Smith. “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B state grants received the smallest increase in a decade – this is a step backward in the effort to fully fund IDEA.”

Smith also said, “As a supporter of innovation and technology to help educate Americans, I was disappointed to see that the Education Technology Program was cut by $221 million or 45%,” said Smith. “When the United States is struggling to maintain its technological edge in the face of ever greater global competition, these policy decisions not only hurt American families and businesses, but also our long-term economic strength.”

With record prices for electricity and gas, Americans are going to need help heating their homes this winter and yet the Republican majority failed to increase funding for LIHEAP home heating assistance, which helps keep the heat on for low-income seniors and children.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, on a positive agenda that moves America forward and that helps all Americans, through commonsense, fiscally sound spending legislation. I will work to develop policy that educates more people and that provides assistance to those that need it the most,” said Smith.

Today, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement on his vote against the Patriot Act Conference Report:

“Four years ago, I joined with my colleagues in voting for the Patriot Act. The United States had just suffered a catastrophic event at the hands of terrorists and we were in an emergency situation. Almost unanimously, Congress passed the Patriot Act to ensure that our law enforcement officials had the tools they needed to combat terrorism. Over the past four years, we have been able to more fully review the Patriot Act and determine which parts need to be re-worked to preserve and fully protect, not erode, our rights and liberties.

Let me be clear that I support reauthorizing the Patriot Act, but I cannot support the deeply flawed version of the conference report that was before the House today.  Had a few changes been made to this bill – some of which are outlined below – I believe that a broad, bipartisan group of representatives could have supported this important bill. However, conferees chose to ignore important recommendations from Republican and Democratic Members alike and instead crafted a bill that undermines key civil liberties. I sincerely regret that the conferees did not make a more full and rigorous effort in this regard.

The Patriot Act expanded the circumstances under which the federal government can obtain a warrant to search or otherwise gather information about people in this country. Specifically, the conference report continues to allow law enforcement officials to access information, such as library and bookstore records, from any business or individual holding them. This can be done as long as the officials assert, through a “statement of facts” that the records are “relevant” to an investigation. But there is no standard of relevancy included in the bill. Also, the conference report continues to allow federal authorities to use “national security letters” to request customer records from communications companies and financial institutions for an investigation, whether or not the investigations pertain to a foreign power or agent.

I believe that for many of the intrusive provisions in the original Patriot Act, including Sections 215 and 505, a federal agent should be required to show specific and demonstratable facts that the records or information being sought in foreign intelligence investigations are relevant to a suspected terrorist, spy or other foreign agent before he or she can obtain a court order for those records.  This bill failed to meet this standard.

Another area of concern for me is under Section 206 of the Patriot Act that involves roving wiretaps. I am a strong believer that wiretaps in terrorist investigations should be held to the same standard as in a criminal wiretap where under existing federal laws, the time for interception is limited to a specific period of time where it is reasonable to assume that the target of the probe has used the instrument under wiretap surveillance. This is an important step in limiting the interception of innocent persons’ communications.

The majority party in the House also had the audacity to attach important methamphetamine legislation to the conference report. There is a vast methamphetamine epidemic raging in many states, including Washington, and attaching this legislation to the unrelated Patriot Act conference report politicizes the issue of our national security. This is politics at its worst.  I support the methamphetamine legislation. I was a co-sponsor of this legislation and it was my hope that we could have passed this bi-partisan bill with a separate vote and a full debate. But I could not vote for the Patriot Act – and in doing so threaten the rights of many Americans – simply because the Republican leadership cynically added to it the methamphetamine bill.

We must provide our law enforcement officials with the necessary tools they need to combat terrorism, and I believe we can do so while also protecting our important civil rights.  Sadly, this goal was not met by the conference report of the Patriot Act.  There is no guarantee that the Patriot Act, in its present form, will prevent abuses of our freedoms. For this reason, among others, I chose to vote against the Conference Report and the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the “Enhancing America’s Guard and Reserve” (EAGR) Act, H.R. 4468. This bill is a comprehensive package of benefits aimed at increasing the quality-of-life of members of America’s National Guard and Reserve and their families. The bill would provide universal access to military health care (TRICARE) for all drilling reservists, enhanced education benefits through the Montgomery G.I. Bill, retirement age reductions, tax breaks for employers who hire reservists, and other beneficial provisions. These enhanced benefits will go a long way toward improving retention and recruitment, as well as the morale and readiness of our Guard and Reserve members.

“The members of our National Guard and Reserve and their families make sacrifices every day so that all Americans can enjoy the freedom and peace that we have,” said Smith. “With over 40 percent of U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq serving as National Guard and Reserve members, the role of reservists has changed, and they now play a central role in our military operations. They are doing an outstanding job at home and overseas, however, the stress and strain on our Guard and reservists and their families is evident. The least we can do to ensure that our Guard and Reserve members have the very best support and benefits available in return for their enormous sacrifice.”

Below is a summary of the bill’s main provisions:

TRICARE for Guard and Reserve

The proposal extends access to military health care (TRICARE) to all Guard and Reserve members in drilling status.  Currently, Guard and Reserves members can access TRICARE benefits for only for a limited time after they’ve been on a major deployment.

Montgomery G.I. Bill Enhancements

The bill would nearly double the current amount of educational assistance for Guard and Reservists under the Montgomery G.I. Bill for Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR) program.  For example, reservists eligible for MGIB-SR and attending school full-time would see their benefits jump from the current $295 per month to $517 per month.

The bill would also provided even greater increases in MGIB benefits to Guard and Reservists who are called to active duty for deployments of 90 days, 1 year, or 2 years.

Finally, the bill ties each of these enhanced benefits to an existing index so that benefits would keep up with the rising cost of education.

Retirement Age

The EAGR Act would reduce the retirement age one year for every year of service past twenty years. 

Tax Breaks for Companies with Guard-Reserve Employees

The EAGR Act would extend a tax credit on benefits that employers who make up any disparity their employees suffer as a result of activation.  The bill also reimburses state and local governments who also provide a similar benefit to their Guard and Reservist employees.

Federal Employees

The EAGR Act would entitle a Federal employee who is a member of the Guard or Reserve to receive the difference in pay between military compensation and civilian compensation during periods of active duty exceeding 30 days.

Space Available Flights

Also included in the legislation is a provision to expand availability of space available flights for members of the Guard and Reserve.

Authority to Compensate for Telecommuting Performed in Inactive Status

Current law does not allow for members of the Guard and Reserve to be credited for work they do from home. My bill would authorize compensation for a Guard or Reserve member performing duty authorized by the appropriate military authority whether under direct military control of performing assigned duties from home on a computer. The bill would only allow telecommuting credit to account for no more than 2 days (16 hours) of their 8-day requirement per quarter.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement today following his return from a recent trip to Iraq where he visited with troops, military leaders and Iraqi government officials:

“Our troops deserve the highest praise for their hard work and dedication to their mission in Iraq. Over and over again, I encountered our servicemen and women and witnessed their dedication to their mission and to the Iraqi people. Despite the difficulties they face, they are working nobly and earnestly to help make Iraq a better and safer place. I join with all Americans in saluting our troops in Iraq.

Progress is being made in Iraq. However, the Bush Administration’s failure of leadership has made the tasks of our servicemen and women more difficult than it had to be. Disbanding the Iraqi army, failing to adequately plan for winning the peace and our arrogant, unilateral approach to the reconstruction of Iraq were just a few of several large mistakes.

Elections for a new democratically-elected Iraqi government will occur on December 15th. After those elections, we must move quickly to turn over more responsibility to that government. While I think it’s problematic to immediately withdraw our troops, I recognize that our presence in Iraq is also a unifying force that brings together ex-Saddam loyalists, disgruntled Sunnis, and foreign terrorists.  Our troops have become the rallying point of the insurgency that they have been asked to contain.  Reducing our troop levels and making it clear we will not have permanent military bases in Iraq will undercut the insurgents’ support by showing Iraqis that we are not there as occupiers. By reducing our troops in an orderly way after this election, it will give the government more legitimacy by showing that they are truly responsible for stabilizing their country. 

The strain on our troops is evident and our military is stretched too thin. We need to accelerate and enhance the training of Iraqi troops in order to make Iraqis responsible for their own security.  As Iraqis stand up more competent security forces, we can drawdown our forces more quickly so that Iraqis have a clear signal that we are leaving, and so the Iraqi government becomes less dependent on U.S. protection.

Regardless of why we went to war or what mistakes have been made thus far in Iraq, we must focus now on getting it right, as failure could mean a greater threat down the road.  But we must also be realistic about our goals and move swiftly to achieve them so that we can bring our troops home as soon as possible.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) made the following statement concerning the resolution to immediately withdraw all troops from Iraq:

“Yesterday, Congressman John Murtha spoke out on our nation’s policy on Iraq.  When it comes to defense policy, John Murtha is one of the most respected Members of Congress.  He is a decorated Marine who served for 37 years and did three tours in Vietnam.  Few in Congress have done more than John Murtha to improve our nation’s security, provide protection and equipment for our troops and make our military the strongest in the world.  I have the greatest respect for his expertise and his commitment to our troops.

The resolution that was before the House today was not John Murtha’s proposal.  The Republican proposal we had to vote on was grossly irresponsible, as it called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Iraq. Any withdrawal must be done in a thoughtful and deliberate manner which is not reflected in the resolution before the House. We need to develop a real and effective strategy for handing over to the Iraqis responsibility for running their nation. This resolution was a blatant political ploy that does a disservice not only to the House but to our troops serving in Iraq. 

In one week, I am making my second trip to Iraq.  While there, I will meet with soldiers and military leaders on the ground.  It is important for me to gain this firsthand information in order to determine the best way forward.

Congress needs to have a serious debate on Iraq policy, including hearings and floor debates. Tonight’s resolution was a political stunt that did not contribute to the sorely needed dialogue on such an important issue.”