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U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted to overcome the President’s misguided veto of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization Act, legislation that would provide health care coverage to more than 10 million low-income children.  The vote to override the President required a two-thirds majority and failed by a vote of 273 to 156.

 “The President’s veto and the protection afforded it by House Republicans harmed Washington state in particular.  Had the bill become law, Washington state would have been able to keep and use its full federal allocation for SCHIP to cover our children,” Smith said.

SCHIP was created in 1997 to help families get medical care when they made too much money to get Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.  The bill vetoed by the President would have provided states resources needed for outreach to enroll additional families that are currently eligible for the program. 

The bill reflected a compromise between the House and the Senate and had broad bipartisan support.  It included language to allow Washington state to keep and use its full federal allocation for SCHIP.  When SCHIP was first implemented, Washington state already covered SCHIP-eligible children under our state’s Medicaid program and could not use the full federal allotment given to many other states.  This bill would have allowed Washington state to keep and utilize these needed funds to ensure children get health coverage.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) yesterday introduced a bill to expand and improve the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.  H.R. 3801, the TAA Improvement Act, extends TAA to service industry workers; improves access to training, health care, and wage insurance benefits; creates a program to address community needs; and reauthorizes TAA programs through fiscal year 2012.

“The economy has changed in a thousand different ways since the TAA program was first implemented, and the government has not responded sufficiently to help workers.  My bill will extend TAA to service-sector employees, improve accessibility of TAA’s various benefits, and help communities impacted by trade,” Smith said.

Congress created the TAA program in 1962 in response to the loss of jobs among hard-working Americans and to promote American competitiveness.  TAA benefits have several components: training assistance, income support while in training, and job search and relocation assistance.  The program assists workers dislocated due to government policies that eliminated tariffs and other barriers to trade.  However, under current law, the program extends coverage only to workers in manufacturing and agricultural sectors, even though service-sector jobs also are increasingly moving overseas. 

The TAA Improvement Act:

  • Extends TAA benefits to service sector employees including IT workers, engineers, customer services employees, and others.
  • Doubles the current training funding cap from $220 million to $440 million, and builds in a mechanism for increasing the cap in future years to ensure that benefits are accessible for all eligible workers.
  • Increases TAA’s healthcare premium subsidy from the current 65 percent to 85 percent.
  • Simplifies application process by authorizing Secretary of Labor to certify groups of workers as eligible for TAA on an industry-wide basis rather than on a plant-by-plant basis as in current law.
  • Establishes a “TAA for Communities” program to assist communities heavily impacted by trade-related displacement.

Smith introduced similar legislation in the 108th and 109th Congresses.  The bill is similar to Senator Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) S. 1848.

 

 

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted for H.R. 2740, a bill to bring all private military contractors under the accountability of U.S. law.  The bill closes a loophole that allows contractors working for government agencies aside from the Defense Department – like State-Department-employed Blackwater – to dodge prosecution in U.S. courts if they commit crimes in a war zone.  H.R. 2740 passed by a vote of 389 to 30.

“We are using huge numbers of private contractors in Iraq outside of the jurisdiction of our courts.  We need to bring all private groups in Iraq under the rule of law and establish accountability,” Smith said.

Congress passed the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) in 2000.  The bill originally gave U.S. courts jurisdiction over contractors hired by the Defense Department in overseas war zones.  The State Department and other agencies make use of such contractors, and the original MEJA language does not extend court jurisdiction over them.

More than 1,000 private security contractors now do business with the State Department in Iraq apparently outside of any U.S. legal accountability.  These contractors include 861 Blackwater employees.  Under the bill passed today, these and all other security contractors working for the U.S. can be held accountable to U.S. law when they commit crimes.

H.R. 2740 must now be passed by the Senate before the President can sign it into law.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith's (D-Wash.) Global Poverty Act of 2007 today passed the House of Representatives under a suspension of the House rules.  Smith spoke in favor of the legislation just before it passed by voice vote:

                                                         
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U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today announced he secured language in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill to fund the redevelopment of noise mitigation land near airports.  The provision provides an opportunity for partnerships like the City of Burien and the Port of Seattle to apply for up to $5 million in funds to develop buffer zones near the port’s third runway. 

“Noise buffer land near airports can provide important economic development opportunities for both nearby communities and airports.  The pilot projects we fund in this bill will support these ‘win-win’ partnerships and help them coordinate more effectively,” Smith said.

The provision Smith secured would expand the current eligible uses of noise mitigation funds or passenger facility charge funds to allow for redevelopment of land next to airports.  The provision directs the FAA to fund four pilot projects run by a partnership between airports and local communities at a maximum of $5 million per pilot program.  The federal share of project costs will be capped at 80 percent.

The bill including the pilot project provision, H.R. 2881, passed the House of Representatives today by a vote of 267 to 151.  The bill must now be passed by the Senate and a conference report agreed to by both Houses of Congress before the President can sign it into law.