Press Releases

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is disappointed that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to address the health care crisis that the United States is facing and chose instead to help those least in need. He made the following statement:

“The U.S. House of Representatives had an historic opportunity this week to help the more than 45 million Americans without health insurance,” said Smith. “Instead, the Republican majority passed bills that protect Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and not doctors and patients. We also passed an Association Heal Plans (AHPs) bill that only helps a small fraction of uninsured Americans.

H.R. 5, the Medical Malpractice Reform Act is a bad bill because it broadly defines “medical malpractice action” to protect HMOs, insurance companies, nursing homes and drug and device manufacturers from a broad range of liabilities, including suits by physicians against those companies. The bill provides a cap on punitive damages that is far too low and would hurt those at the bottom end of the income scale.  It will also seriously restrict the rights of injured patients from being fully compensated for their injury by imposing an impossibly high standard of proof needed to bring a successful case against negligent defendants.  Instead of penalizing innocent victims of medical malpractice, Congress should be focusing on reducing the number of mistakes made.  Medical errors and rising malpractice insurance rates are important issues that must be dealt with but unfortunately this bill does not fix these problems.  

I was also disappointed about the passage of H.R. 525, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, which creates AHPs. If this legislation is enacted, these AHP’S sold by associations would be exempt from state insurance law and regulatory oversight. The right of states to apply a large body of insurance laws and regulations would be removed, undermining consumer protections, solvency and fair marketing practices, grievance and appeals procedures, premium taxation and prohibitions on discrimination. This bill would create a big government program and expand federal control by giving the government sole regulatory authority over these entities. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that only 600,000 of the more than 45 million uninsured will be provided new coverage by AHPs. This is not only unfair and does nothing to help solve the health care crisis that our country faces.

I voted for an alternative bill to AHPs that would have established a health insurance plan similar to the plan enjoyed by Federal employees. Unlike, AHPs, this alternative would not have allowed insurance companies to cherry pick younger healthier workers. Everyone would be on equal footing and older and sicker Americans would not be forced to pay higher insurance premiums or have no insurance at all. Most importantly, under this alternative bill, participating insurers would remain subject to state laws applicable to the states in which they cover residents.

America needs a real solution to our mounting health care crisis. The bills that passed the House of Representatives this week are not a step forward and do not address the needs of the more than 45 million uninsured. Alternatives that would have helped America were proposed but did not pass. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Americans get the healthcare coverage they need and deserve."

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

“Four years ago, I joined my colleagues in voting for the Patriot Act. We were a nation that had just suffered a series of catastrophic events and we were facing an emergency situation. We passed the Patriot Act in order to ensure that our law enforcement officials had the tools they needed to combat terrorism. Four years have passed and the United States is still fighting the War on Terrorism, yet we’ve now had time to review the Patriot Act to 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 the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. However, the version of this bill before the House today is unacceptable.

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.  It did this by both allowing the federal government to obtain such warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) court, instead of having to go to federal or state court, and by allowing for the warrant to be granted when the government shows probable cause that a terrorist act is being planned or even when a person is simply suspected of being involved in terrorism.  Previously, any law enforcement agency had to show probable cause that a specific crime had been committed or was about to be committed.

The change in the Patriot Act makes sense.  We cannot afford to wait until terrorists act or plan to act in some specific manner.  We must be able to gather information much earlier in the planning stages of a terrorist act.  Waiting for a specific target would be waiting too long.

But the changes did also present challenges in the critical effort to protect Americans from unlawful searches.  The FISA court, because it deals with terrorism, works in secret.  Their rulings are not made public.  State and federal courts have long established precedent for what constitutes probable cause that a crime has been or is about to be committed.  No such history of precedence exists in the FISA court.  In addition, evidence that someone is somehow involved in terrorism offers a much broader and less definable standard than one based on a specific crime.  What exactly must the government show to establish probable cause that the warrant they seek is aimed at investigating possible terrorist activity?

I strongly feel that Congress can clear up these questions by putting in law standards for the FISA court to follow.  Congresswoman Jane Harman had an amendment that would have offered some clarity on the question of what constitutes probable cause of terrorist activity.  Unfortunately, the Republican Majority did not allow her amendment to be offered.  If it had been allowed I would have supported it, and if it had passed I would have supported the final bill, but without that language the standard for the government to obtain warrants through the FISA court to investigate terrorism remains too vague and offers too great a potential for abuse.  For this reason I voted no on final passage.

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 House version 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 reauthorization of the Patriot Act. It is my intention to work with my colleagues to improve the bill through the conference committee process and help craft a fair, balanced conference report that will garner bipartisan support.”

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) made a statement for the Congressional Record in support of H.R. 2061, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. In particular, he highlighted his language in the bill that urges the U.S. to do more to address global poverty.

Due to Smith’s efforts, the House International Relations Committee, of which Smith is a member, agreed to include language declaring that the elimination of extreme global poverty should be a top priority of U.S. foreign policy. It also says the U.S. should work with all the players involved, including developing countries, donor countries and multilateral institutions to coordinate policy to address global poverty. Finally, the language urges the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to eliminate global poverty, which should include foreign assistance, foreign and local investment, technical assistance, private-public partnerships and debt relief.

Smith has been deeply focused on the issue of global poverty and in March, 2005 he participated in the Trade and Poverty Forum in Nagoya Japan.  The forum brought together leaders from the business, political and NGO communities to develop strategies for combating poverty.  Smith understands that our nation must make a greater commitment to poverty alleviation and view these efforts as an investment that can foster global stability and security, build alliances throughout the world and reduce the sense of hopelessness that drives so many extremist organizations like the al Qaeda network.  He is committed to helping marshal the political and social will to address global poverty. 

Below, is the text of his statement:

Mr. Speaker,

Today, I rise to discuss the need for the United States to be a true leader in the fight against global poverty. More than 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day and another 2.7 billion people struggle to survive on less than $2 a day. So what do these numbers really mean? They mean that well over half of the world’s population is struggling in poverty and one-sixth of the world’s population can’t meet even the most basic needs for survival. This is morally unacceptable.

I applaud the President’s leadership on the issue, including his commitments to increased debt relief and direct assistance to Africa that were discussed recently at the G-8 summit in Scotland. Programs like the Millennium Challenge Account, which have allowed us to increase development aid and target it more effectively, are an important part of the solution. But, the United States still lacks a comprehensive strategy to help eliminate extreme global poverty. We need to leverage development aid, debt relief, technical assistance and public private partnerships. We need to coordinate with world bodies, including the United Nations, in helping impoverished countries devise plans that will work for them.

I’m pleased that this bill includes language that will move us in the right direction. The language, that I requested be added to the bill as it was being drafted in committee, declares that the elimination of extreme global poverty should be a top foreign policy priority for the United States and that the U.S. should work with all the players involved in this fight, including developing and donor countries and multilateral institutions to coordinate polices to address global poverty. Most importantly, the language urges the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to eliminate extreme global poverty. It says this plan should include foreign assistance, foreign and local private investment, technical assistance, private-public partnerships and debt relief.

I’d like to thank Chairman Hyde and the entire International Relations Committee for including this language in the bill. The United States has the opportunity to take a firm leadership role in bringing relief and a better future for billions of people around the world. The time to act is now and we can get started with developing a comprehensive plan and I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion on increasing the United States commitment to global poverty.
 

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) sent a letter to Anthony Principi, the Chairman of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Smith’s letter urges full and careful consideration of the issues surrounding the Joint Base Lewis-McChord proposal and the projected reduction in jobs affiliated with McChord Air Force Base (AFB). Smith, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is seeking to draw attention to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week that highlights questions concerning the Joint Basing concept. The entire letter is pasted below.

 July 5th, 2005

Mr. Anthony Principi

Chairman

2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission
2521 S. Clark St., Ste. 600
Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Chairman Principi,

 Thank you again for your continued leadership on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission.  I commend you and your fellow commissioners on undertaking this difficult task that is so critical for the future of our nation’s military.

I write to you today, once again, to call your attention to concerns surrounding the Pentagon’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord proposal and the projected reduction in jobs affiliated with McChord AFB.  Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the Defense Department’s BRAC recommendations that reiterated the concerns that my fellow Washington State Congressional Delegation Members and I have expressed in a letter to you regarding the implementation of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord proposal.  These concerns are shared by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and others.

The GAO report, entitled “Military Bases: Analysis of DoD’s 2005 Selection Process and Recommendations for Base Closures and Realignments,” warns of the challenges ahead with the implementation of the Pentagon’s joint base concept.  Based upon visits to both McChord AFB and Ft. Lewis and discussions with base officials about the joint proposal, the GAO concluded that “concerns over obstacles such as seeking efficiencies at the expense of the mission, could jeopardize a smooth and successful implementation of the recommendation” (p. 29).  The report goes on to site the Air Force’s concerns that “most military personnel at McChord are mission critical and deployable, increasing the difficulty to identify possible Air Force military personnel reductions” (p. 161). 

Furthermore, in assessing the McChord-Ft. Lewis plan and other Department of Defense joint basing proposals, the GAO report reiterated its conclusion from a June 2005 GAO report that called into question the Pentagon’s ability to accurately forecast the true personnel needs associated with joint basing initiatives.  The report states that “DoD and the military services’ ability to forecast base operations support requirements and funding needs has been hindered by the lack of a common terminology for defining base support functions, as well as by the lack of a mature analytic process for developing base support requirements” (p. 161-2).

 I urge you to take special note of the GAO’s conclusions as you assess the Pentagon’s McChord-Ft. Lewis proposal, particularly as they relate to the DoD’s job loss projections at McChord AFB.  While I am not opposed to the Pentagon’s efforts to better leverage local assets and improve efficiency through joint basing, I believe the BRAC Commission and Congress must carefully scrutinize the DoD’s recommendations in order to ensure that military readiness is not compromised.  With that in mind, I look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming months to implement the current BRAC round.

 Sincerely,

//SIGNED//

ADAM SMITH

Member of Congress

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) voted for H.R. 3057, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY 2006. While not perfect, the bill increases funding to combat HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria and increases funds for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and humanitarian relief efforts in Sudan.

“Global poverty is a destabilizing force with moral, humanitarian, economic and security consequences,” said Smith. “I’m pleased that this bill provides $2.7 billion to combat HIV infection, TB and malaria, a 23% increase over the current spending level. These diseases are devastating generations of people throughout the world and we have the resources to help combat these deadly diseases. I’m pleased that we are increasing the funding levels, but a great deal more remains to be done.”

Overall, the United States has contributed well over half of all international funds for global HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

Smith also noted, “I was pleased to see that funding levels for the MCA were increased over current spending levels, but was disappointed that the House budget allocation for the Foreign Operations subcommittee was so low that providing more funding was not possible.”

The bill provides $1.75 billion for the MCA, which is $272 million more than the current level. The MCA grants assistance to countries that meet certain standards, including attacking corruption, respecting human rights, adhering to the rule of law, investing in health and education, encouraging economic freedom and maintaining sound budget policies.

“We have a long way to go in the United States in combating global poverty,” Smith continued. “With the upcoming G8 summit focusing on global poverty, particularly in Africa, I will soon be introducing a bill in the House of Representatives that calls on the Bush Administration to make a firm commitment to fighting global poverty and come up with a concrete plan to address this issue. We have a moral obligation to help those around the world who face dire poverty on a daily basis.  We can help and the time is now to fight global poverty before it drives millions of people into desperation and into the hands of extremist organizations like the al Qaeda network.”

Smith has been deeply focused on the issue of global poverty and in March, 2005 he participated in the Trade and Poverty Forum in Nagoya, Japan.  The forum brought together leaders from the business, political and NGO communities to develop strategies for combating poverty.  Smith understands that our nation must make a greater commitment to poverty alleviation and view these efforts as an investment that can foster global stability and security, build alliances throughout the world and reduce the sense of hopelessness for billions of people.  He is committed to helping marshal the political and social will to address global poverty.