Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced his dissatisfaction with the passage of the seven-bill, $ 820 billion Fiscal Year 2004 omnibus spending package.  The thirteen annual appropriations bills are usually reviewed and passed individually, but for a second year in a row there has been one Omnibus spending package that funds most of the governments operations.  When passing an Omnibus instead of the individual bills, the package tends to include many harmful riders and not focus on fiscal discipline.

“The House of Representatives passed all 13 spending bills individually, but now we are throwing in the towel and taking the easy road by passing one bad bill instead of working with the Senate on individual conference reports,” said Smith. “This is not the way Congress should conduct business on important pieces of legislation.”

Among the many policy riders that Smith objected to was the inclusion of changes to the Labor Department’s overtime regulations, despite the fact that it was agreed to by solid majorities in both the House and the Senate.  Also, a provision supported by the House, Senate and conferees was stripped out behind closed doors that would bar the FCC from allowing media conglomerates to increase the number of stations they own nationally, raising the percentage of American households they reach from 35% to 45%. 

“While I am pleased that the Omnibus bill increased funding for veterans medical programs at a higher level than originally passed by the House of Representatives, it still provides $700 million less than the amount included in the House passed 2004 Budget Resolution and $900 million less than the amount proposed by veterans’ organizations,” Smith said. “The Omnibus also does serious damage to other veteran programs. The most dramatic is the cut in funds needed to speed up the processing of applications for veteran benefits. By shortchanging those who have fought for America, this bill sends a horrible message to those currently deployed throughout the world to safeguard our nation.

Also, the Omnibus bill reduces state and local law enforcement funding levels $500 million below those of FY2003. 

“At a time when our state government is struggling financially we cannot pull federal funds that help secure our borders and our ports,” said Smith.

Finally, one of the most blatant shortcomings in this Omnibus bill is that while funding for “No Child Left Behind” programs is nominally above last year’s level, it is only sufficient to cover inflation and provides local schools with no additional resources to meet federal mandates. The Omnibus provides a total of $24.5 billion for these programs - $7.8 billion below the amount promised for fiscal year 2004 by the “No Child Left Behind” authorization.

“It is a shame that Republicans want to push forward with fiscally irresponsible legislation that not only hurts middle-class Americans, but also strikes at the heart of those most vulnerable, our seniors and children.  This is not the type of leadership Americans expect from their Representatives,” said Smith.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced his decision to vote against the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003.  Prescription drug coverage in this bill is discontinuous and leaves many seniors paying a monthly premium while not receiving any benefits.  After the initial coverage limit of $2,200, beneficiaries are forced to pay 100 percent of the cost until total drug spending reaches approximately $5,100, after which the plan will pick up the majority of costs.  This confusing patchwork quilt of coverage results in an insufficient program for beneficiaries.

“The access and affordability of prescription drugs is critical to our health care system,” Smith said. “It is important that consumers are able to obtain affordable prescription drug coverage immediately, that the consumers who need help the most get it, and that the new prescription drug plan fits within the constraints of the federal budget.  The current bill before Congress does not conform to these principles.”

Beginning in 2010, this bill also includes a “premium support demonstration program” that would move towards privatizing Medicare, coercing seniors into HMO’s, and raising premiums for traditional Medicare beneficiaries.  Additionally, the legislation creates a $12 billion slush fund to subsidize and induce HMO’s into participating in the new program.  This puts Medicare at an immediate disadvantage and results in adverse selection where those seniors who stay with traditional Medicare pay more for their health coverage.  Medicare was created because the private health care system could not effectively provide affordable health insurance coverage for seniors.

“At the beginning of the 108th Congress, I introduced the “Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003”, with several of my colleagues. I am proud to have offered an affordable prescription drug benefit that provides coverage to the people who need the most help, is fiscally responsible, and permits coverage to go uninterrupted,” Smith said. “I am disappointed that the House did not consider this bill and instead chose to go forward with a plan that will undermine the structure of Medicare, threaten those seniors who have good drug coverage now through retiree health plans, is not continuous, forces seniors to pay a monthly premium while not receiving any benefit and is not fiscally responsible.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is pleased to announce today that the Department of Homeland Security, through the Urban Area Security Initiative, has given the City of Seattle and Sound Transit more than $17 million to help enhance their overall security and preparedness level to prevent, respond and recover from acts of terrorism. 

 “Washington state, like many other states, has been feeling the financial burden of needing to increase security for our ports, infrastructure, water sources, power plants and airports,” Smith said. “I’m glad that the Administration is recognizing this critical need and are taking the necessary steps in funding our homeland security.”

As one of the largest grant recipients, Seattle was granted over $16 million, based upon a Department of Homeland Security formula that takes into consideration a city’s critical infrastructure, population density and credible threat information.  In addition to these funds, another $800,000 was awarded to Sound Transit to enhance the security of its passengers and assets.  Sound Transit was chosen based upon the number of annual riders and overall track mileage.  Allowable uses of the funds include installation of physical barricades, area monitoring systems, integrated communication systems and prevention planning, training and exercises.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is disappointed that the Republican majority failed to pass fully-funded concurrent receipt and eliminate the Disabled Veteran’s tax.  A Democratic motion to recommit, proposed during consideration of the fiscal year 2004 Department of Defense authorization bill, would have eliminated the law which reduces a veteran’s retirement benefit on a dollar-for-dollar basis by the amount the veteran receives in disability compensation.  The measure would have fully funded both benefits to veterans. It failed by a vote of 217-188.

“In effect, this is a Disabled Veterans Tax, which taxes our veteran’s income at 100%,” said Smith. “On the eve of Veteran’s Day, it is disappointing that a majority of the House can’t see fit to stand up for our veterans. In my District alone, veterans are losing $33.5 million a year in benefits.  It is unfair to impose this tax on the men and women who have served our country so proudly and who have sacrificed for the freedoms that we enjoy every day.”

Acknowledging that this was a partial victory for veterans, Smith voted for final passage of the authorization bill which included partial relief to approximately one-third of eligible individuals (20-year retirees with a Purple Heart or combat-related disability, including Guard and Reserve). The agreement phases in over 11 years full concurrent receipt for the retirees with at least 50% disability, leaving two-thirds subject to the disabled veterans’ tax.

Smith has cosponsored the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003, passage of which would end the Disabled Veterans Tax for any veteran with over 20 years of military service.  Smith also signed the discharge petition associated with this bill that would force the bill to the floor for a vote and is actively engaging other Members of the House of Representatives to sign the petition and support the Retired Pay Restoration Act.

The current offset dates back to 1891, and it affects approximately 560,000 disabled military retirees.  Military retirees are the only federal employees affected by the offset.  For 18 years, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to correct this long-standing inequity.  The Retired Pay Restoration Act has received strong bipartisan support in Congress.

“I believe that all our veterans should be justly compensated for their service,” said Smith.  “I remain committed to seeing fully-funded concurrent receipt enacted and will do all I can to further its progress.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is pleased to congratulate the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Green River Task Force and King County Sheriff Dave Reichert on solving the nation’s largest serial killer case. Over the last 20 years, detectives have worked through thousands of tips, followed up on missing women cases, collected thousands of pieces of evidence and eliminated potential suspects.

“I hope that the conclusion of this case will bring a sense of closure and comfort to the families of the victims,” Smith said. “I am proud of the efforts by the men and women involved in solving this case. Over the last few years, I am pleased that my staff and I were able to secure federal funds to help bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

Since fiscal year 2002, Smith was able to secure $750,000 for the King County Sheriff’s Office for DNA testing  and electronic records, which aided detectives in eliminating suspects and gathering evidence.  Smith was also instrumental in securing funding for task force members based upon the extraordinary scope and magnitude of the investigation.

“These grisly murders have haunted my state and district for over 20 years.  I am thankful that the case has been solved.”