Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Smith, Khanna, O’Rourke, and Pocan made the following statements about major provisions on Yemen that House Armed Services Committee Democrats negotiated into the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA.) The bill passed the House today by a vote of 359-54.

“There is a terrible humanitarian crisis occurring in Yemen, and it deserves our attention in Washington,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “That’s why I successfully fought to include the following provisions while negotiating the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

  • Addressing U.S. in-flight refueling of Saudi-coalition aircraft: Prohibits the in-flight refueling of Saudi Arabian or Saudi-led coalition non-U.S. aircraft conducting missions in Yemen, unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen. Also requires the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the administrator of USAID to detail a humanitarian support strategy for Yemen, including efforts to coordinate civilian and military efforts; the diplomatic strategy with respect to regional partners seeking to end the civil war; and the role that humanitarian support to civilian populations plays in U.S. strategy.
  • International human rights: Requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a review to determine whether U.S. Armed Forces or U.S. partners have violated laws or internationally recognized human rights while conducting operations in Yemen, including those related to the interrogation of Yemeni citizens in prisons within Yemen. 
  • U.S. strategy and involvement on Yemen: Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress on the U.S. strategy and activities in Yemen, including: the diplomatic and security objectives; indicators for the effectiveness of U.S. military efforts to achieve such objectives or goals; and the costs associated with the military involvement of the U.S. Armed Forces in Yemen. 
  • Ex gratia payments: Extends authority for the U.S. to make ex gratia payments in Yemen for civilian casualties. 

“These will be major steps promoting accountability regarding Yemen’s civil war. I am pleased that we are able to make concrete progress on this issue,” Congressman Smith added. “I strongly urge all sides of this conflict to implement a countrywide cease-fire, and work with the U.N. Special Envoy to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this violence. In Congress, we will keep fighting for transparency and accountability on Yemen. We must be willing to continue to act in the face of this growing crisis.”

“I’ve taken bold actions since coming to Congress and worked to remedy the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen being caused by the Saudi-led war in Yemen,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. “As we break for August recess, I want to make it clear to the Saudi-led coalition that Congress is watching. We find additional military hostilities in Hodeida unacceptable and such action will prompt new congressional action. We hope the Saudi-led coalition will work with Martin Griffiths to choose diplomacy over war.”

“We are participating in the war in Yemen — I’m grateful that these provisions will ensure that more Americans have a better understanding of our involvement and its consequences,” said Congressman Beto O-Rourke.

“The provisions in this bill reflect deep, bipartisan concern in Congress over the mass hunger, cholera, and poverty engulfing the country of Yemen. The Trump Administration has expanded U.S. military participation alongside the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen without Congressional authorization, aggravating the suffering of 8 million Yemenis on the brink of starvation. I look forward to Secretary Pompeo’s compliance with required reports to Congress on good-faith efforts being made by the Saudi coalition to end the war and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Should the Trump administration tolerate a renewed escalation of hostilities, such as a siege on the vital city of Hodeida, I stand ready to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to end U.S. involvement in the conflict,” said Congressman Mark Pocan.

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Washington, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), the Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Committee, today announced the inclusion of a package of provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will provide critical support for the U.S. Department of Energy’s ongoing cleanup mission at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.  

“It is the federal government’s moral and legal obligation to ensure that the communities surrounding Hanford are cared for, the employees working on the clean-up are respected and safe, and our environment is remediated and protected. Our country’s security owe much to the sacrifices made by the Hanford workers  and their communities in support of the nuclear defense programs that created the nuclear waste a currently stored at Hanford,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “The provisions contained in this year’s NDAA contribute to ensuring that the federal government fulfills its obligation to the Pacific Northwest for the safe remediation of the Hanford nuclear facility.”

Congressman Smith successfully fought to ensure that the following provisions were included in the NDAA:

  • Increased Budget allocations for Nuclear Clean-up: Authorizes an additional $50 million for Hanford site clean-up at the Central Plateau. 
  • Pressing for nuclear safety and whistleblower protection: Includes a provision stating that the Secretary of Energy should impose civil penalties on contractors for violations of Department of Energy (DOE) rules, regulations, and orders relating to nuclear safety and radiation protection. It also enhances accountability by requiring notification of whether the Department of Energy has imposed any of these penalties pursuant to its authorities. This provision was in response to a 2016 GAO report that found that the Department of Energy had very infrequently used its enforcement authority to hold contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation.
  • Improved Transparency: Requires regular briefings to Congress on vapor problems at the Hanford site.
  • Increased Accountability: Requires prompt congressional notification in the case of air release of radioactive or hazardous contamination at Hanford, and requires congressional briefings on cause, estimated timeline and costs for addressing such contamination.
  • Recommits to the Hanford Waste Tank Clean-Up Program: Includes Congressman Dan Newhouse’s amendment to extend the Hanford waste tank clean-up program until 2024.
of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called on senior Trump Administration officials to brief members of their committees on President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Helsinki. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the lawmakers underscored that the Administration has failed to inform Congress of the topics of the meeting or the agreements that Russian officials claim were negotiated.

“Democrats and Republicans alike were shocked to watch President Trump publicly side with Russia over its responsibility for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections and directly contradict the Intelligence Community’s assessment. But we also have profound concerns over what was said privately and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with each of you the national security matters that were discussed,” wrote the Ranking Members.

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Mattis and Director Coats:

We are writing to formally request briefings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) regarding President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. 

On July 16, 2018, President Trump held a private meeting with President Putin, where one other U.S. government employee attended—a State Department interpreter. Since the meeting, Congress has received no notification from the White House or Executive Branch about the topics of the meeting or any purported deals or agreements reached on behalf of the United States. It also appears that President Trump’s cabinet has not been briefed on the private meeting, and Congress must be made aware of some of the potential deals or agreements that Russia claims were struck. 

Democrats and Republicans alike were shocked to watch President Trump publicly side with Russia over its responsibility for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections and directly contradict the Intelligence Community’s assessment. But we also have profound concerns over what was said privately and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with each of you the national security matters that were discussed, including Russia; its illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea; ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine; ongoing sanctions policy towards Russia; Syria; the U.S. commitment to NATO and Article 5; counterterrorism cooperation; strategic stability and arms control; and China.  

We would appreciate your consideration of our request and hope to schedule a briefing with each of our committees by noon on July 26, 2018.

                                                           

Sincerely,

 

Eliot Engel

Ranking Member

Foreign Affairs Committee

 

Adam Smith

Ranking Member

Armed Services Committee

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the completion of negotiations on the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:

“Democrats fought hard and won multiple progressive outcomes in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We do not control Congress, and we cannot get everything we want, but I am pleased that by being persistent we succeeded on many important issues.

“Foremost, Democrats defeated multiple provisions that would have been extremely harmful to the environment. Although environmental riders have no place in a defense bill, Republicans have again attempted to undermine the Endangered Species Act, roll back regulations on mining nationwide, and allow the indefinite taking of certain public lands for defense purposes. I am pleased that Democrats succeeded in keeping all of these dangerous riders out of the bill. We also fought and significantly reduced a proposed doubling of an exception to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In addition, Democrats won inclusion of provisions to help local military communities address climate change related sea level rise, require DOD installations to establish energy and climate resiliency plans, and require plans for energy and conservation policy.

“Democrats made significant strides to advance human rights, the promotion of peace, protection of vulnerable populations abroad, and the rule of law in conflict. Thanks to Democrats, the FY 2019 NDAA prohibits in-flight refueling to Saudi Arabia or Saudi-led coalition non-United States aircraft conducting missions in Yemen, unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen. The legislation furthermore requires a review of whether the U.S. Armed Forces or its partners have violated laws or policies while conducting operations in Yemen. 

“The bill also includes major provisions on the reporting of civilian casualties in connection with U.S. military operations. The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and coordinate policy for civilian casualties connected with U.S. military operations. The Secretary is also accountable for improving means accessible to the public by which civilian casualties can be reported to the Department. Additionally, we clarify and improve upon requirements for annual reporting of civilian casualties and strengthen Congressional oversight of sensitive military operations.

“Transparency is further enhanced by requiring the President to make the total number of deployed members of the Armed Forces publicly available. It also requires the Secretary of State to report on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria. The Defense Department is also required to report on transitional justice in Syria and to review the policy framework for military activity like the ongoing operations in Niger.

“Supporting service members and their families, HASC Democrats secured the inclusion of a substantial array of provisions to promote safety and combat domestic violence and sexual harassment among military personnel. Specifically, the FY 2019 NDAA establishes domestic violence as a separate article under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Democrats were able to remove a provision that would have made it easier for defense contractors to transfer machine guns. The bill closes a gun loophole that that allowed Devin Kelley, who was convicted of domestic violence, to purchase the gun he used in a 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church. The NDAA also requires the creation of an independent National Commission on Military Aviation Safety that I proposed in order to investigate aviation accidents.

“This bill continues the absolutely critical work of pushing back against President Putin’s ongoing campaign to undermine U.S. alliances, partnerships, and democratic values around the world. It is essential that Congress do everything it can to try to hold together our commitments in the face of President Trump’s attacks on those institutions. Building on last year’s package of Russia legislation that I introduced in the NDAA, this bill includes the largest investment to date for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI). It restates of our commitment to NATO and our partners. It extends the prohibition on military cooperation with Russia. It declares that Russia violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It strengthens the prohibition on funding for activities that would recognize the sovereignty of Russia over Crimea. It requires a whole-of-government response to malign foreign influence operations and campaigns, it improve our cyber and counter-influence infrastructure, and a good deal more.

“I am pleased that this bill provides for our men and women in uniform and their families. There are many things to be concerned about in this bill, but the outcomes in these areas are positive.”

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03), joined with leaders in the international development community to applaud the House of Representatives passage of H.R. 5105, the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act, known as the BUILD Act of 2018:

“Passage of the BUILD Act is an important step to modernizing U.S. international development finance and showing that the United States is committed to leading the international community in supporting less developed countries. This new institution will focus on sustainable, broad-based development programs supporting critically needed projects in communities across the world. It strengthens our ability to support economic growth that ensures people have the opportunity to live healthy lives and achieve their fullest potential,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Make no mistake, this reform is only part of our commitment to providing help to those most in need around the world. We must take an all-in approach to our foreign assistance that includes robust direct assistance from the United States. I will continue to fight for these essential programs promoting health, peace, and stability that are vital to our national security.”

“The BUILD Act is the most significant reform of America’s development finance system in decades. By streamlining our foreign assistance efforts, the United States will be more efficient and effective in how we target our foreign investments around the globe.  By creating a modern, 21st century, development finance system that better utilizes private sector-led development; we will help countries build their economies so that they can transition from needing our assistance – to opening up their markets for our goods,” said Congressman Ted Yoho. “Taking countries from aid to trade is the end goal. We want to assist countries in becoming robust trading partners with the United States. There is truth to the saying, 'a rising tide lifts all boats.’ By doing so, we will help create stable, self-sufficient societies around the world and open new markets for U.S. goods and services. I’d like to thank Congressman Smith for his support in moving this bill closer to becoming law.”

“The new International Development Finance Corporation, as outlined in the BUILD Act, would be an accountable, transparent, impact-focused leader in the development community,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “The legislation prioritizes cooperation with USAID, our lead development agency, and directs the IDFC to pursue highly developmental projects, particularly in countries that are subject to extreme poverty, fragility, and violence.”

“OPIC’s work with its private sector partners in the poorest countries, conflict-affected areas and other foreign policy hotspots is one of our nation’s most powerful and tangible tools of foreign policy. Development finance catalyzes the private sector investment that is the principal driver of sustainable economic development, job creation and resilient societies. Through its investments in critical power generation, affordable housing, and private schools and hospitals, OPIC and its partners’ investments project the very best of American values, innovation and goodwill. Leveraging the core of OPIC’s strong institutional foundation, the BUILD Act will propel U.S. leadership across the globe by modernizing U.S. development finance capabilities and boosting our impact in tackling poverty and creating more prosperous societies,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, former Chairman, President and CEO of OPIC under the Obama Administration.

“The BUILD Act embraces the mission of sustainable, broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction, and development. Provisions in the improved legislation prioritize less-developed countries and small business, and include environmental and social safeguards. It’s encouraging to see the House of Representatives vote in favor of modernizing our finance tools and enabling transparent growth and development,” said Tessie San Martin, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Plan International USA.

“This is not your grandparents’ developing world—it is richer, freer, and has far more agency than it did 40 years ago. If we do not meet the hopes and aspirations of our friends and allies, they will take their business to the Chinese. At the same time, a number of our national security challenges require private sector solutions as part of our response,” said Dan Runde, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Rather than look at many developing countries as simply recipients of aid, we must look at them as emerging or even emerged partners who desire a deeper relationship built around trade, investment, and economic growth. We should not let this moment pass. When passed, the BUILD Act will be the most important piece of international development legislation in more than a decade.”

“The BUILD Act is a positive step in modernizing the way the U.S. supports development around the world. Currently, private investment is being underutilized due to an outdated U.S. development finance infrastructure,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center. “It’s time for Congress to help unleash more innovative financing tools, while maintaining existing high standards for transparency, evaluation, and performance measurement stipulated in this bill and in the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act that was enacted into law in 2016.”

"Passage of the BUILD Act will dramatically strengthen the capacity of our government to fight poverty in the world through private capital investment and to collaborate with our allies to offer countries a path to prosperity by embracing entrepreneurship, innovation, and private enterprise.  In the global marketplace of today, economic influence is an extraordinarily important soft power tool and the United States must redouble its efforts to compete with the Chinese and offer a more compelling narrative for growth.  The BUILD Act will provide the tools necessary to compete more effectively and offer a more appealing alternative built around entrepreneurial capitalism,” said Robert Mosbacher, former President and Chief Executive Officer of OPIC.

“America has always been a leader in promoting market-based solutions to poverty. The BUILD Act will help the US update our tools to catalyze private investment in the toughest markets in support of development, economic, and security goals,” said Todd Moss, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development. “For our partners, the BUILD Act will help to accelerate capital inflows, job creation, and ultimately economic growth.”