Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) issued the following statement in response to President George Bush’s State of the Union address this evening:

“A couple of things struck me tonight.  First of all, I was surprised and pleased that the president declared rhetorical support for energy independence.  The energy plan he introduced last year would have made America more, not less, dependent on fossil fuels, so I look forward to working with him to meet the challenge of energy independence he laid out tonight.

“But what I found incredibly important was what the president didn’t talk about – the exploding federal debt.  Last year in his State of the Union speech, the president promised that the budget would run a deficit that would be small and short-term, but now we’re hearing from his own administration that the deficit this year will be $300 billion with deficits as far as the eye can see.  That’s not a small deficit, nor is it short-term.

“The 2001 tax cut, coupled with defense increases as a result of both September 11 and Iraq preparations, has quickly led us back into deficit spending and raised the national debt to an unprecedented level.  What's particularly disturbing is that Bush’s tax cuts will explode the federal debt at precisely the same time as our Medicare and Social Security bills become due. 

“Tonight the president promised that we won’t pass along our problems to other Congresses and other generations, but his agenda will clearly pass along the bill.  This speech tonight promises everything to everybody – he says we can increase spending on a variety of domestic programs, create brand-new programs and dramatically cut taxes yet again.  Unfortunately, his math doesn't add up, and I fear this agenda is a recipe for disaster – a return to the enormous deficits of the 1980s, adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years, and still no improvement to an economy that has faltered for two years.

“The president’s rhetoric is right.  Our country desperately needs a plan to get our economy moving again.  Our economy needs a jump-start and we need to get Americans back to work.  We must do something about the exploding cost of health care, and the many Americans who go without health insurance.  We need to secure America from terrorist attacks, and we need to fund our substantial efforts overseas.  But all the rhetoric in the world can’t accomplish that.  We need to take a good hard look at our options and make some tough choices and I haven’t yet seen the president’s commitment to meet that challenge.

“I applaud the president for taking the time to talk honestly about the serious threat of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.  I agree that we cannot permit Saddam Hussein to possess weapons of mass destruction, and that we must ensure he lives up to the U.N. resolution that required him to disarm and subject himself to vigorous and thorough inspections.

“However, I remain unconvinced that the inspections currently underway will never work and that war is needed imminently.  I do not wish to rush to war, and we should do everything we can to avoid it, while at the same time making it clear that the United States will accept nothing less than full disarmament and cooperation with U.N. inspections.  I believe we must give the inspectors more time to do their job and do the hard work necessary to build an international coalition should military action be necessary.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is concerned about the lack of attention to government reform efforts.  The Senate last week squashed a request of $45 million for the e-government fund for fiscal year 2003, and instead allocated just $5 million - the same amount as in 2002.  Lawmakers had authorized $45 million for the fund through the E-Government Act of 2002, but as Senate appropriators pared spending, the e-government fund came under the axe.  

“In many ways, government is no longer efficient and responsive enough to the needs of the people. We need to utilize technology to bring government closer to people, make federal agencies more user-friendly, and improve the communication between elected officials and their constituents,” said Smith.  “This has been a top priority of mine since coming to Congress and e-government is a critical step in our reforms to ensure that government is customer-service oriented and truly meeting the needs of the citizenry.  Frankly, I’m concerned that these cuts indicate the lack of commitment to real government reform in Washington, D.C.”

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) today expressed dismay over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) announced cutbacks in VA health care enrollment.

“For years, the VA has been consistently underfunded and now those decisions are coming back to haunt us.  The program needs adequate funding and, clearly, better management.  We need a long-term plan for how to run the VA and make it effective and efficient,” said Smith.  “But instead of trying to tackle that problem, the Bush administration is making arbitrary decisions to cut corners and cover the lack of efficacy.  As a result they’re making decisions that are not sustainable and are setting a bad precedent.  This is not good management and I would expect better from a MBA administration that talks consistently about the need for government efficiency and responsibility.  The fact is that we need fundamental reform to the VA that focuses on healthy outcomes, gives veterans health care options, and ensures the program is viable for future generations.  When you combine this news with their flawed approach to concurrent receipt, it’s clear that the Bush administration’s veterans policies are in complete disarray and that they are unwilling to uphold the promises made to those who have served our nation.
 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) today signed on to cosponsor legislation to stop the recently scheduled 4.4 percent payment cut to physicians for Medicare reimbursements.  The federal Medicare system, which covers health care for the nation’s senior citizens, works by reimbursing doctors, hospitals, home health care, nursing homes – and in the case of the Medicare + Choice system, HMO’s – for the services they provide to Medicare recipients.

At the end of December, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2003, declaring that there will be a reimbursement rate cut of 4.4 percent for the coming year.  This reduction, on top of last year’s 5.4 percent cut, would have a devastating effect on physicians, other health care providers and patients across the country.  The legislation that Smith signed onto today, H.R. 41, will impose a one-year freeze on the physician’s fee schedule to protect Medicare patients’ access to medical care.

Washington state has been hit especially hard in the past by cuts to the Medicare program and many doctors are holding off on accepting new Medicare patients, withdrawing from the program or retiring.  Further cuts in the program will only exacerbate this problem.  The state already faces difficulties in keeping doctors and insurance companies in the program because of discrepancies in reimbursement rates from state to state, and deeper cuts in rates across the board do not bode well for the state’s Medicare system.  

“Our state’s problems with Medicare are bad enough as it is.  We simply can’t afford to see another cut in the reimbursement rates.  Already our doctors and hospitals are getting smaller reimbursements from the program than they should be and to add additional cuts will leave them with even fewer economic incentives for participating in Medicare.  It’s ludicrous,” said Smith.  

The estimated cost for the bill is around $1.5 billion.  Last night, the Senate approved a 1.6 percent across the board cut on the 11 remaining appropriations bills.  They plan to redirect that money into preserving the current Medicare reimbursement rate, along with shoring up a few other programs.

“We need a long-term solution to our Medicare problem,” continued Smith.  “With health care inflation rising quickly and baby boomers retiring, we’re looking at an enormous influx of seniors into the Medicare program while health care costs continue to grow.  The fact is that we need fundamental reform that focuses on healthy outcomes, gives seniors health care options, provides coverage for prescription drugs, and ensures the program is viable for future generations.”

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced today that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and United States Fire Administration (USFA) have awarded SeaTac City Fire Department a grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program for Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety.  The department is a first time applicant for federal funding and will use the funds to purchase mobile data computers for their fire engines.  These computers will be equipped with “pre-planning” software to electronically provide fire crews with essential information such as the nearest route to and geographical location of an incident, the location of water supplies, any area storage of hazardous materials, type of occupancy etc.  This will enable better on-site accountability and increased safety for fire fighters on the job. 

“This grant is a very exciting indication of the ways in which the federal government is helping local communities provide our firefighters with the tools they need to do their jobs safely and more efficiently,” Smith said.  “One of the challenges that our nation faced in the 9-11 tragedy was that our first responders lacked critical information, and as a result were unable to adequately assess the danger of a rapidly changing situation.  It’s just tremendous that with this help, our local fire companies are able to purchase cutting-edge computer equipment, which they couldn’t access otherwise, to help them be more effective in saving lives.  Our fire fighters are in many instances the first responders to many of our emergency situations and it’s important that we make sure that we’re taking care of them and helping them to do their jobs better.”

Awarded jointly by FEMA and USFA, the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant Program is designed to increase the effectiveness of fire fighting operations, fire fighter health and safety programs, new fire apparatus, EMS programs, and Fire Prevention and Safety Programs.  The SeaTac Fire Department received $75,510, 90 percent of the total cost of their project, for the purchase of new technology to help address firefighter safety issues and improve the basic fire fighting services they provide to the community.  

For more information about the SeaTac City Fire Department, contact Fire Chief Robert Meyer at (206) 824-2726.