Press Releases

At the end of last week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives provided for the extension of unemployment benefits.  However, the House extension is only for five weeks while the Senate version is 13 weeks.  With this discrepancy still unresolved, around December 28th, 45,400 unemployed workers in Washington state will have their benefits cut off.  The only way to extend unemployment past its current deadline is to have the House pass the Senate's package today before adjourning today until January. 

“While the extension that we were able to pass last week was certainly a step in the right direction, it is by no means a comprehensive victory for Washington state.  We need to make sure that Washington’s families will not just make it through the tough holiday season, but also have greater economic security until they can get themselves back on track in the new year,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma).  “We’ve got to get some help for our state to make it through the winter.”

Washington state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and layoffs and budget cuts are being announced daily around the state.  Faced with the overwhelming impact of a failure to further extend unemployment, the entire Washington delegation united to send a letter to Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Speaker of the House, and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Minority Leader, urging them to bring the Senate’s legislation to the floor of the House and pass it.  The text of the letter follows.

Dear Mr. Speaker and Leader Gephardt:

As Senators and Members of Congress from Washington state, we implore you to bring to the floor and pass the Senate’s legislation to continue the full Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation program for another three months, until March 29, 2003.  The House must not adjourn without passing legislation that would extend these critical benefits for thousands of American families.

Washington state has one of the highest levels of unemployment.   Our economy has become one of the hardest hit by the fallout of September 11th, and the lack of consumer confidence and demand.  Several counties we represent have double-digit unemployment rates, and new layoffs are announced daily. 

As you know, the Senate passed its 13-week extension unanimously.  While we applaud the House’s efforts to pass a five-week extension last week, we must take up and pass the Senate’s 13 week-extension legislation, in order to continue to provide benefits for 800,000 Americans who will lose their benefits on December 28, 2002 and for over 90,000 who will lose them during each week that follows. 

The 107th Congress must not end, with members heading home for the holidays, while thousands do not know if they will make it through winter.  American workers, their families, and the U.S. economy need your help. 

We respectfully request your assistance with securing and extending Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation by passing the Senate’s 13-week extension before we bring the 107th Congress to a close.

 

Early this morning the U.S. Senate passed Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-Wash.) and Rep. Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) Lakehaven Water Reclamation legislation which will improve the capacity and reliability of wastewater systems in south King County and parts of Pierce County.  The legislation is headed to the President’s desk for signature.

“The Lakehaven Water Reclamation legislation takes a critical step toward solving the wastewater infrastructure needs of south King County and parts of Pierce County,” Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said.  “This bill is about protecting our water supply and supporting a long term solution for waste water treatment.”

“The Lakehaven legislation is good for the environment and good for efficiency,” Smith, ranking member of the Water and Power Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee, said.  “Currently six million gallons of treated waste water are discharged into the Puget Sound.  After this bill becomes law, the Lakehaven district will be able to recapture that water and use some of it for irrigation and some will be returned to the aquifer, easing the demand on our groundwater.”

This legislation authorizes the construction of additional treatment systems at the Lakehaven Utility District’s wastewater treatment plants, distribution systems to transport water to the reuse areas, and systems to direct water back to the aquifer system.  The improvements will help maintain stream levels during droughts and recharge the aquifers without using additional surface water.  

Lakehaven Utility District is one of Washington state's largest water and sewer utilities providing 10.5 million gallons of water a day to over 100,000 residents.  It is located in south King County and encompasses the city of Federal Way and portions of Des Moines, Kent, Auburn, Pacific, Algona, Milton, unincorporated King County and unincorporated Pierce County.  The demand for water from these sources has increased to a point that the district may soon exceed safe water production limits. It has also resulted in the reduction of water levels in all local aquifers.

On Saturday November 9, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash) received the Washington state Department of Veteran Affairs’ “Outstanding Male Non-Veteran” award for his service to veterans at a Veterans Day luncheon in Auburn.  Smith was nominated for the award for his commitment and dedication to veterans’ issues, specifically his work on the American Lake VA Medical Center, which provides care for more than 17,000 veterans.  The number of patients continues to grow because of the large density of military bases in the immediate area – Army, National Guard, Air Force and Navy – and Smith has worked hard to ensure both the quality and the availability of care for the veterans at the center.  The following is a statement from Smith on the award: 

“This award is a very great honor.  As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have worked to craft our nation’s policies regarding national defense as well as benefits for military retirees and veterans.  All of us owe the men and women who have served our country an enormous amount of gratitude and respect.  Many of these men and women have chosen to live here in the Puget Sound region, and I feel honored to represent so many of them in Congress.

“One of the biggest challenges facing our veterans and military retirees is health care.  I am committed to improving access to health care and expanding coverage for those who have served our nation.  Further, many retirees are eligible to receive health care at both VA and DOD facilities – I have worked to make sure retirees do not have to choose between these programs.

“We must also honor our veterans and military retirees by helping provide for their spouses, who have also sacrificed so much to our nation.  I strongly support the Survivor Benefits Plan.  Spouses are often hit hardest by a reduction in family income, and can scarcely afford to live on less. 

“I am also an ardent supporter of concurrent receipt, working hard to permit retired members of the armed forces with service-connected disabilities to be paid both military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation. By faithfully fulfilling the required length of service, our veterans earned the retired pay, for service performed in the past. These veterans have also suffered debilitating injuries in the line of duty, and as a result should be compensated. Disabled veterans, particularly those who spent their lives protecting our nation in military careers, have a right to expect responsiveness from their elected representatives. 

“Concurrent receipt is a critical issue not only for our military retirees and their dependents, but also for those who are considering a career in the military.  Above all, improving the treatment of personnel, retirees and veterans is not only the right thing to do, but is fundamental to our national security.  If we want to continue leading the world in military power, we must have the best personnel.  Denying benefits like concurrent receipt tells active duty personnel and those considering a career in the military that our nation fails to keep its promises to the men and women in uniform who make sacrifices everyday for our country.  We cannot permit this injustice to continue any longer.  Veterans have given so much to preserve the security and prosperity of this country, and in the midst of the war on terrorism, our debt of gratitude is more apparent than ever and we must take action.

“I remain committed to our veterans and will work diligently to provide them with the best benefits available.  Thank you again for honoring me with this award.”

The co-chairs of the New Democrat Coalition, Reps. Jim Davis (D-Fla.), Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), criticized the Republican leadership for permitting the extreme elements of their party to defeat critical bankruptcy legislation when it was finally brought to the floor after they held it hostage for five months.  The conference report for the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2001 would overhaul bankruptcy law to require debtors to take responsibility for their debts and repay them when they are financially able. 
The New Democrat Coalition has continuously offered support to the House Leadership on bankruptcy reform.  Last year, bankruptcy legislation passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support including the votes of 50 members of the New Democrat Coalition and several members of the Democratic leadership.  The New Democrats have consistently made this legislation a top priority and have delivered a wide base of support for the bill.   

“I’m really frustrated that a group of right-wing, conservative Republicans, led by new Majority Leader Tom DeLay, were able to kill this important economic legislation.  Frankly, the provisions they claimed to object to wouldn’t have changed current law at all,” said Rep. Adam Smith, (D-Wash.).  “As New Democrats, we’re working to find common sense solutions to our nation’s problems and advance the principles of fairness and personal responsibility. It’s really distressing that we couldn’t find enough moderate Republicans to pass this bill, and I hope this isn’t representative of the kind of leadership we’re going to see in the coming year.” 

“In a sad indication of things to come, the Republican party has once again allowed their most conservative members to hold hostage a good piece of bipartisan legislation - bankruptcy reform - that the business community had made their top priority this year,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) added.  “Unlike the Republicans apparent obeisance to extremist dogma, the New Democrat Coalition will continue to pursue pro-growth legislation that will advance our nation's economy.” 

“Since 1997, Congress has been trying to reform our broken bankruptcy system,” concluded Rep. Jim Davis (D-Fla.).  “The New Democrat Coalition has repeatedly reached across the aisle to work hand-in-hand with Republicans in advancing bankruptcy reform.  Now, as Congress is on the verge of succeeding, the Republican Party has allowed an interparty squabble to railroad this important reform legislation.  I can only hope that we will see stronger leadership in the 108th Congress.”

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) announced today that the Bucoda Volunteer Fire Department was awarded a grant of $182,074 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and United States Fire Administration (USFA) to purchase new lifesaving equipment and provide more firefighter training.  

“This grant will provide Bucoda’s firefighters with the tools they need to do their jobs safely and more efficiently,” Smith said.  “Our nation’s fire departments are the first responders into almost every emergency situation and this grant program is one of the ways that we can help to ensure their continued safety as they face a variety of threats.  This was a very competitive grant process, involving a national peer review process with over 300 fire service leaders.  With their receipt of the award, the Bucoda department has successfully demonstrated their commitment to ‘safety first’ for their team.”

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 Bucoda Fire Department received $182,074 to help address firefighter safety issues and improve the basic fire fighting services they provide to the community.