Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today joined 17 other moderate Democrats to introduce a bill to deliver affordable, universal prescription drug coverage for all seniors.  The group hopes the bill, the Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003, will be permitted as the Democratic substitute to the Republican bill when it comes to the floor.

“I am proud to be part of the group introducing an affordable prescription drug benefit that provides coverage to the people who need the most help, that is fiscally responsible and permits coverage to go uninterrupted,” said Smith.  “I know how important it is that seniors have access to the medicines they need to stay healthy. 

“Back in Washington state, I hear constantly from seniors who can’t afford to take the drugs their doctors prescribe and they’re asking for our help now,” continued Smith.  “This centrist proposal provides a drug benefit right now to those seniors most in need – those with high drug expenditures and low-income seniors.”

The Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003 provides a prescription drug benefit within existing Medicare Part B coverage by offering universal benefits through an enhanced drug benefit for beneficiaries with more than $4,000 in total drug costs (rather than out-of-pocket expenses), a benefit for low-income seniors with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and the use of Medicare-approved prescription drug card plans.  The plan delivers universal eligibility for all Medicare Part B recipients and does not increase premiums.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cost of this proposal at under $400 billion.

“This is a plan we can enact now to help seniors now –without fear of forcing seniors out of their coverage and out of their family doctor’s office, without fear of breaking the bank, and without fear of forcing seniors to continue to choose between basic life expenses and their health,” argued Smith.  “We’ve been debating this issue for six years in Congress, and it’s high time we got a common sense, affordable, passable plan on the table as a first step towards a larger solution.  Our bill helps hard-hit seniors now.”

Without invoking government-mandated price controls on prescription drugs, the Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003 utilizes purchasing power and competition to keep drugs affordable, both for seniors’ out of pocket costs and for the Medicare program in covering the drugs. Pooling Medicare recipients and allowing several prescription drug plans to compete for their business will help keep costs down.  This plan offers Medicare-approved prescription drug card plans for all Americans – helping all Americans keep drug costs down.

Click here for highlights of the Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003

House Centrist Democrats, led by Rep. Cal Dooley (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), will unveil their prescription drug plan at a press conference tomorrow – Wednesday, April 2 – at 11:00 a.m.

The Medicare Rx Now Act of 2003 is an affordable, universal approach to providing all seniors with the prescription drug coverage they need.

The bill provides a prescription drug benefit through existing Medicare Part B coverage by offering universal benefits through an enhanced drug benefit for beneficiaries with more than $4,000 in total drug costs (rather than out-of-pocket expenses), a benefit for low-income seniors with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and the use of Medicare-approved prescription drug card plans. 

WHAT:              Press Conference on Centrist Prescription Drug Plan

WHO:                Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.)
                           Rep. Cal Dooley (Calif.)
                           Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.)
                           Rep. Ron Kind (Wisc.)
                           Rep. Jim Davis (Fla.)
                           Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.)
                           Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.)
                           Rep. Charlie Stenholm (Tex.)

WHEN:              Wednesday, April 2, 2003
                           11:00a.m. to 11:30a.m.

WHERE:           House Radio-TV Gallery, H-321

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) announced the creation of a special page on his website, http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/startPage/Iraq.html, to help constituents better understand the situation in Iraq and feel comfortable about the security of our nation.

“These are difficult times right now with our men and women overseas in harm’s way.  In an effort to help my constituents, stay on top of the situation both in the Middle East and here at home, I’ve put together a website with information about the conflict, answers to some frequently asked questions from constituents and information about security here in the states,” said Smith.  “It’s critical at this time that you feel comfortable with the level of information that is out there and that your questions are being answered.  I hope you’ll visit the site and let me know how I can be of further help to you at this time.”

The site, http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/startPage/Iraq.html, contains:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about U.S. involvement in Iraq
  • Resources for troops, reservists and families
  • Special information for deployed reservists and their families
  • Information on how citizens can support our troops
  • Helpful guides for parents and teachers to discuss the war with children
  • A quick guide to understanding the Department of Homeland Security Terrorism Advisory System
  • Resources from the Department of Homeland Security for citizens
  • A Guide to Citizen Preparedness from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to help individuals prepare themselves and their families for potential disasters
  • Washington State's "Emergency Resources" Guide
  • Kids Information on Deployment Stuff (K.I.D.S.) - a website for children from the Department of Defense

Smith has also assembled a range of information on legal protections for service members (active duty, National Guard and reservists) while they are abroad, benefits available to service members and their families, education opportunities, military pay and withholding, and other support resources for service members and their families.  That site is located at: http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/constituent/service.html.

 

Last night, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) went to the floor of the House to protest the current FY 2004 budget debate and to urge the body to make better, more honest choices in using the budget to meet the challenges our country faces at home and abroad. 

Smith believes that the threat of war and the ongoing recession have brought back deficits, but that they are not an excuse to undo long-range budget discipline. To get back on track, Congress and the president must make the hard, honest choices on our nation’s priorities that are necessary right now to ensure that those deficits will be small and short-term.  Unfortunately, the president’s budget and the budget proposed by the House Majority Party duck those choices, using rhetoric to disguise inaction on critical issues.  Smith believes that with retirement of the baby boom generation rapidly approaching, failure to discipline our budget and better prioritize our spending in the coming years will have far reaching ramifications and add crushing new burdens on workers and taxpayers in the following decades.

What follows is the text of his speech, taken from the Congressional Record:

Mr. SMITH of Washington. Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank the gentlewoman from Oregon for organizing this hour to talk about a very important subject, the budget. Of the many things that are disturbing about the budget that the President has proposed and the Republicans have proposed here in the House of Representatives, I think perhaps the most disturbing, is the chatter that is coming out of the Republican side of the aisle that deficits do not matter. It used to be that a balanced budget amendment seemed to be required, and now we have sort of decided because it is inconvenient to have to balance the budget that deficits no longer matter.

They have come up with all kinds of fascinating arguments as to why that is. I think the biggest one they focus on is to say that deficits do not really affect interest rates, because that is typically one of the arguments against running deficits is that if the government is gobbling up all the money out there, it is going to drive up interest rates and hurt the overall economy. They point to various points in our history and say that, well, in the 1970s we did not have much in the way of deficits, and we had very high interest rates. In the 1980s we had high deficits and lower interest rates. That is debatable. It seems to me just as an economic matter, if you run deficits over a long period of time, eventually that is going to have a negative effect on interest rates. But even ignoring that point, it is simply true that you cannot run a deficit forever.

The biggest reason that deficits are, in fact, a problem is that they suck up all the money for the future and get us to the point as a country where all we can do is pay the monthly payment, just like someone with a credit card debt that is out of control, where they are simply trying to pay the monthly payment, and the interest keeps racking up. The amount of money that we will spend on interest will accelerate. The amount of deficits we run up on a year-by-year basis will accelerate under the President's budget. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, we are going to have no money for any priorities, be they Republican, Democrat or whoever.

So if we can at least eliminate one notion, during the debate tomorrow I would hope that someone on the Republican side of the aisle would stand up and say that deficits matter. They are something we should be concerned about, and just because they are inconvenient, we should not turn logic on its head and suddenly say we do not care about them anymore.

The other thing that is truly disturbing about this budget is never in the history of this country have we cut taxes while at the same time going to war. The unrealism of that puts us in huge fiscal jeopardy and puts us in a position where we will not be able to meet our obligations in that war. Keep in mind, we are really about to enter our second war. Al Qaeda declared war on us years before September 11. That war was crystal clear after September 11. So dealing with that challenge was number one. Now we are about to launch a second war in Iraq and we, the Republicans, are telling the American people that we can still cut taxes by hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars.

That is hopelessly unrealistic. We have already seen the impact of it, the lack of funding for homeland security, and we are very concerned about it, the lack of funding for the war in Iraq for that matter. It has not been put on the table as part of this budget, and we know there is going to be a cost. That is very, very unrealistic.

The last thing that is troubling about this budget is it in no way stimulates the short-term economy. The tax cut that is being proposed, only 10 percent of that tax cut will come into being in the first year, right now, when the economy is in trouble. If it were truly stimulative, that is where the money would be. Ninety percent of this tax cut is at least 1 year away, which means it is going to have no impact whatsoever on our economic problems today. Presumably in 2, 3, 4 years, the business cycle will return, and we will have a strong economy, and what is the purpose of the tax cuts then? Certainly it is not stimulative.

That is the overarching problem with this budget. This budget reflects a philosophy that says fundamentally we need to cut the Federal Government dramatically. The tax cut that was passed 18 months ago, or almost 2 years ago now, was bad enough. It set us on a path when fully implemented to dramatically see that reduction. Now to pile on another trillion dollars will put us in a position where we will not be able to fund many priorities.

Again, the Republican majority is being very disingenuous about this. They come before you and they talk about the no child left behind bill, their commitment to education. They talk about a prescription drug benefit. They talk about the need to deal with health care. If you are going to cut taxes by trillions of dollars, you are not going to be able to address those issues. The no child left behind bill is already on pace to be underfunded by $12 billion from what the President said he would do as a starting point. What this shows us is we cannot meet those priorities. The rhetoric talking about them is simply empty.

So one final thing I would ask of the majority in the debate tomorrow is to make that clear to the American people, that this is the choice. Do you want simply to have the largest tax cuts possible, primarily for what they like to refer to as the investor class, which primarily means not most of the people in America? Do you want to have that, or do you want to fund these priorities? Because when the Republicans get up here and talk about a prescription drug benefit and talk about education, understand they have no plan whatsoever to fund it. To the extent it is in there, it is only in there rhetorically. We simply cannot have the tax cuts that they are talking about and fund the priorities that they are talking about.

Let us have an honest choice. Let us honestly assess what our choices are, be fiscally responsible, fund our priorities as they lay out there and not pretend that we can have it all; not pretend that in essence we can spend the same dollar three or four times.

Again, I want to thank the gentlewoman from Oregon for bringing this debate out. Tomorrow I think we will have the opportunity to talk about it further. I would urge us to reject the Republican budget plan.

 

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), only Democrat to serve on both the House Armed Services Committee and House International Relations Committee, made the following statement today, following the news of a U.S.-led attack against Iraq:

“As the military action begins in Iraq, my thoughts are with the coalition troops and their families.  The sacrifices made by these brave men, women, and children are enormous.  I am especially grateful to the troops of McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis and our community’s National Guard and Reservists who are putting their lives on the line for freedom and liberty not only for America, but for the entire world.  We are honored to have you and your families as part of our community and are grateful for your service.

“In this time of such international instability, we must also come together to be ever-vigilant in protecting Americans and American interests from terrorism.  Our communities’ first responders – the police, medical, and fire personnel – also deserve our enormous gratitude and support in these trying times. 

“Finally, let us not forget about the countless innocent Iraqis who have suffered greatly under the rule of Saddam Hussein.  We must keep our commitment to them once Hussein is removed from power and work for a more stable, safe, and prosperous Middle East region.”