Press Releases

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.

 

Today Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) will vote in favor of the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act,” H.R. 975, to overhaul bankruptcy law to require debtors to take responsibility for their debts and repay them when they are financially able.

“Requiring people to pay off the debt they incur when possible is a very basic tenet of personal responsibility,” said Smith. “People who can afford to repay their debts should do so.  The formula in this bill is very balanced and fair.  There are exemptions that ensure that if you earn up to four times the poverty level, which works out to around $80,000 a year, this legislation doesn’t affect you.  What it does do is make sure that you, the average American consumer, aren’t paying to retire the debts of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This is a bill that will help, not hurt, low- and middle-income people.”

Under current law, bankruptcy filers may file under Chapter 7 and be absolved of all debt, or file under Chapter 13, preventing repossession of property but agreeing to repay some or all of their debt. H.R. 975 institutes a needs-based formula to steer more debtors into Chapter 13 and thereby require greater debt repayment.

This bill has no effect on people living below the median income of $80,000.  Only those living above the median income and who have the ability to pay off some or all of their debt are required to enter a repayment plan.  H.R. 975 provides allowances for living expenses, exempts child support payments, secured debts such as mortgage and car payments, retirement and education savings and determines an individual’s ability to pay their debt.  If there are extenuating circumstances, such as job loss or medical emergency, a judge can still opt to forgive the debt.  If it is determined that the debtor can afford to repay some of the debt, he or she is required to do so.

“Frankly, bankruptcy needs to be more of a last resort instead of a first action.  This conference report requires greater personal responsibility from debtors by ensuring that those who have the ability to pay off some of their debt do,” said Smith.  “It supports consumers by reducing irresponsible bankruptcy filings.  It is unfair that many higher-income families are declaring bankruptcy even when they have the ability to repay some of their debts, costing the average family hundreds of dollars a year in higher prices, limits access to credit (especially for those who already have trouble getting credit.”

Small businesses are another victim of irresponsible bankruptcy filings, according to Smith. “A small business can be devastated by just one or two debtors declaring bankruptcy and not paying their bills,” he explained. “The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act will change this by only allowing those consumers truly in need of bankruptcy filing to be absolved of their debts.” 

Since coming to Congress in 1997, Representative Adam Smith has been a leading Democrat in favor of Bankruptcy reform.  As a leader of the New Democrats in the House, Smith has long fought for common sense changes to bankruptcy laws.  The New Democrat Coalition has co-sponsored bankruptcy reform for the last three session of Congress and has continually provided key Democratic support for the issue.  Last March when the House considered H.R. 333, "The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2001," it was approved by a vote of 306-108, with 75 percent of all voting New Democrat members voting yes.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today sent the following letter to President Bush urging the U.S. to begin bilateral talks with North Korea immediately.  Smith will work with colleagues in the coming days to pressure the administration to pursue a multilateral diplomatic approach to the situation in the Korean peninsula.

March 17, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the failure of this Administration to effectively address the growing crisis involving North Korea.   This situation impacts the entire region – and indeed, the rest of the global community – and American leadership is needed to break the current diplomatic stalemate.

While I recognize that there are perhaps no good options with respect to managing this crisis, starting bilateral talks is the best policy at this time.  The current policy of doing nothing is leading us into an increasingly dangerous situation.

Since acknowledging the existence of their nuclear program last fall, North Korea has grown increasingly bellicose and unpredictable.  They apparently removed from the Yongbyon reactor spent nuclear fuel rods which, if reprocessed, could yield enough plutonium for as many as six nuclear weapons.  They have announced an intention to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty, expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, removed IAEA safeguards and disabled monitoring equipment at the Yongbyon facility.  Recently, North Korean fighters have engaged American surveillance aircraft in international airspace.  Further, North Korea’s failing economy, large conventional forces and growing proliferation of chemical and biological weapons pose a grave threat to international stability.

Based on recent official statements, it is clear that the Administration remains unwilling to marshal the appropriate diplomatic resources and engage in a direct dialogue with North Korea.  This is not a tenable strategy.  I strongly urge you to appoint a high level envoy charged with engaging in high level, direct dialogue with North Korea.  This person should also be responsible for working with South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and other nations that have influence over North Korea - or a stake in resolving North Korea's nuclear status diplomatically.  At the very least, the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor must aggressively develop a short term strategy for engaging North Korea.

Talks should begin immediately.   We should not simply stand aside while a dangerous and unpredictable dictator builds nuclear weapons.  The risk involved in allowing this to happen far outweighs the problems of agreeing to bilateral talks with North Korea. 

I request that you inform the Congress of your plans to resolve the crisis in North Korea as soon as possible.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.

                                                                        Sincerely,
                                                                        Adam Smith
                                                                        Member of Congress

Last night, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) was named to the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and the Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.  

“I am very eager to continue my work on the House Armed Services Committee in the areas of “Air-Land” Forces and Terrorism.  With two military bases in my district and the clear need for greater national attention to terrorism and homeland security issues, these Subcommittees are great opportunities for me to work on issues that are critical to the Ninth District,” said Smith.  “Over the years on the Armed Services Committee, I’ve worked on modernizing our military and investing in tomorrow's technology, as well ensuring that Department of Defense resources are used efficiently and that America's fighting men and women have the tools and equipment they need to fulfill their missions.   I am proud to represent two bases, the Fort Lewis Army Base and the McChord Air Force Base, as well as thousands of military retirees, veterans, military families, and reservists.  I understand how important it is to recruit and retain the best and brightest for our Armed Services, and to do so, we must work to make military service an attractive career option.”

“I also believe that going forward, we must use technology as a tool for securing our nation and fighting the war on terrorism,” continued Smith.  “This means leveraging our national assets – including the National Labs, universities, the private sector and small business – to develop and bring to bear technologies designed to protect critical infrastructure, identify threats and prevent potential attacks, for example.  I will continue to work on these issues with my new assignments.” 

The House Armed Services Committee Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee is responsible for all Army and Air Force acquisition programs (except strategic weapons and lift programs, special operations and information technology accounts). In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for all Navy and Marine Corps aviation programs, National Guard and Army and Air Force reserve modernization, and ammunition programs.  The Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee is responsible for Department of Defense counter proliferation and counter terrorism programs and initiatives. In addition, the subcommittee will be responsible for Special Operations Forces, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, information technology policy and programs, force protection policy and oversight, and related intelligence support.  For a complete description of the Committee and Subcommittee’s activities, visit http://www.house.gov/hasc/.

For the text of a speech outlining Smith’s vision of a modern foreign policy in the post cold-war world, visit http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/wa09_smith/021029pr.html.

For the press release announcing Smith’s appointment to the House International Relations Committee, visit http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/wa09_smith/030131pr.html.

Late last night, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) was appointed to the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. 

“This is a very exciting subcommittee appointment for both me and Washington state,” said Smith.  “Our state has strong ties with Asia, both culturally and in terms of trade, and American policy in Asia faces growing challenges.  The region is both the largest overseas market for American goods and our largest source of merchandise imports, but the combination of recent economic crises, policy changes and America’s war on terrorism have left the region vulnerable to economic nationalism, Pan-Asian thinking and resentment of the United States.  These developments pose great risks to America’s position in East Asia and to our vital interest in peace in the region.  We must move carefully.” 

“I believe that we must pursue the expansion of our contacts in Asia, rather than removing or downsizing our presence in the region,” continued Smith.  “We must use all the tools at our disposal - trade, aid, exchange programs, participation in WTO and other regional and international organizations - to engage East Asia in productive dialogues towards progress on human rights issues and our national security.  It’s vitally important, and I am looking forward to working on this task in my new assignment.”

The House International Relations Committee deals with oversight and legislation relating the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces; enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions; the Agency for International Development; State and Defense Department activities involving arms transfers and sales, and arms export licenses; international law; promotion of democracy; international law enforcement issues, including terrorism and narcotics control programs and activities; and other matters relating to international economic policy and trade.  The Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee is charged with the oversight of all U.S. interests in East Asia.   For a complete description of the Committee and Subcommittee’s activities, visit http://www.house.gov/international_relations/.

For the text of a speech outlining Smith’s vision of a modern foreign policy in the post cold-war world, visit http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/wa09_smith/021029pr.html.

For the press release announcing Smith’s appointment to the House International Relations Committee, visit http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/wa09_smith/030131pr.html.