Press Releases

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement regarding the fiscal year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives approved last night through votes on two amendments.  Smith voted "no" on both.  The first amendment provided more than $160 billion in funds for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and lacked adequate restraints on President Bush's Iraq policy.  The second amendment provided funding for other needs such as disaster assistance, foreign aid, expanded veterans benefits and extended unemployment benefits.  Neither amendment offset the costs of these policies, simply adding to the debt instead.

"The President's Iraq policies have to change.  We absolutely must confront the rising tide of violence in Afghanistan.  This past week saw a dramatic Taliban attack on a prison that freed roughly ‘750 criminals and 400 Taliban inmates.' We also saw Taliban fighters sweep in and briefly capture ten villages, some of which we have since recaptured.  Al-Qaida continues to threaten our nation from this region as well.  Our commanders tell me we are two combat brigades short of what we need to confront this continuing violence, but we cannot supply them because we have around 150,000 troops in Iraq.  Even in light of the severe challenges in Afghanistan, President Bush insists on a no-end-in-sight occupation of Iraq that continues our massive presence there indefinitely.  The funding measure before the House lacked any real constraints on the President's shortsighted, obsessive focus on Iraq, so I could not support it.  I also believe we should come up with some way of offsetting the costs of the President's policy instead of simply adding to our debt.

"I was pleased to see the inclusion of expanded unemployment insurance and educational benefits for our veterans and their families.  I strongly support the expansion of the GI bill for veterans, in particular, and have voted in favor of similar legislation in the past.  However, the previous version paid for the multi-billion-dollar cost by asking for shared sacrifice in the form of a tax surcharge on the richest Americans.  That kind of fiscal responsibility is totally absent from this legislation.  As passed, the two pieces of the supplemental will add more than $200 billion to our debt in the next ten years. 

"We have two ongoing wars and a huge fiscal challenge facing our country, including a $9 trillion debt and massive annual deficits.  I do not support cutting off funds for our troops while in combat, and I support responsible measures to shore up American workers and to expand GI benefits.  This legislation, however, lacks real restraints on a dangerously misguided Iraq policy while digging our nation deeper into debt.  We have months before the Defense Department would begin to run out of funds, and we will not solve problems for our workers and veterans by driving up our nation's red ink.  Congress has time to craft a responsible solution for these problems, but this legislation isn't it."

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a bipartisan compromise bill that provides intelligence agencies tools to conduct surveillance while protecting Americans' privacy rights.

"We can and must fight terrorism without sacrificing our most basic freedoms as Americans.   While not perfect, this compromise is a major improvement over both the Senate-passed bill and current law.  It gives intelligence agencies needed tools to conduct surveillance on foreign targets while protecting Americans' constitutional rights through judicial oversight and ensuring the President can never again go outside the law," Smith said.

The compromise bill contains a number of critical safeguards to protect civil liberties and prevent executive overreach.  The bill:

  • Ensures the President can never again go outside the law, by clarifying that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and existing criminal statues are the exclusive means by which the government may conduct surveillance on U.S. soil.  The President justified his extralegal surveillance program by claiming the 2001 authorization to use force against terrorists provided the administration the authority to circumvent FISA.  This bill makes it clear that's not the case.
  • Clarifies that to conduct surveillance of a person in the U.S., or any U.S. citizen abroad, the government must first obtain an individual warrant from the FISA court based on probable cause.
  • Requires prior review and approval by the FISA Court of the targeting and minimization procedures used in foreign surveillance to ensure that U.S. citizens are not targeted and that any inadvertently intercepted communications are not disseminated.
  • Requires the Inspectors General of four key U.S. government agencies to conduct a review of the President's warrantless wiretapping program and provide those reviews to Congress.

The debate over surveillance laws emerged after September 11, 2001 as the need to conduct counterterrorism surveillance suggested that the 1978 FISA law needed to be modernized.  While surveillance of foreign targets had always been legal without a warrant, the question became what to do when information about Americans was inadvertently collected in the process of seeking information on targets abroad – a growing problem since an increasing amount of global electronic communication was being routed through U.S. locations.  FISA required that any time that might happen; a separate individual warrant was required in advance.  U.S. intelligence agencies complained that the 1978 law hampered their ability to conduct effective counterterrorism surveillance on foreign targets. 

With that challenge in mind, in addition to safeguarding civil liberties, this compromise bill provides critical authority and flexibility for U.S. intelligence agencies to acquire foreign intelligence information.  In an emergency, the government may authorize surveillance and apply to the FISA Court for approval within seven days.

The bill also rejects the Senate bill's provisions granting automatic retroactive immunity for telecommunications providers.  Instead the bill requires federal courts to determine companies' liability, and allows them to grant immunity only if shown substantial evidence that the U.S. government ordered companies to comply.  All parties will be allowed to participate in the legal proceedings, with caveats to protect access to highly classified information.

"This bill's approach on telecommunications company liability isn't perfect, but it's a vast improvement over the Senate bill in that it keeps the decision in the federal courts' hands.  What's most important is that government officials can still be held accountable, as the bill provides no immunity to them and requires aggressive investigations into the President's warrantless wiretap program," Smith said.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled on Boeing’s protest of the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker contract process:

“The GAO’s decision is an unequivocal vindication of our position regarding the bidding process for the Air Force’s refueling tanker contract.  The process was not fair and did not provide equal consideration for both companies’ products based on the Air Force’s solicitation.  GAO recommends what amounts to a complete reopening of the bidding process which could result in the termination of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman.  In addition to ensuring that American workers get a fair shot at the contract, I hope this decision will also cause our government to reevaluate the wisdom of awarding major contracts to companies that have benefited from illegal government subsidies.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) yesterday offered an amendment to H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to encourage collaboration between Amtrak and local and regional commuter rail agencies on train schedules and routing in shared rail corridors.  The U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 6003 by a vote of 311 to 104 after voting to include Smith’s amendment.

Local commuter rail transit agencies often share rails with Amtrack, and several agencies across the nation have made substantial investments in tracks and signal capacity in shared rail corridors to enhance commuter rail service.  However, Amtrak’s first right to schedule their service often causes delays to commuter rail passengers and undermines the on-time performance of commuter rail systems.  High gas prices increase demand for passenger commuter rails, so efficient and effective use of rail infrastructure is critical. 

“Amtrak should work in collaboration with commuter rail carriers to facilitate the most efficient flow of intercity Amtrak and commuter rail passengers.  In the Puget Sound region, Sound Transit worked with BNSF and invested substantial sums of public funds in the rail corridor between Tacoma and Everett.

Investments like these all around the country benefit freight rail, Amtrak and commuter rail passengers.  Amtrak should respect these investments and work with our local commuter rail agencies to help maximize commuter rail service so commuters and taxpayers can see improved returns on our public investment,” Smith said.

Smith’s amendment does not replace or affect the existing process for adding additional passenger service on freight rail networks, but rather simply requires Amtrak to engage in good-faith discussions on scheduling with commuter rail agencies to ensure that passenger movement is maximized and a balance is struck between Amtrak’s intercity rail service and commuter rail service.

H.R. 6003 must be approved by the Senate before the President can sign it into law.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement regarding the Democratic budget plan for fiscal year 2009 passed by the House of Representatives this afternoon:

“I am proud to announce that the 110th Congress passed a budget plan for the second year in a row, establishing a pattern that differs sharply from past Congresses.  Budget resolutions are fundamental pieces of any larger attempt to reign in our budget process.  The framework we have established in this report gives us a chance to return to fiscal responsibility, a trait sadly lacking from federal budgets for some time now. 

“Our national debt and deficit have not received sufficient attention in our national dialogue, and we absolutely must get both of these factors under control so we can address long-term economic priorities including a more affordable health care system, a better education and skills training policy, greater innovation investment and infrastructure improvements.  Addressing these challenges will be essential to our future prosperity.  However, I do not believe this process will be successful unless we get back to a fiscally responsible budget process. 

“The budget conference report is a good first step in returning to a path of fiscal discipline.”