Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today to announce that NFB-NEWSLINE, the pioneering service that allows blind people to “read” daily newspapers using a touch-tone telephone, is now available in Washington.  The new toll-free number is 1-888-882-1629.   
The newspaper service for the blind and visually impaired uses synthesized speech to deliver an audio version of the newspaper text for dozens and eventually hundreds of daily newspapers to blind and visually impaired persons nationwide.  

“Using the NFB’s NEWSLINE, a blind person can now listen to the daily newspaper from his or her own community at the same time the printed edition of that same newspaper is being delivered to sighted customers,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “For blind people or even seniors who can no longer read small newsprint, this means more than being able to enjoy a morning ritual observed by millions of Americans – reading the daily newspaper. It also means being connected to the social and political life of the community in which you live and work.”  

Congress established the national “Books for the Blind” program in 1931 to pay for the production of Braille and audio versions of popular books and magazines and distribute them through state and local libraries. NFB President Marc Maurer notes, however, that until now, “the lack of affordable and suitable technology has not allowed newspapers to be included in this service. 

With funds appropriated by Congress to support NFB-NEWSLINE, NFB has been able to develop the technology that allows newspapers to be distributed rapidly in a format that is usable by the blind.  Participating newspapers provide digital text of articles directly to NFB-NEWSLINE where, using innovative technologies, the newspaper text is converted automatically into synthesized speech and made immediately available to all subscribers, allowing them to access all newspapers participating in the program. 

The synthetic speech allows NFB-NEWSLINE to offer users a wide range of features, including the ability to advance or go back to another article or even another sentence, to speed up or slow down the synthetic voice or change its tone, to spell a word or phrase, or to search for a specific word.  

NFB-NEWSLINE allows for reader registration on the Internet, making it possible for eligible blind and disabled persons to register for the service at state and local libraries.  There is no charge to subscribe to NFB-NEWSLINE. 

To request an application or receive for more information about NFB-NEWSLINE, contact the National Federation of the Blind at (410) 659-9314 or online at

The National Federation of the Blind is a consumer-based organization of more than 50,000 blind people throughout the U.S. whose primary purpose is to promote security, opportunity, and equality for those who are blind or visually impaired. 

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Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced two bills at the end of last week to improve the quality of life for the U.S. military through increased access to education.  

Congressman Smith’s “Expanding Education for Military Families Act” would allow for full portability of Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) benefits to the family members of enrollees in the MGIB program.  His second bill, the “Military Education Extension Act,” would extend the time limit for use of MGIB benefits to 15 years for both active duty servicemembers and reservists.   

“I am absolutely committed to ensuring that our Armed Forces are the most highly skilled, intelligent fighting force in the world.  At a time when recruitment and retention are more important than ever, we must work to make military service an attractive career option,” said Smith. “We have to do a better job of providing better and more competitive educational benefits for all enlisted military members and these bills are a good first step.”

The Expanding Education for Military Families Act

Currently, the MGIB contains a portability provision for those with “critical military skills.”  In exchange for the transfer of some of their MGIB benefits to a spouse, a child or some combination of the two, MGIB enrollees, who have served at least six years in the Armed Forces, agree to serve an additional four years.  While this is an improvement from the original bill, the recent modification adversely affected morale among those not included under the provision.  In many cases, this portability option makes the difference in whether or not a servicemember can pay for a child’s college education. Congressman Smith’s “Expanding Education for Military Families Act” would offer this portability option to all members of the Armed Forces.

The Military Education Extension Act 

Under current law, when MGIB active duty enrollees separate from the service or retire, they have ten years to use their benefits – after that time, any unused portions are lost.  For reservists, the ten-year clock starts ticking down from the date of their enrollment in the program, which is usually when they are processed at their first duty station.  With the “Military Education Extension Act,” Congressman Smith proposes lengthening the clock to 15 years for both active duty enlistees and reservists.  

Before introducing his legislation, Smith met with the Puget Sound Chapter of the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) to unveil his plan and solicit feedback.  With over 3,100 members, the Puget Sound group is AFSA’s largest chapter.  The active duty servicemembers, reservists, veterans and spouses at the meeting were very interested in Smith’s efforts and engaged the Congressman in a robust debate over the future of the Montgomery G.I. Bill and some of their other concerns such as concurrent receipt, the military pay raise and the modernization and transformation of the military.

AFSA has endorsed both bills wholeheartedly, and in a meeting with Smith, AFSA Executive Director James D. Staton had this to say: “Educational benefits are critical to enlisted members.  Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits improve the futures of the men and women who put their lives on the line for this nation,” said AFSA Executive Director James D. Staton.  “Whether they are active duty or reserve component members, our servicemembers deserve a world-class education program.  These bills are a big part of moving us closer to that final goal.” 

Both H.R.4213, the “Expanding Education for Military Families Act,” and H.R.4214, the “Military Education Extension Act,” have been referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees.

Today, Congressman Adam Smith announced his schedule for this spring’s Town Hall meetings.  Interested district residents are invited join him for an open dialogue on important community issues — including energy, tax cuts, education and health care.

The schedule for the spring’s meetings is: 

Saturday, April 20th — Yelm 
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Yelm Senior Center
201 Yelm Avenue, Yelm

Saturday, May 11th — Puyallup 
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Puyallup Public Library
324 South Meridian, Puyallup

Saturday, June 22nd — Auburn
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Auburn Public Library
1102 Auburn Way South, Auburn

Staff from Congressman Adam Smith’s District Office will be on hand to help with any specific problems related to the federal government. Any questions about the Town Hall Meetings should be directed to the Congressman’s District office in Tacoma at (253) 593-6600.

The Secretary of the Air Force announced today that the United States Air Force will begin negotiations with the Boeing Corporation for the lease of 100 Boeing 767s which will be converted into aerial refueling tankers to replace the Air Force’s oldest KC-135 tankers.  Earlier, the Air Force had considered the European Airbus consortium’s Airbus 330 as well.

“I’m very pleased by the Air Force’s selection of Boeing to provide these tankers,” Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said.  “The economic impact for Washington state is tremendous.  After the House Armed Services committee hearing, we pointed out to the Air Force that Boeing was clearly the only technically acceptable tanker available and that it was the only American tanker option.  Their selection means concrete investment in American communities and American jobs.”

The decision was made after the Air Force’s Air Refueling Tanker Request For Information demonstrated that only Boeing’s 767 technology could meet their air refueling requirements.  The competing Airbus 330 lacked tanker and air refueling experience, making their initial approach to the task a significant risk increase for the Air Force that had to be weighed against Boeing’s experience.  The Air Force also discovered that the footprint of the Airbus 330 is 81 percent larger than that of the current refueling tankers (KC-135) and that the increase in size did not yield sufficient increases in air refueling efficiency.

Congressman Adam Smith noted that the contract award not only underscores Boeing’s role as the world's largest military aircraft manufacturer, but also recognizes the company’s commitment to innovation and transformation.

The following is a statement from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on the Republican Budget proposal introduced on House floor today.  Media seeking more information or to speak with Smith should contact Katharine Lister at (202) 226-8454.

 “Like all Americans, I believe that we must meet our most pressing priorities of protecting our country against terrorism, improving our international relations, and growing our economy.  I agree with the president that these current challenges warrant small, short-term deficit spending.

 “However, I am concerned about the lack of sound budgeting practices in the Republican Budget offered today.  Under their plan we cannot both address our most pressing current needs, and establish a framework for a long-term, sustainable revenue and spending plan without relying on massive borrowing.  

 “The Republican Budget spends most of the Social Security surplus and all of the Medicare surplus, putting us in terrible position to deal with the impending entitlement crises when the baby boomers retire.  Despite promises last year from both the White House and Congress to save every single dollar of the Social Security surplus and Medicare surplus, and Congress’ votes for a Social Security “lockbox” five times in the past few years, this budget uses nearly all of the Medicare and Social Security surpluses —  more than 86 percent of the Social Security surplus and every penny of the Medicare surplus. 

 “The Republican budget also just isn’t honest - it doesn’t take into account the tax and spending programs that both Republicans and Democrats know Congress is going to pass.

 “For example, the individual Alternative Minimum Tax will balloon twenty-fold by 2012, affecting 39 million households (34 percent of all taxpayers), but fixing that problem isn’t in the budget.  Republicans also support making permanent last year’s tax cuts, which would cost $569 billion and Speaker Dennis Hastert plans to bring up an additional tax cut bill this spring.  None of these items are in the budget.

 “And in terms of spending, the White House has said that it will submit a supplemental appropriations request for defense and homeland security that will certainly be approved by Congress - but that isn’t in the budget either.  They are assuming non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending will be kept at only five percent of the levels necessary to maintain current levels of services in 2003.  We all know that’s an unrealistic projection — even under Republican control of Congress, spending has always increased on these programs.

 “Another problem with the Republican Budget is that it uses the optimistic, rosy projections from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rather than the more conservative Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections.  Over the next five years, the difference between CBO and OMB revenue projections is $110.4 billion.  OMB also plans on the government spending $48 billion less over the same five year period on mandatory spending programs like Medicare and veterans’ benefits.  That’s a lot of ifs.

 “To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care whether the numbers we use are labeled CBO, OMB or UFO, but I do believe that it’s sound budgeting practice to use more conservative numbers when you’re balancing your checkbook. 

 “The bottom line is that even with all of these budget tricks and gimmicks that make it look like we can have everything we want, the budget is still in deficit and our debt is still climbing.  The budget deficit for next year is projected to be $46 billion, and we’ll be in deficit every year for ten years.  By 2007, when the baby boomers start to retire, the government will owe more debt to the public - nearly $3.5 trillion - than it does today.

 “Our federal budget needs to be more balanced and fiscally responsible than today’s Republican proposal.

 “I had hoped that House Republicans would recognize the need and the real possibility for bipartisan cooperation on developing a proposal for the federal budget.  If the House leadership is willing to invite more people to the table, to go to an economic conference as we’ve suggested, I am confident that we can have a federal budget that will protect the country against terrorism, lend needed support to our military, take care of workers at home, and pay for needed programs like education, healthcare and social security as well as ensuring a strong economic foundation for the future.”