Press Releases

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith (D-Washington) is joining Senator Joe Lieberman to support a revamp of the federal role in K-12 education and will introduce legislation in the House to do so when Congress reconvenes in 2000.

“The federal role in education has become too bureaucratic, diluted, and ineffective,” said Smith. “It’s time that Congress takes a comprehensive approach to how we can better serve our children.”

Smith’s approach will condense existing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs into broad categories of federal spending, target federal funds more heavily towards low-income students, eliminate or streamline federal regulations, and focus on results instead of process.

“After meeting with hundreds of teachers, administrators, and parents in my district, I learned that our federal education system is very archaic,” explained Smith. “For example, we have several different programs to make sure that kids learn English. School districts have to spend far too much time applying for these programs, jumping through different hoops to make sure they keep the funding, and administering the programs. I think it makes far more sense to have one pot of money that goes to schools, based on poverty and non-English speaking population, to help those kids learn English.”

Smith argues that we should allow more flexibility in how schools use federal funds. “Currently, the federal government provides about 6 percent of the funding for schools but imposes most of the regulations,” said Smith. “While we must ensure that kids’ and teachers’ rights and safety are protected, we have to give local communities more power to innovate and teach kids.”

Instead of process-based evaluation, Smith’s approach will judge schools on results. “If schools don’t improve, there are consequences,” Smith noted. “I’m proud to be working with Senator Lieberman on a dramatic change in the role of the federal government in education, a role that should be far more thoughtful and effective. The underlying principle is simply this: target the funds better, attach fewer strings, and demand results.”

“This is one step in a long legal process. In fact, these issues may not even be relevant once we finally have an outcome. However, it is important to note that the technology industry, and Microsoft in particular, have contributed greatly to the value and quality of goods available to American consumers, and that is largely because of their ability to continuously innovate and grow. I feel it is very important that Microsoft maintains their ability to innovate, and I am hopeful that the ultimate outcome of this trial will give Microsoft the continued freedom to do so.”

Today Congressman Adam Smith will vote to restore cuts imposed on Medicare as part of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

The Balanced Budget Act called for a reduction in Medicare spending of $116 billion over five years, but cuts have actually been closer to $200 million already, show estimates. These reductions are primarily in Medicare reimbursement rates – the amount hospitals and health care providers are reimbursed by the federal government for treating Medicare patients. As a result, many health care organizations are becoming unwilling or unable to provide care to Medicare patients.

Smith has worked extensively on this issue throughout the year. In September, he encouraged nearly thirty of his colleagues to join him in a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to prioritize a Medicare “fix” package. “I am very pleased by the House Leadership’s response to our concerns,” Smith said.

Smith became involved in the issue after talking to seniors whose health care services are beginning to be affected by the cuts and health care providers who warned that access would diminish. “I am very concerned that seniors who rely on Medicare for their health care coverage are losing access to vital services,” said Smith. “This legislation will help ensure that seniors are getting the health care they need.”

What’s more, the reimbursement rate cuts disproportionately affect Washington state. “Washington was one of the most efficient states with regards to waste in the Medicare program,” Smith explained. “Unfortunately, the cuts affected each state equally. Many states had a lot of waste to cut, but Washington didn’t – therefore our cuts are really affecting vital services.”

The House bill includes:
-a phase in for the new payment adjustment caps for Medicare+Choice
-delay in the 15% cut to home health
-delay in the scheduled cut in payments for hospitals that treat low income patients
-increase inflation adjustments and payments for high cost patients in skilled nursing facilities
-help to certain rural providers
-changes in the $1500 cap for rehabilitation therapy to better provide for the highest cost patients
-changes to the Direct Graduate Medical Education payments
-increase payments for outpatient care
-reduce scheduled cut to indirect medical education

Ninth District Congressman cited fiscal discipline and the need to make tough choices in maintaining a balanced budget as the reason for his vote to trim all discretionary spending by 1 percent.

“Fiscal responsibility is not easy,” explained Smith. “This one percent reduction affects programs that are very popular and necessary. However, balancing the budget and being fiscally disciplined is incredibly important to our economic health and people’s trust in government. Congress has to be willing to make the tough choices necessary to be fiscally disciplined.”

Although President Clinton has publicly opposed the 1 percent reduction and all but four House Democrats voted against it, Smith said this was a time for principle to rise above party. “I represent the people of the Ninth District, not the Democratic party,” he said. “Most families and businesses could trim their budgets by one percent for a year, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the federal government to do the same.”

Smith said in a perfect world, an across-the-board cut at the end of the budget process wouldn’t be necessary. “The House leadership has tried to stick to a flawed budget blueprint that relies on budget gimmicks to give the appearance of fiscal restraint,” Smith said. “I would much rather Congress enact a budget that is honest and evaluates programs on their own merit, so that we eliminate wasteful or unnecessary spending and we don’t have to do an across-the-board cut. Unfortunately, that option wasn’t on the table, so I chose to take a small step forward and support the one percent cut to be more fiscally responsible.”

The budget process is far from over. Several more appropriations bills must be enacted to keep the government running before Congress can adjourn for the year. “The next few weeks are critical,” Smith said. “We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball and remind ourselves how important fiscal restraint is. For the first time in a generation, we had a real, non-Social Security surplus of $1 billion in 1999. If we can maintain fiscal discipline and keep the economy strong, we will have another surplus next year and we can start reducing the federal debt.”

Adam Smith (D-WA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) are seeking to speed up the review process of the sale of U.S. high-powered computers.

According to current law, a Congressional review of high-powered computer exports must wait six month. In a letter today to Floyd Spence (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Kennedy and Smith have asked for a 30-day review to streamline the process and maintain U.S. technological leadership and competitiveness in the industry.

“The current six-month lag in our policy is obsolete and puts our computer industry at a clear disadvantage,” said Kennedy. “We must realize that this industry rolls out a new generation personal computer every three months. To delay product delivery may result in irrecoverable market losses for U.S. companies.”

On June 22, 79 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to relax export controls. Recognizing the need to calibrate the policy, the President proposed a revision to U.S. export controls on computers on July 1, 1999.

The President submitted a report to Congress that justifies and spells out the proposed revisions on July 23. Any adjustment of the licensing threshold must wait 180 days before taking effect.

“Changing the review period from six months to one month is not a question of national security; rather, it is about eliminating unnecessary red tape. Right now, Congress spends thirty days to review foreign sales of an F-16 fighter plane, and forty-five days to review an entire military installation closure,” explained Smith. “I think we can determine whether or not we can export a Macintosh PC in thirty days.”

Kennedy and Smith pointed out that as more Members of Congress become aware of the 180 day delays in the export adjustment policy, they will want to see the process streamlined.

Along with Kennedy and Smith, ten of the Democratic colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee signed the leter to Spence and Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO), the Ranking Member of the Committee: Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), John Larson (D-CT), Jim Maloney (D-CT), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Baron Hill (D-IN), Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), and Robert Brady (D-PA).