Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C.Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement today upon the conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial against President Donald Trump:

“Today, the Senate voted to acquit President Trump despite his blatant and unprecedented abuses of the power of the presidency.

“It is crucial that Congress remains committed to the rule of law and holding President Trump—and all presidents who follow him—accountable. We must uphold the ideals of our founders and maintain our commitment to the constitution when our democratic resilience is tested.

“The House of Representatives did its job and laid out a clear and strong case for the President’s removal from office. The Senators who voted to acquit sent a message to the President that he is accountable to no one. President Trump abused his office to undermine our elections and jeopardize our national security, setting a dangerous precedent for our democracy.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Led by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), the Washington Democratic congressional delegation, including U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th), Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), and Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th) sent a letter to Secretary Carson concerning HUD’s current practice of issuing unpredictable Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) for the Mainstream Voucher Program.

The Mainstream Voucher Program provides critical housing support for individuals and families with disabilities. Efficient awarding of Mainstream Vouchers is crucial to ensuring that Washington Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) can most effectively respond to the affordable housing needs of Washington communities. However, PHAs are hindered from fully serving these families and individuals due to HUD’s current practice of issuing unpredictable and piecemeal NOFAs despite a significant increase in funding for new vouchers over the last several years.

“People with disabilities and their families deserve the stability and housing support that Mainstream Vouchers provide. The PHAs in our districts rely on these funds to support families and individuals who are transitioning out of, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness or institutionalization,” said the Washington Democratic congressional delegation.

“Washington state has the fifth highest rate of homelessness in the nation, due in major part to the high cost of rent, and these vouchers are a lifesaving homelessness prevention tool. HUD must provide answers and a plan for issuing the remaining funding for the Mainstream Voucher Program so that PHAs and Washingtonians are not left out to dry.”

Full letter here and below:

Dear Secretary Carson,

We write concerning the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) process of allocating Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Vouchers (Mainstream Voucher Program) over the last two years.

The Mainstream Voucher Program provides critical housing support for individuals and families with disabilities. The Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) in our districts rely on these funds to support families and individuals who are transitioning out of, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness or institutionalization. Washington state has the fifth highest rate of homelessness in the nation, due in major part to the high cost of rent and these vouchers are a lifesaving homelessness prevention tool. However, our PHAs are hindered from fully serving these families and individuals due to HUD’s current practice of issuing unpredictable and piecemeal Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs). HUD’s current process prevents our PHAs from adequately adjusting operations and staff in order to expediently lease awarded vouchers.

In Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), HUD received $505 million for the Mainstream Voucher Program—a $385 million increase over FY17 for new vouchers. Despite this increase in funding, it is our understanding that HUD has not allocated additional vouchers in a timely fashion and has posted multiple NOFAs throughout the year. This piecemeal approach to issuing NOFAs is burdensome for PHAs, particularly smaller PHAs with limited resources. One alternative to multiple NOFAs suggested by local PHA staff is for HUD to issue one large NOFA with a process to release additional vouchers to awarded agencies in a staggered fashion as PHAs are successful in leasing them up.

In light of the above concerns expressed to us by local PHAs, we respectfully request your response to the following questions regarding HUD’s future plans for issuing Mainstream Vouchers:

  • What is HUD’s plan for issuing Mainstream Voucher Program NOFAs for the remaining funding appropriated through FY19?  The next NOFA is scheduled for Spring 2020. Will this NOFA include all funds appropriated through 2019? If not, why?
  • Why has HUD not issued NOFAs for the full amount of funding appropriated by Congress for FY18 and FY19 for the Mainstream Voucher Program? What is the purpose of issuing multiple NOFAs?
  • Given that Congress approved $229 million for the Mainstream Voucher Program for FY20, what is HUD’s plan for expeditiously awarding these funds to PHAs?
  • Has HUD considered awarding larger numbers of vouchers while phasing actual issuance dates to enable PHAs to be more strategic in ramping up operations? If not, why not?

People with disabilities and their families deserve the stability that Mainstream Vouchers provide. Efficient awarding of Mainstream Vouchers is crucial to ensuring that PHAs can most efficiently respond to the affordable housing needs of Washington communities. We appreciate your attention to this request and look forward to receiving your response.

Sincerely,

Adam Smith
Member of Congress 

Pramila Jayapal
Member of Congress

Derek Kilmer
Member of Congress 

Kim Schrier, M.D 
Member of Congress

Rick Larsen
Member of Congress

Suzan DelBene
Member of Congress

Denny Heck
Member of Congress 

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WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act, legislation to reduce conflicts on federal public lands and increase flexibility for federal grazing permittees.

Livestock grazing on federal public lands can lead to conflicts with other multiple uses that can have impacts on wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. In many cases, simply removing livestock is the best solution to reduce or resolve these conflicts. However, current law and regulations either do not allow for the retirement of grazing permits or make the process unnecessarily difficult and uncertain.

The voluntary retirement of grazing permits authorized by the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (VGPRA) is the most cost-effective and equitable way to address this issue. It would provide grazing permit holders the option to voluntarily waive their permits to graze on federal lands in exchange for market value compensation paid by private parties. The federal agency would then be directed to retire the associated grazing allotment from further grazing activity.

“This is a common-sense solution to provide for smarter management of our public lands to the benefit of the environment, wildlife, and ranchers,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Voluntary grazing permit retirement has proven to be an effective mechanism for reducing conflicts on public lands. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act will ensure this option is available to ranchers across all the Western states.”

Statements of Support

The VGPRA is endorsed by numerous leading environmental, conservation, and wildlife organizations including: Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society Legislative Fund, American Bird Conservancy, Animal Welfare Institute, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center For Biological Diversity, Wilderness Watch, Humane Society of the United States, The Lands Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Predator Defense, Western Watersheds Project, Kettle Range Conservation, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Sierra Club

Grazing of private livestock on public lands sometimes creates conditions and conflicts that can only be resolved by removal of the livestock. Existing policies make livestock removal extremely difficult. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act (VGPRA) creates a proven, effective, free market-based mechanism to resolve problems when conservation goals and livestock production dynamics clash on our public lands. It is a win-win solution when willing ranchers and private conservation dollars come together to allow permanent grazing retirement. Salmon, sage grouse, wolves, recreationists, ranchers, taxpayers and many more will benefit from the passage of this simple bill that allows for a permanent, common-sense solution to some of the thorniest challenges of our times. The Sierra Club enthusiastically supports Representative Smith's forward-looking approach to public lands management.

Natural Resources Defense Council

The Natural Resources Defense Council believes this legislation has huge upside by eliminating a gaping management hole that has existed for decades, a deficit that has restricted the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service from working with stakeholders and ranchers to more efficiently manage hundreds of millions of acres of public lands.  By providing additional tools for federal land managers, the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act unlocks opportunities to achieve credible and consensus driven conservation gains that are not currently possible.

Defenders of Wildlife

Voluntary grazing permit retirement has repeatedly proven successful at resolving management conflicts on public lands.  The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is a win-win-win for interested grazing permittees, conservation and our public lands.

The Humane Society of the United States

Giving ranchers the opportunity to voluntarily retire some federal public lands from livestock grazing will benefit myriad wildlife species, including grizzly bears, wolves, prairie dogs and wild horses. It will also reduce conflicts between wildlife and livestock. Rep. Adam Smith’s proposal to expand the voluntary grazing permit retirement program to all federal lands managed by the Agriculture and Interior departments in 16 western states is not just smart, it’s fair to all stakeholders.

American Bird Conservancy

The voluntary program established by Rep. Smith’s bill provides a smart solution that can benefit both bird conservation, and ranchers who seek to retire their allotments.  The recent Bird Crisis study showing a loss of three billion birds shows that we need to be doing more, this bill is a good idea that deserves to become law, we strongly support it.

Animal Welfare Institute

Voluntary grazing permit retirement is a straightforward way to eliminate wildlife-livestock and recreation conflicts on public lands. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act is an important step in implementing a long overdue solution to this ongoing problem.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness

As we experience an era of increasing drought on many western public lands, it’s an important time to reconsider the unintended impacts of public land grazing and provide options to benefit ranchers, taxpayers, and public lands. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act provides a common-sense option that is good for ranchers who willingly choose to retire their grazing permits, just as it benefits American taxpayers and the long-term health of our public lands.

Center For Biological Diversity

This is a common-sense solution that benefits livestock operators and wildlife.  It will help restore the landscape and allow native wildlife to thrive while helping livestock operators ease out of federal grazing. Habitat restoration is a bipartisan issue, so legislators on both sides of the aisle should embrace this legislation.

Wilderness Watch

The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act can go a long way in resolving the inherent conflict with livestock grazing in our nation’s designated Wildernesses.  It deserves the support of all public officials and citizens who believe in truly wild and natural ecosystems and the opportunity to experience and benefit from them.

The Lands Council

Grazing reform is critically important in preservation of our public lands.  We support Representative Smith’s Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act, it encourages voluntary action and uses administrative measures for mitigating damage and conserving remaining biodiversity on our treasured public lands.  

Humane Society Legislative Fund

Ranchers who own public lands grazing permits own a valuable asset. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act will enable these private landowners to realize the capital of their allotments, increasing their choices for managing their land particularly in the face of agricultural market fluctuations. The legislation will also benefit wild animals by restoring ecological functioning in range habitats. We applaud Rep. Adam Smith for championing this innovative, win-win bill.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Empowering permit-holders to easily retire grazing permits they no longer want will help land management agencies better care for and restore sensitive ecosystems across the West. Treasured national icons, such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, have seen difficult-to-resolve conflict over grazing that could be solved through this win-win system, and we commend Rep. Smith for his solutions-oriented approach.  

Grand Canyon Trust

Voluntary grazing permit retirement provides ranchers the freedom to choose a path that suits their families, conservationists a way to protect important landscapes, and federal land managers a strategy to uphold their legal and ethical mandates. The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act provides a framework within which grazing permittees, conservation organizations, and the federal government can pursue those common goals for our public lands.

Predator Defense

Predator Defense enthusiastically supports the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act. Grazing permit retirement is a "win win" solution for conflicts between native predators and livestock producers. By retiring grazing allotments, native predators will have "safe" landscapes to live out their lives without fear of shooting, trapping, and poisoning. 

Western Watersheds Project

Voluntary grazing permit retirement is a terrific opportunity to resolve conflicts on public lands that benefits native fish, wildlife and the habitats they depend on.  It is a win-win for the environment and for ranchers looking to transition away from public lands grazing.  We are very grateful to Rep. Smith for introducing this common sense, solution oriented legislation. 

Kettle Range Conservation

Northeast Washington-area ranchers will be well served by this legislation because it will provide them more flexibility in managing their livestock allotment permits.   The public interest will be better served by use of conservation measures that protect critical fish & wildlife habitat and high-use recreation areas.

Oregon Natural Desert Association

Voluntary grazing permit retirement is an effective tool for resolving resource conflict on public lands.

The Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act provides a common-sense framework that will assist in realizing commonly held conservation and restoration goals across the West.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Adam Smith today released the following statement in honor of National Mentoring Month:

“Mentoring programs play a crucial role in supporting positive outcomes for youth, providing valuable experience in the field, and building supportive relationships that carry on throughout their careers. Programs like these foster new ideas about policies that can expand access to quality mentoring for young people and Congress should continue to increase support for the critical work they do every day.

“One of these programs in Washington’s Ninth District is the Bright Future program—a mentor program established through a partnership between the Washington State Auto Dealers Association, Toyota of Renton owned by the O’Brien Auto Group, Walker’s Subaru/Mazda, Renton School District, Communities in Schools of Renton and Mentoring Works Washington. The program pairs youth from Renton School District with mentors and provides a paid position at a local new car and truck dealership where they participate in a collaborative learning and career exploration experience. This initiative embodies the important aspects of these mentoring programs, giving at-risk youth the opportunity to gain relevant work skills and guidance they need to succeed. The exposure and hands-on experience they gain is invaluable for those in the program and ultimately strengthens the workforce in the district and beyond.

“In honor of National Mentoring Month, I’m a proud co-sponsor of the National Mentoring Month resolution. My staff was pleased to meet with representatives from MENTOR Washington, who shared about their work to provide positive and supportive role models for young people across the state of Washington.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement upon voting for H. J. Res. 76, blocking the DeVos rule that denies debt relief to students defrauded by predatory colleges.

“Students defrauded by predatory, for-profit colleges are often left with devastating amounts of debt for useless degrees and none of the job opportunities they were promised. The 2016 borrower defense rule held these institutions accountable and created a streamlined process to help defrauded borrowers access the relief they desperately need.”

“Secretary DeVos’ new borrower defense rule created a complex process that makes it extremely difficult for defrauded borrowers to seek relief, all while weakening taxpayer protections and letting failed for-profit colleges off the hook.

“Secretary DeVos should be focused on supporting students and taxpayers, not rewarding failed fraudulent institutions. I am proud to support this resolution to restore the 2016 rule, and provide adequate protection and relief for current and future student borrowers.”

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