Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C.House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement ahead of the House vote on the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

“Before my colleagues and I cast our votes on the FY20 NDAA, one thing must be made clear: This is the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.

“After months of hard-fought negotiations, our bill is now final, and contains major wins for Democrats and working people and promotes our national security. Despite this sweeping success, some have decried the bill, saying it fails to live up to progressive values. To those detractors I ask one simple question: Which of the provisions that did not make it into our final bill did President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe not hate?

“From the moment we passed our bill through the House without the support of a single Republican vote, it was clear that our counterparts in the Senate and White House fundamentally opposed the Democratic priorities included in the bill.

“Do you know what they also hated? The repeal of the ‘widow’s tax’ and granting paid parental leave for federal employees. But, because of our tireless work, we succeeded in getting these provisions included. Because of this hard work, our bill will have real impacts on Americans leading real lives.

“Throughout the negotiations I failed in one way: I was unable to turn President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe into Democrats and convince them to suddenly accept all of the provisions they despise. Nonetheless, we have accomplished more with this bill than anyone ever thought possible given the realities of a Trump White House and a Republican-controlled Senate, and we should be proud of that.

“To those who say that this bill isn’t enough – I could not disagree more. When I look at the widows, the parents, and families who will benefit from the bill, it is enough. We are delivering more for families across this country than anyone even conceived of going into this year. 

“To those who say that we should have ‘fought harder’ or ‘held the line’ – I can assure you we fought the entire time until the very end. President Trump, Leader McConnell, and Chairman Inhofe would have killed the bill over these provisions. If we kill the bill, we would have gotten nothing. Not a single Democratic priority.

“Leader McConnell and Chairman Inhofe would have been thrilled to pass a ‘skinny NDAA’ with zero Democratic priorities. That alternative bill would have none of the key policies we fought so hard for – no paid parental leave, no “widow’s tax” repeal, and nothing to address PFAS. 

“That is why I so am proud of this bill – because of everything that is contained in its 1,249 individual provisions and more than 4,000 pages. I am proud that this bill will change the lives of millions by providing paid parental leave. I am proud that this bill will better provide for the widows and families of those service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. And I am proud that this bill reflects Democratic priorities and American values.

“And make no mistake about it, I will continue to fight for the provisions we did not get, hopefully at some point with a Senate and President who better reflect the values of our country. I know how important these provisions are.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) released the following statement today following the introduction of the Safety Net Health Plan Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Fairness Act. This legislation would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and expand access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness to employees working for certain safety net health plans.

Currently, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives remaining federal loan balances after a borrower performs 10 years of work for qualifying public service employers and makes 120 months of qualifying payments. Recently, the DOE has begun more narrowly defining what employers qualify as “qualifying public service organizations.” As a result, some borrowers who were formerly making qualifying payments under the program are being denied, despite working for employers that formerly qualified as PSLF-eligible employers. Included among those impacted are employees for certain safety net health plans.

“Safety net health plans provide access to quality Medicaid, Medicare, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, and employees of these government and non-profit health plans deserve access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF),” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “The Department of Education’s recent decision to rescind some of these employers’ eligibility for the PSLF program has resulted in employees having the rug pulled out from under them.”

“These plans exist entirely to support recipients of federal safety net health care programs, and employees who work for them should continue to qualify for the PSLF program,” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “This bill would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the PSLF Program and expand access for employees working for 501(c)4 safety net health plans while retroactively ensuring current borrowers who were denied loan forgiveness or qualifying payments are able to obtain credit for payments they already made.”

Organizations such as the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and the Community Health Plan of Washington have echoed these sentiments and showed their support:

“Congress has long recognized that safety net health plans serve a unique role in America’s health care system,” said Meg Murray, CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans. “This legislation furthers that commitment by recognizing what ACAP and our members have long known – that we could not serve our 20 million plan enrollees without the dedication of staff committed to our mission. We appreciate Reps. Schrier and Smith’s strong support of the people who make SNHPs so successful.”

“Student debt is a significant economic and social burden many individuals face and can further deter people interested in pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector,” said Leanne Berge, CEO of Community Health Plan of Washington. “In addition, it is no surprise low-income students and people of color are disproportionately burdened by debt which further contributes to the systemic and racial inequities present in society. As a local not for profit safety net health plan providing high quality care to the most vulnerable, it is vital we provide opportunities to help ease loan burden for employees dedicated to working in the nonprofit sector and making contributions to their communities. This bill is a huge step in increasing access, removing burden and working towards equity.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement in reaction in the wake of President Trump’s recent intervention in the Military Justice process, and the firing of Richard Spencer, the Secretary of the Navy:

“While the President has the authority to pardon a United States citizen, including members of the military, I urge extreme caution in using this authority, especially when the individual has been convicted through the extensive military justice process. A process, which includes appeals, and that has been upheld over the last five decades. The President certainly should not be trying to influence the outcome of this process or pardoning service members before the process is complete – doing so has the potential to seriously damage cohesiveness and discipline in the military. If a member of the armed services believes they don’t have to listen to their immediate superior because they can simply go over their head to the President and pundits on Fox News in order to get out of trouble, that is hugely problematic.

“The military services have the authority to administratively police standards, including the removal of honors like the coveted Trident badge earned by Navy Seals when they do not uphold the high standard and morals required. The President should not involve himself in these administrative procedures.

“Ultimately this is about maintaining the chain of command and good order and discipline. Both the chain of command and the military justice system are critical components of a fully functioning military. While the President sits atop that chain of command, he must also respect the leadership of those serving below him. When he uses his authority to override the military justice system, he is effectively undermining the chain of command, and that must stop.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act. This legislation would establish a new competitive grant program under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), dedicated exclusively to providing support services for individuals receiving workforce training and education.

Barriers to receiving an education or obtaining the skills needed to succeed are insurmountable for far too many individuals in this economy. Career and technical education and workforce training services provide opportunities for individuals to enter the workforce and are critical to addressing our nation’s skills gap. The financial burden often goes beyond just the costs of tuition. Reducing the barriers that individuals face to obtain training and education will help ready our workforce for in-demand, well-paid jobs.

“With persistent inequities in our society and an evolving economy, we must do more to help people obtain the education and skills they need to succeed. The Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act will provide wraparound services that are needed to help individuals complete education and training programs for in-demand jobs in our economy,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Equal opportunity for all is only possible when every person in our country can access programs leading to high-quality and good-paying jobs.”

“This is crucial legislation to serve our workforce and support the economic and civic drivers in our communities.  Not only will these funds assist in defraying challenges of housing, transportation and childcare, but will also connect students to health care, legal aid, and other community services,” said Renton Technical College President Kevin McCarthy. “Students benefiting from these services are much more likely to complete the training for which they are well qualified and passionate.”

“Education and training outcomes increase exponentially when students also have access to wrap around supports that help provide a stable foundation to focus on learning. These support services are exactly the critical needs for many of our students along their career pathway to living-wage jobs,” said Veronica Wade, Executive Dean of Professional Technical and Workforce Education, South Seattle College.

“Every day, working people, students, and families are looking for opportunities to get ahead but too few workers can access the skills, training and education necessary to access good jobs,” said Katie Spiker, Director of Government Affairs of National Skills Coalition. “Support services like childcare, transportation and career counseling are critical to workers’ ability to access and succeed in skills training programs that lead to jobs at the backbone of America’s economy.”

“As a service provider, it is crushing to see these same young people be pushed out of the programs that are set up to help them, said Kathryn Peterson, Program Manager at YouthCare. “Fortunately, these barriers, so often, can be easily remedied with just a little support from a service provider that actually has the funds allocated to specifically identify, and address, critical barriers to engagement that are outside of the typically funded services of transportation and identification support.”

“WIOA provides many opportunities to help job seekers advance their careers and achieve economic stability. This bill builds on the success of WIOA by establishing a new supportive services fund that will enable more participants to get the resources they need to complete their education and training. We applaud Representative Smith for introducing this important legislation,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of CLASP.

Through the Empowering Individuals to Succeed Through Education and Workforce Training Act, local and state workforce development boards would use grants to build partnerships with WIOA-supported programs and expand the capacity to help individuals receive support services including assistance with transportation, childcare or dependent care, and housing; referrals to health care services; legal aid services; and others. Individuals participating in a wide range of WIOA training and education programs would be eligible to receive support under the grant, such as skills upgrading and retraining, apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, adult education and literacy activities, and occupational skills training.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today issued the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s announcement that it will no longer consider Israeli settlements to be inconsistent with international law:

“The decision by Secretary Pompeo and the Trump Administration is misguided and paves the way for further Israeli settlement expansion. Continuing down the path of expanded settlements undermines the viability of a Palestinian state and makes a two-state solution even more difficult. Without durable states for both the Israeli and Palestinian people, the region will continue to face the violence and instability it has suffered for generations.   

"This is just the latest in a series of actions by the Trump Administration that have damaged U.S. credibility in pushing for a comprehensive peace agreement. The U.S. should focus on taking actions that safeguard Israel’s security, enhance stability in the region, and advance the prospects for a two-state solution. This decision runs counter to those objectives.”

###