Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), made the following statement today in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, which is celebrated during the month of June:

“This year, we commemorate LGBT Pride Month at a critical time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have made incredible progress in the fight for marriage equality, protection of bullied teens, serving in the Armed Forces openly and honestly, and the prosecution of bias-based crimes.  This June we should celebrate this progress and how the LGBT community adds to the rich diversity of our country, but we should also recognize that there is a lot of work that remains to be done to ensure that all LGBT Americans are equal under the law.  Millions of LGBT people can still be denied work simply based on who they are and the federal government still cannot recognize marriages for same-sex couples.  No one should be denied equal rights because of who they love, and I will continue to do all I can in Congress to make sure this equality becomes a reality.”

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Congressman Adam Smith has reintroduced legislation that would address the wasteful, environmentally damaging, and economically inefficient federal grazing policy on our public lands.  H.R. 2201, the Rural Economic Vitalization Act, would change federal law to allow ranchers with grazing permits to voluntarily relinquish their permits to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for private market compensation.  It would further allow the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to permanently retire the grazing permit.  

“The current federal grazing program is among the most economically inefficient uses of our public lands,” said Congressman Smith.  “This legislation opens the door for private solutions to a long-standing problem that costs taxpayers millions and has prevented public land ranchers from efficiently utilizing resources available to them.”

Current law does not allow for the retirement of grazing permits.  This not only is to the detriment of wildlife, watersheds, and the surrounding ecosystem, which continue to be harmed by domestic livestock grazing, but also to federal taxpayer dollars wastefully spent to continue an antiquated grazing policy  on public lands.  

“Grazing is an important use of our public lands, but it's a very impactful use", said Rep. Raul Grijalva, who joined Congressman Smith in introducing the legislation. "Excessive grazing impacts wildlife habitat, soil composition, local hydrology, and even heightens the impacts of climate change. Retiring some permits will help save taxpayer money and benefit federal conservation efforts. Right now, when we are looking for ways to save taxpayer money, REVA is a win-win. Ranchers that want to retire their permits should have that opportunity."

“Many permit holders would choose to retire their grazing permit if they could recoup their investment from private funds,” Smith said.  “By providing federal grazing permit holders the freedom to exchange permits for market value compensation, this legislation would spur private investment, provide ranchers with the opportunity to pursue new business ventures or retire with more security, and protect public lands from the damaging environmental effects of livestock grazing.”

In addition to the environmental damage, the federal grazing program is heavily subsidized and costs American taxpayers over $115 million a year.  The Government Accountability Office reported that the BLM and Forest Service spend over $132 million a year on managing the grazing lands, yet they only collect $17 million a year in fees.  

“At a time when the federal government is looking for ways to cut outdated programs and become more efficient, this bill eliminates wasteful spending and saves taxpayer dollars,” continued Smith.  “This legislation is a win for all involved.  The American taxpayer saves money, ranchers have a choice to retire their permits for market compensation, and public lands are given the opportunity to rebuild their natural habitats, native plants, and wildlife.”

For more information, view the Rural Economic Vitalization Act fact sheet.  

Congressman Smith released the following statement in recognition of Memorial Day:

“On Memorial Day, we honor the men, women, and families of the United States military who every day protect our nation.  Whether it be emergency relief, security efforts, or development operations across the world, our servicemembers are always courageous, professional, and committed to represent this country in the best way possible.  Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to honor the memory of those who have fallen and extend our thanks to all members of our Armed Services who help keep our country free and prosperous.

“It is absolutely critical that the government and the Congress remain committed to members of the Armed Forces while they serve and when they come home.  We need to make sure returning veterans are given the opportunities and guidance to translate their skills to civilian jobs and businesses.  We also need to continue to work to reduce the thousands of backlogged VA claims and ensure that every veteran receives the support and care they need and were promised.

“As we honor and thank the men and women of our Armed Forces, both past and present, let us show our gratitude by continuing to work to make sure all active duty military and veterans receive the support and services that they deserve.”

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Congress must take action soon to stop Stafford student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1st.  However, the legislation passed by the House of Representatives today is projected to more than double the current 3.4 percent interest rates.  The Republican bill would link federal student loan interest rates to the variable rate changes of a 10 year Treasury note, a baseline for general interest rates, which the Congressional Budget Office projects will increase and in effect raise student  interest rates to 7.4% by 2017.  Congressman Smith released the following statement after he opposed this legislation:

“It is critical for the fiscal health of our country to reduce the deficit, but we cannot do so at the expense of aspiring college graduates,” Smith said. “College is already too expensive with high interest private loans and the ever increasing cost of tuition.  Congress should be helping hard-working families and students afford a college education, not  making it more difficult by potentially doubling student interest rates with this type of legislation."

There was an amendment offered by Representative Courtney that would have extended the 3.4 percent student interest rates for another 2 years.  Congressman Smith supported this amendment, but it was not considered on the House floor.  

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The Air Force is expected to announce later today that Fairchild Air Force Base (AFB) in Washington State was not selected as the preferred site for the first Main Operating Base for the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker.  House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (WA-09) released the following statement regarding the expected announcement:
 
“I respect and appreciate how the Air Force has conducted this process, but  it is disappointing that Fairchild Air Force Base was not chosen as the Air Force’s preferred host for KC-46A,” Smith said. “I still believe that Fairchild’s capacity and accommodations for the tanker, strategic location, tremendous community support, and proven track record of serving our nation’s aerial refueling effort with the KC-135 make the base an ideal home for the next generation of tankers.  The Washington Congressional delegation has and will continue to work together to promote Fairchild’s capacity to host future tankers.”
 
On three occasions throughout the basing decision process, Congressman Smith signed a letter with local Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and the rest of the Washington State Congressional Delegation to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, encouraging the Air Force to base KC-46A at Fairchild. The letters detailed Fairchild’s capacity to accommodate the tanker and its success with previous aerial refueling efforts.  The Air Force conducted site surveys of 54 candidate installations before the announcement of the preferred basing decision today. Out of the 54 bases that were surveyed through this process, Fairchild will be named one of only two reasonable alternatives.  McConnell AFB will be selected as the preferred first Main Operating Base.  The Air Force must now conduct the necessary environmental analysis before making a final basing decision in Spring 2014.

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