Christopher Henry "Chris" Smith (born March 4, 1953) is the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 4th congressional district, serving since 1981. He is a member of the Republican Party. The district is based in Trenton and includes large portions of central New Jersey. He is currently the dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation.
Early life, education, and early career
Smith grew up in Iselin, New Jersey, worked in his family's sporting goods business, and earned the Eagle Scout award. After graduating with a B.A.
from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) in 1975, became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee in 1976. Originally a Democrat, he switched parties and became a Republican in 1978.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1978, Smith, at 25 years old and working in a sporting goods store owned by his family, ran for Congress as a Republican. He was defeated by longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Congressman Frank Thompson 61%-37%.
In 1980, he ran again for a rematch. Initially, Smith was thought to have little chance against Thompson, but Thompson was indicted as part of the FBI's Abscam probe. Helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district, Smith defeated Thompson 57%-41%. The longtime incumbent Democrat dropped 16 points in the rematch.
In 1982, Smith faced a difficult race for re-election. He faced Democrat and former New Jersey Senate President Joseph P.
Merlino. At the end of one of their debates, Smith approached Merlino to exchange pleasantries. Merlino was quoted as saying "Beat it, kid." Smith won the election with 53% of the vote. Since then, Smith has always won re-election with at least 61% of the vote.
Even in a political climate hostile to Republicans across the nation in 2006, Smith won re-election with 66% of the vote, the highest percentage for any Republican in the New Jersey delegation.
Smith faced a challenge from Democrat Joshua M. Zeitz in 2008.
Although Zeitz raised far more money than any of Smith's previous opponents. Despite the very difficult political climate for Republicans, Smith won re-election 66%-32%. McCain won the district by a narrower margin as the 4th CD was one of only three he won in the state.
Smith is very socially conservative, but when it comes to fiscal issues he is a bit more of a moderate. In 2008 he received a 28 from American Conservative Union. Unlike most Republicans, Smith has strong ties to organized labor, and opposed many of Reagan's cuts to social programs in the 1980s.
He also has a reputation for strong constituent service. These factors have helped him hold onto the 4th despite its slight Democratic lean.
Smith is very active in several healthcare issues, serving as co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Alzheimer's Task Force, Coalition for Autism Research and Education, and Congressional Spina Bifida Caucus.
In September 2001, the anthrax letters sent to New York and Washington, D.C. passed through the post office sorting facility in Hamilton Township, just east of Trenton. The facility was closed and some 800,000 pieces of mail delayed. Smith introduced a bill to waive financial penalties for people whose mail was delayed; the banking industry agreed to do that voluntarily.
Smith has worked to raise New Jersey Medicare reimbursement rates to New York City levels and to get funding for Project Polaris, a New York-New Jersey group combating sex trafficking. He voted to postpone the 2005 base closing round by two years. For over ten years he has worked to bring in $50 million for the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst. The station, which designs and builds aircraft carrier catapults and arresting gear, was slated to remain open when the Pentagon released its base closing recommendations in May 2005, though it was to lose 186 jobs.
Smith declined to be interviewed for the Better Know A District segment of the Comedy Central channel's Colbert Report. Gay accepted an offer to replace him, and appeared an episode that first aired on October 12, 2006.
His belief in a "right to life" has also led Smith to oppose both capital punishment and embryonic stem cell research. On the issue of stem cell research, Smith has actively worked to increase research into non-embryonic stem cells. Smith's "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005", which provides $265 million for stem cell therapy, umbilical cord blood and bone marrow treatment was signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2005.
In July 2006, Smith voted to uphold President Bush's veto of legislation that promoted embryonic stem cell research and called for increased investment for cord blood and bone marrow stem cell research.
In 2005, Smith was appointed chairman of the House International Relations Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee. Smith also is vice-chairman of the Committee on International Relations and as of 2011 became Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the United States Helsinki Commission), which works to promote and foster democracy, human rights, and stability in Eastern and Central Europe.
Since being elected to Congress, Smith has also played a key role over the years promoting human rights reforms in the former Soviet Union, Romania, Vietnam, China, Sudan, Cuba, and elsewhere. He wrote the provision of the law that barred the Royal Ulster Constabulary (as the Police Service of Northern Ireland was formerly known) from training in the United States with U.S. law enforcement personnel until it was certified that the police met stringent human rights standards. That certification was issued in December 2001 by President George W. Bush.
One of Smith’s significant legislative achievements is his landmark Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Law, the nations' first law that deals specifically with human trafficking. This law provided government prosecutors with the resources needed to prosecute offenders as well as resources to help victims rebuild their lives.
Smith began investigating and working to end the human trafficking epidemic in the mid-1990s. Trafficking is a $9 billion industry, the third largest source of income for organized crime and the second fastest growing criminal activity in the world, equal with illegal arms sales.
In 2003, a second Smith trafficking law—the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act—took effect and further strengthened his original law. Smith’s original trafficking law also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, the most significant law to help protect women who are victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Like the trafficking component, the VAWA reauthorization works to ensure prosecution of offenders and help the victims recover.
In January 2006, President George W. Bush signed Smith’s third trafficking law—the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005, which strengthens the nation’s current trafficking law (which he also authored in 2000), authorizes new funds for investigation and prosecution of domestic trafficking within the United States and to helps the young women and children who are most often the victims of human trafficking operations.
Smith has strongly criticized China for its forced sterilizations and abortions and its persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, and opposed normal trade relations with China. In July 2003, after a provision for $50 million for the United Nations Population Fund passed by one vote in committee, he led the fight against it and it was defeated on the floor 216–211.
Smith has condemned Russia for barring entry of foreign Roman Catholic priests and the Saudis for treating foreign servants as slaves. In 2000 he had the signal success of pushing to passage a bill combating sex trafficking around the world, including a provision opposed by the Clinton administration requiring yearly reports on each nation's record; Clinton signed it anyway. In 2003, he worked to extend it to 2005. Smith has also taken action on the subject—when he heard about Ukrainian girls being held against their will in brothels in Montenegro, he called the Montenegrin prime minister, who ordered a raid on the operation.
Smith has also been a strong supporter of issues of importance to Armenian Americans including U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
In 2003 he successfully sponsored a law providing $81 million for centers in the U.S. and abroad to counsel victims of torture. In July 2004 the House passed 323–45 his bill to bar increased aid to Vietnam unless the administration finds substantial progress toward releasing political prisoners and fostering religious freedom and democratic government.
Smith's moral views have led him to take stands unusual for a Republican on domestic issues. In July 2003 he cast a critical vote in committee for Henry Waxman's resolution of approval for future global climate change agreements. In October 2004, he voted against James Sensenbrenner's amendment broadening the category of illegal immigrants subject to immediate deportation.
Smith was a staunch supporter of David Goldman, a New Jersey resident; during the Goldman child abduction case, traveling with him to Brazil, advocating for him in Congress and writing H.R. 2702 to suspend Brazil's Generalized System of Preferences trading benefit, as well as H.R. 3240 the "International Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2009" He has subsequently spoken several times on international child abduction generally and on International child abduction in Japan specifically.
In January 2001, Smith became chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and there pushed for policies opposed by the Republican leadership—which resulted in his losing the chairmanship in January 2005, two years short of the normal six-year term. In his four years, Smith's committee passed veterans bills that increased Veterans Affairs disability payments by $2.5 billion, increased G.I. Bill of Rights spending 46%, authorized $1 billion in aid to homeless veterans, and added $100 million in health care benefits for surviving spouses of veterans. Smith's 2004 bill increased from 18 to 24 months the coverage of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, set up a pilot program for recruitment of nurses, and authorized a new research center of veterans with multi-trauma combat injuries.
Veterans Laws Authored by Smith include one providing a record 46 percent increase in the GI Bill, which helps veterans pay for college. The increase is the largest ever since the GI Bill went into effect following World War II.
Smith also wrote the nation's first law that addresses and combats the plague of chronic homelessness among veterans. The Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act authorizes $1 billion in programs to help veterans find and retain jobs and provides them with housing, counseling, and medical care they need to rebuild their lives.
For three years, the Appropriations Committee explicitly forbade spending on Smith's four research centers to develop responses to chemical, biological and radiological attacks. In early 2003, Smith called for making veterans benefits an entitlement—mandatory spending that would not have to go through Appropriations. GOP leadership opposed and there were threats he'd lose the chair. In 2003, he voted for the Republican budget resolution that included a $1.8 billion increase in veterans spending, but in July 2003, appropriators did not include the money; Smith opposed that but disappointed Democrats by not voting against the vote sending the measure to the floor.
In 2004, Smith voted against the Republican and for the Democratic budget resolution because the latter included more spending on veterans programs. Over the last 30 years, in both Republican and Democratic-controlled Houses, the majority party leadership expects committee chairs to vote for the party's budget resolution. In this case, it did not help that Smith ranked eighth lowest among House Republicans in party-line voting (though that was still 81%).
Smith did not expect a challenge for the chair when Congress convened in 2005. But Steve Buyer, the fourth ranking Republican on the committee, asked for an interview with the Republican Steering Committee, and on January 5, 2005, it voted to make him chairman. That decision was ratified by the Republican Conference on January 6—Smith was off the committee altogether. He was obviously disappointed. "I don't look at power as something to hold. I see the power of the gavel as a strategic opportunity to do good, to use it in every way to help veterans," he said in his speech to the Conference. New Jersey Republicans expressed dismay, and New Jersey Democrats and the leaders of just about every veterans group expressed outrage.
Smith maintains an apartment in Hamilton Township as his official residence, where he votes, pays taxes and has his car registered. He also maintains a residence in Herndon, Virginia where he had purchased a home after winning a second term in office to be closer to Washington, D.C., a move that he described as part of an effort to "fight for my constituents and make a difference in Washington."
December 13th, 2011