Christopher H. Smith (born March 4, 1953 in Rahway, New Jersey) is a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for the 4th District of New Jersey.
Christopher Smith, a youthful-looking Republican, was first elected in 1980. Smith grew up in the Trenton area, worked in his family's sporting goods business, and after graduating from Trenton State University (now The College of New Jersey) became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee in 1976. In 1980 he ran for the House in a more Trenton-centered 4th District and beat 26-year incumbent Frank Thompson, a convicted Abscam defendant. A fluke, it seemed, but Smith proceeded to beat several additional serious Democrats, winning more than 60ach time.
On abortion, Smith has worked to stop abortions in military hospitals. He has also worked to reinstate the Reagan-era restrictions that would deny federal funds to family planning organizations that promote abortions abroad. The ensuing struggle lasted more than two years, with Smith leveraging his opposition to the family planning money to prevent passage of the Clinton administration's high-priority efforts to reorganize the State Department, pay U.S. dues to the United Nations and provide $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund. Smith finally was forced to yield in 1998 and 1999 omnibus spending bills, but he won in return White House agreement to restrict support for international abortion advocacy--which angered some Clinton loyalists. George W. Bush restored the family-planning restrictions in an executive order in his first full day in office. Smith also was a prime mover of legislation to ban partial-birth abortions; the House voted to override Clinton's vetoes, but Smith's side fell a few votes short of the two-thirds needed in the Senate.
Smith has fought not only Democrats but the House Republican leadership on the abortion issue. In July 2002 the bankruptcy bill, strongly backed by the leadership, came out of conference committee; the House had passed it 306-108 in March 2001. But it contained a provision, negotiated by Senator Charles Schumer and longtime abortion opponent Henry Hyde, providing that court judgments or fines could not be wiped out in bankruptcy: Schumer inserted this as a favor to abortion rights groups, after some abortion protesters declared bankruptcy to avoid paying fines. Smith and Joe Pitts led a group of abortion opponents and said they would vote against the bill unless the provision was removed. In November the leadership brought forward the rule to vote on the bill and Speaker Dennis Hastert took the unusual step of voting for it himself (the speaker usually does not vote). Smith and Pitts stood their ground despite furious efforts by Whip Tom DeLay, and the rule went down 243-172, with 87 Republicans voting against. It was only the second rule defeated during Hastert's first four years as speaker, and Hastert called Smith into his office to scold him in January 2003. Smith won a victory in 2004 when a provision stating that state and local governments could not force hospitals and care providers to perform abortions was put in the omnibus appropriation. But his Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, requiring doctors to inform pregnant women that some experts say fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks, went nowhere.
His belief in a right to life has also led Smith to oppose both capital punishment and embryonic stem cell research. In 2002 he sponsored a bill providing $30 million for research into non-embryonic stem cells. At a time when few lawmakers were focusing on events overseas, Smith worked on problems that bring him little reward at home. As chairman of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee, Smith 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. Smith has opposed China's one-child policy. "After 25 years of coercive central family planning, its disastrous effects are beginning to appear. The country's male-female ratio is now dangerously skewed." 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. He has also been a strident opponent of the widespread Chinese practice of fetus-eating. He was been one of the few members of Congress to expose this practice during floor speeches in 1995.
Smith has condemned Russia for barring entry of foreign Catholic priests and 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 Montenegran prime minister, who ordered a raid on the operation. 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.
In January 2001 Smith became chairman of the Veterans 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 ordinary six-year limit. Over four years, Smith's veterans bills increased VA 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 multitrauma combat injuries.
By no means were all of these programs authorized by Smith's committee funded by the Appropriations Committee, and for three years Appropriations 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. This the 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 rule 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 Houses the leadership of the majority party does not expect a committee chairman to vote against the party's budget resolution. It did not help that Smith ranked eighth lowest among House Republicans in party-line voting (though that was still 81× It seems that Smith did not expect a challenge for the chair. 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 January 6; Smith was off the committee altogether. Smith 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 tends to the needs of his district, which was particularly hard hit by the September 11 attacks: 57 4th District residents were killed, and later in September, the anthrax letters sent to New York and Washington, D.C. passed through the post office sorting facility in Hamilton, 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. He 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 and over 10 years worked to bring in $50 million for the Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst; the station, which designs and builds aircraft carrier catapults and arresting gear, was spared when the Pentagon released its base closing recommendations in May 2005, though it was slated to lose 186 jobs.
Smith's devotion to principle and his reputation for tending to constituent problems have made him very popular in the 4th District. In 2004, Smith was reelected 67Ë2ňP> Image:Http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/images/preview/congdist/nj04 109.gif