Chris Smith (New Jersey politician): Wikis


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Chris Smith

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th district
Assumed office 
January 3, 1981
Preceded by Frank Thompson

Born March 4, 1953 (1953-03-04) (age 56)
Rahway, New Jersey
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Marie Smith
Residence Hamilton, New Jersey
Alma mater Trenton State College
Occupation Retail Executive, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Christopher Henry "Chris" Smith (born March 4, 1953, in Rahway, New Jersey) is an American Republican Party politician, who is a member of the United States House of Representatives, where he represents the New Jersey's 4th congressional district.(map). The district is based in Trenton and includes large portions of central New Jersey.


Early life and 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.[1]

House of Representatives


Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

  • Co-Chairman of the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease
  • Co-Chairman of the Coalition for Autism Research and Education
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Uganda
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Lyme Disease Caucus
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Poland Caucus
  • Co-Chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus
  • Co-Chairman of the Spina Bifida Caucus
  • Member of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus


1978 and 1980

In 1978, Smith, 25 years old and working in a sporting goods store owned by his family, ran for Congress as a Republican but was defeated by 23-year Democratic incumbent Frank Thompson [1]. In 1980 he ran again and won the seat. Initially, Smith was thought to have little chance against Thompson, but after Smith filed, Thompson was indicted as part of the FBI's Abscam,[1] probe. Smith was also helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district.

Subsequent re-elections

Smith faced a difficult race for reelection in 1982, when he was opposed by 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.[2]

Since 1982, Smith has received more than 60% of the vote each time despite representing a district with a strong Democratic lean.

Smith is currently the dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation.

2006 and 2008 re-election campaigns

Smith faced Democrat Carol Gay in November 2006, defeating her 66% to 33%.[3]

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.

Even in a political climate hostile to Republicans across the nation, Smith pulled out an easy victory over Gay. Smith earned 66% of the vote, the highest percentage for any Republican in the New Jersey delegation, in an election where 30 Republican members of Congress lost their seats nationwide.

Smith started his 14th term in January 2007.

Smith faced a challenge from Joshua Zeitz in 2008. Although Zeitz raised far more money than any of Smith's previous opponents, and despite the very difficult political climate for Republicans, Smith prevailed over Zeitz easily, winning on November 4, 2008 by a more than two-to-one margin, 66%-32%. McCain won the district by a narrower margin; NJ04 was one of the three he won in New Jersey.

Political positions and actions


Smith is one of the strongest opponents of abortion in either house of Congress. Smith has worked to stop abortions in military hospitals. He has also worked to reinstate the Ronald Reagan-era restrictions that would deny federal funds to family planning organizations that distribute literature 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 education. George W. Bush restored the Mexico City Policy in an executive order in his first full day in office, but it has since been repealed by President Barack Obama.

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. In a January 22, 2004 press release, Smith stated, "Americans want the abortion holocaust to end." and referred to abortion as "child slaughter".[4]

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 require hospitals and care providers to perform abortions was put in the omnibus appropriation. He continues to push for his legislation, The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, which requires doctors to inform pregnant women that some experts say fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks.

Smith serves as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

He spoke at the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2009. [2]

Smith has expressed support for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, an amendment to America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

Stem cell research

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.

Human rights

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 Co-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.


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.

Other votes and positions

Aside from his strong social conservative views, Smith's record is fairly moderate, which is typical for Republicans from New Jersey. 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.

In the first week of the 110th Congress, Smith voted with the Democrats in five out of the six bills propose during the 100 Hour Plan of the new Democratic leadership. His only "no" vote was against a bill that sought to overturn President Bush's elimination of funding embryonic stem cell research. [3]


Smith has an apartment in Hamilton Township, near Trenton, as his official residence. However, in 1983--shortly after winning a second term--he bought a home in Herndon, Virginia and has spent most of the year there since then. However, his car is registered in Hamilton Township, and he votes and pays taxes in New Jersey as well. Politicker estimated that since 2001, Smith has spent 395 days and 184 nights in his district. In an interview with Politicker, Smith didn't dispute the numbers, but is adamant that Hamilton Township is his true home and considers living in Northern Virginia to be a sacrifice he makes to "fight for my constituents and make a difference in Washington." He also said that he lives in Northern Virginia most of the year to be closer to his family.[5]


  1. ^ a b Gruson, Lindsey. "Decade of Rep. Smith: Fluke to Tactician", The New York Times, August 10, 1991. Accessed March 28, 2008. "He switched parties but lost in 1978 as the token opposition to Frank Thompson, a veteran Democrat who was chairman of the House Administration Committee. But he won in 1980, when Mr. Thompson was convicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal and later served two years in prison."
  2. ^ Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R) profile from, accessed November 14, 2006
  3. ^ 2006 NJ-04 U.S. House Election Results,, November 8, 2006
  4. ^ Chris Smith: Silent No More, press release dated January 22, 2004
  5. ^ Friedman, Matt (2008-04-28). "Chris Smith represents New Jersey, but where does he live?". Politicker NJ. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank Thompson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Bob Stump
Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Steve Buyer


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