Chris Smith (New Jersey politician)

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Chris Smith
Chris Smith official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Jersey's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1981
Preceded by Frank Thompson
Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
In office
January 4, 2001 – January 3, 2005
Preceded by Bob Stump
Succeeded by Steve Buyer
Personal details
Born Christopher Henry Smith
(1953-03-04) March 4, 1953 (age 65)
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic (before 1978)
Republican (1978–present)
Spouse(s) Marie Smith
Children 4
Education College of New Jersey (BS)

Christopher Henry 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 includes portions of Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. He is currently the dean of the New Jersey congressional delegation. In August 2017, Smith was nominated by President Donald Trump to become a representative to the United Nations General Assembly.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 5, 2017.[2] He served in the same capacity in 2015 after being nominated by President Barack Obama.[3]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Smith was born in Rahway, New Jersey on March 4, 1953.[4] He attended St. Mary's High School in Perth Amboy, where he competed athletically as a runner and wrestler.[5]

Smith 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, he became executive director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee in 1976.[citation needed]

Originally a Democrat, he switched parties and became a Republican in 1978.[6]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Smith with President Ronald Reagan in 1985


While working at his family's sporting goods store, 25-year-old Smith ran for Congress as a Republican in 1978. He was defeated by longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Congressman Frank Thompson 61%–37%.[7][8] 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.[6] Helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district, Smith defeated Thompson 57%–41%.[9]

In 1982, Smith 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.[10][11] Since then, Smith has won re-election with at least 61% of the vote.[12]

In the 2006 elections, Smith was re-elected with 66% of the vote, the highest percentage for any Republican in the New Jersey delegation.[13]

In 2008, Smith ran against Democrat Joshua M. Zeitz. Smith won re-election 66%–32%.[14]

In 2010, Smith received 69.4% of the vote, coming in ahead of Democratic candidate Howard Kleinhendler, Libertarian candidate Joe Siano, Green Party candidate Steven Welzer, and American Renaissance Movement candidate David Meiswinkle.[15]

The 2012 elections saw Smith win 64% of the vote, with Brian Froelich, the Democratic candidate, receiving 35%.[15]

In 2014, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Ruben Scolanio, 68%–31%.

In 2016, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Lorna Phillipson, 63%–33%.


In 2011, American Conservative Union gave Smith a lifetime score of 60%.[16] Smith was ranked as the 17th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress (and the second most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).[17]

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;[18] the banking industry agreed to waive the fees voluntarily.[citation needed]

It was revealed in October 2015 that intern applicants for Smith's office were required to rate "27 different personalities, organizations and political issues to indicate whether they tend to agree with them, disagree with them or have no opinion or knowledge of them." Personalities and organizations included Rachel Maddow, the Pope, Planned Parenthood, and The National Right to Life Committee.[19]

As of August 2017, 42 pieces of legislation introduced by Smith have become law.[20]


In January 2001, Smith became chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and there pushed for policies opposed by the Republican leadership, including voting against the Republican and for the Democratic budget resolution because the latter included more spending on veterans programs, which resulted in his losing the chairmanship in January 2005, two years short of the normal six-year term.[21] Smith passed 22 laws addressing veterans issues while he was chairman.[22]

In 2004, Smith refused to endorse the Republican budget proposal unless it included more money for veterans. In a congressional hearing, Smith publicly articulated his belief that the Bush Administration's budget request was $1.2 billion less than the Department of Veterans Affairs actually required, embarrassing the administration and Republican congressional leadership.[23]

Smith did not expect a challenge for the chair when Congress convened in 2005. However, 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, and Smith was removed from the committee altogether. Smith stated at the time, "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. Richard B. Fuller, the national legislative director for the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said, "The Republicans needed a chairman who would consistently say no to veterans' groups and say yes to the Republican leadership. That meant get rid of Chris Smith."[24]


Smith has introduced 40 pieces of legislation that were later signed into law over the course of his career.[25]

These include: 12 in support of veterans, 4 in support of victims of human trafficking and anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, 4 in support of autistic children, their families and healthcare providers and researchers, 4 in support of victims of torture worldwide, 3 addressing national security/international relations issues (including the Goldman child-abduction bill), 7 addressing human rights violations, religious freedom & development issues abroad, 1 supporting therapeutic stem cell research and several others.[citation needed]

For the 114th Congress (Jan 6, 2015-Jan 3, 2017), non-partisan legislative tracking website ranks Smith: 3rd out of all representatives for most bills enacted into law, 4th out of all representatives for legislative leadership, 5th out of all House Republicans for bills introduced, 4th out of all Republicans for influential Committee positions (tied with 4 others), 16th out of all representatives for getting bills out of committee (tied with 4 others) and 19th most bipartisan out of all House Republicans. He was also ranked the 29th most liberal out of House Republicans, the 65th for cooperation with the Senate out of all House members and the 163rd out of all representatives for bills co-sponsored.[26]

On May 6, 2014, Smith introduced the bill International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 4573; 113th Congress), which would require the notification of foreign governments when an American registered as a sex offender of children is going to be traveling to their country.[27][28][29]

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction and Return Act (Public Law 113-150) was signed by the president on August 8, 2014. This law provides the U.S. State Department with eight escalating penalties that can be applied to foreign governments who refuse to return American children who have been abducted to their country. It is named after New Jersey resident David Goldman, who was fighting to bring his son home from Brazil for years.[30]

On September 6, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Gold Star Families Voices Act, authored by Smith.[31] The bill would allow the veterans oral history program to include histories by family members of servicemembers who became missing in action or died as a result of their wartime service.[32]

As of May 2018, FiveThirtyEight reported that Smith voted in line with President Donald Trump's position 77% of the time, the eighth-lowest percentage among 286 Republican members of Congress.[33]

Committee assignments[edit]

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
  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Co-Chairman of the Spina Bifida Caucus
  • Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus
  • Congressional COPD Caucus
  • Rare Disease Congressional Caucus
  • House Baltic Caucus[34]

Political positions[edit]


Smith is pro-life. He is a member of the Pro-Life Caucus and is co-chair of the Trump Administration's Pro-Life Coalition.[35][36] He supports the Mexico City policy, which blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counselling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.[37]

In 2000, Smith voted to support HR 3660, which bans partial-birth abortions, unless the woman's life is at risk.[38]

Smith expressed support for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, an amendment to America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.[39]

In 2010, he supported a bill proposed by Roland Burris to stop the military from offering abortions, including in military hospitals, in which he describes should be "places of healing" rather than "abortion mills."[40]

Smith has introduced various forms of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, starting with the original proposal in 2011. The original 2011 proposal prohibited federal funds from being used for health benefits that cover abortion, unless in the case of rape, incest or if the woman could die. It also disqualified abortions from being written off on taxes.[38] Two years later, in 2013, he re-introduced the proposal, which further restricted insurance coverage of abortions.[41] The bill passed the House but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.[42][43]

Domestic violence[edit]

Smith supports efforts to end domestic violence. He co-sponsored the 2005 Violence Against Women Act, which provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.[44] However, Smith voted against re-authorizing the act in 2013.[45]


As of 2017, Smith has a lifetime score of 62% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters.[46] Smith believes in climate change and has called it a "global challenge that must be addressed with a global solution."[47]


Smith opposes concealed carry.[48] In 2016, Smith was one of four Republicans to receive a 100% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and has generally received low or intermediate ratings from pro-gun organizations Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association.[49]

Smith did not co-sponsor the Brady Campaign's proposed legislation to expand background checks for gun purchasers and did not receive any contributions from the corporate gun lobby. Smith was one of only two Republicans in the New Jersey delegation not identified by the Brady Campaign as a "lapdog" for corporate gun lobbyists.[50]

Mass shootings[edit]

After the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Smith offered his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and friends. He expresses concern with "radical Islamist ideology."[51]

In the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, Smith co-sponsored a ban on bump stocks with Leonard Lance.[52]

Health care[edit]

Smith has written three major laws to address autism, including the most recent Autism CARES which included $1.3 billion in funding for research, services and supports and requires a report on aging out.[53]

On May 9, 2014, Smith introduced the bill Autism CARES Act of 2014, a bill that would amend the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize research, surveillance, and education activities related to autism spectrum disorders (autism) conducted by various agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).[54]

Human rights[edit]

Smith advocates for human rights, serving on numerous committees that seek to impact both national and international laws and legislation. He has stated that the bills he introduces to the house are meant to make the U.S. take "human rights seriously."[55]

In 1999, Smith proposed, as part of the American Embassy Security Act, to stop a U.S. sponsored program which provided training to Royal Ulster Constabulary with the FBI, due to claims of human rights violations, i.e. harassment of defense attorneys representing republicans in Northern Ireland.[56]

He supported the return David Goldman's son in the Goldman child abduction case, which involved a trip to Brazil.[57] Smith acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and has made calls for the U.S. to recognize it.[58] He supports the recognition of victims of human rights violations in Vietnam and introduced a bill, the Vietnam Human Rights Act, in 2004, and again, in 2015, both of which passed the House.[59][60]

In 2017, Smith co-sponsored an effort to prioritize human rights in Azerbaijan with Jim McGovern. The H. Res. 537 act also seeks to see further implementation of the Magnitsky Act regarding Azerbaijani officials, as well as a call for Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners.[61] He supports efforts to deport Jakiw Palij, a denaturalized former American citizen residing in New York who failed to disclose he worked as a guard at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.[62]


Smith has held congressional hearings and has proposed bills regarding human rights violations, specifically around women's sexual health, activism and religious groups, in China. He staunchly opposes the forced sterilization and forced abortions being implemented by the Chinese government towards women regarding China's one-child policy. Regarding the victimization of these women, Smith stated that "the agony that those women carry with them is beyond words. They talk about the pain that they carry for their child and for the violation by the state." In response, Smith wrote a bill, which was put into law in 1999, making it illegal for the U.S. to issue visas to foreign nationals who have been involved in forced abortion or sterilization.[55]

Smith held a congressional hearing regarding the disappearance of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.[55] He attempted, in 2011, to visit Chen in China, when the activist was under house arrest, but was not granted permission.[63] In response to the violations towards Chen and his family, Smith sponsored the China Democracy Promotion Act of 2011, which sought to prevent known Chinese human rights violators from entering the U.S.[55]

In the wake of the 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign and Umbrella Movement, Smith co-sponsored the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting Hong Kong's ongoing autonomy and the human rights of those Hong Kongers involved in nonviolent protests and/or those who have had their rights violated by the Chinese government.[64]

Human trafficking[edit]

Smith has sponsored and written many policies and proposals regarding human trafficking. In 2000, he co-sponsored the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which authorizes protections for undocumented immigrants who are victims of severe forms of trafficking and violence.[65]

The law is now part of the Violence Against Women Act. In 2017, Smith co-sponsored the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, alongside Karen Bass. The proposal funds programs that train employers to identify potential victims of human trafficking, prevents the sale of American goods made with forced labor, and provides educational tools and opportunities for children to learn how to avoid traffickers. The bill passed the House and has yet to go to the Senate.[66][67]


Smith supports religious rights regarding international human rights. He supports sanctions against Vietnam regarding their treatment of the Catholics and China regarding the Uyghurs and Falun Gong.[57]


Smith supported the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act in 2012, which would have extended the deadline for Indonesian immigrants to file for citizenship.[68]

Intellectual property rights[edit]

Smith authored the Global Online Freedom Act, which would prohibit American companies from turning over data about customers residing in "internet restrictive countries." The bill is supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders. It is opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[69]


Smith has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign regarding LGBTQ rights;[70] he does not support same-sex marriage and does not consider it a human right.[71]

Labor movement[edit]

Smith is pro-labor. He considers labor issues a "human rights issue." He supports local efforts to improve union representation of truck drivers in New Jersey and New York. He supports the Employee Free Choice Act.[57]


Smith has a "D" rating from NORML regarding his voting record on cannabis-related matters. He has consistently voted against the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which provides veterans access to information regarding medical marijuana accessibility in their respective states.[72]


Bob Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars calls Smith "the best friend" of veterans. In 2004, Smith refused to endorse the Republican budget proposal unless it included more money for veterans. In a congressional hearing, Smith publicly articulated his belief that the Bush Administration's budget request was $1.2 billion less than the Department of Veterans Affairs actually required, embarrassing the administration and Republican congressional leadership.[73] In 2005, Smith was removed from his chairmanship and membership on the Veterans Affair Committee for his aggressive role in seeking more funding for veteran-related causes.[57]

Science policy[edit]

Smith supports efforts to provide alternatives to embryonic stem cell research. In 2005, he co-sponsored a bill with Artur Davis to fund the creation of a network of national blood banks to distribute umbilical cord blood for stem cell research.[74]

Tax reform[edit]

Smith voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, joining four other Republican representatives from New Jersey. Regarding his vote, he stated that "We need tax relief, but we must have relief that is not comparatively unfair to the taxpayers of New Jersey."[75]

Electoral history[edit]

New Jersey's 4th congressional district: Results 1980–2016[76][77][78][79][80]
Year Republican Votes % Democratic Votes % Third Party Party Votes % Third Party Party Votes %
1980 Chris Smith 95,447 57% Frank Thompson (Inc) 68,480 41% Jack Moyers Libertarian 2,801 2% Paul Rizzo No Slogan 1,776 1%
1982 Chris Smith 85,660 53% Joseph Merlino 75,658 47% Bill Harris Libertarian 662 0% Paul Rizzo No Slogan 374 0% *
1984 Chris Smith 139,295 61% James Hedden 87,908 39%
1986 Chris Smith 78,699 61% Jeffrey Laurentini 49,290 38% Earl Dickey Stop Financing Communism 789 1%
1988 Chris Smith 155,283 66% Betty Holland 79,006 33% Judson Carter Independent 1,114 0% Daniel Maiullo Libertarian 791 1%
1990 Chris Smith 99,920 63% Mark Setaro 54,961 35% Carl Peters Libertarian 2,178 1% Joseph Notarangelo Populist 1,206 1% *
1992 Chris Smith 149,095 62% Brian Hughes 84,514 35% Benjamin Grindlinger Libertarian 2,984 1% Patrick Pasculi Independent 2,137 1% *
1994 Chris Smith 109,818 68% Ralph Walsh 49,537 31% Leonard Marshall Conservative 1,579 1% Arnold Kokans Natural Law 833 1%
1996 Chris Smith 146,404 64% Kevin Meara 77,565 34% Robert Figueroa Independent 3,000 1% J. Morgan Strong Independent 2,034 1% *
1998 Chris Smith 92,991 62% Larry Schneider 52,281 35% Keith Quarles Independent 1,753 1% Morgan Strong Independent 1,495 1% *
2000 Chris Smith 158,515 63% Reed Gusciora 87,956 35% Stuart Chaifetz Independent 3,627 1% Paul Teel Independent 712 0%
2002 Chris Smith 115,293 66% Mary Brennan 55,967 32% Keith Quarles Libertarian 1,211 1% Hermann Winkelmann Honesty, Humanity, Duty 1,063 1% *
2004 Chris Smith 192,671 67% Amy Vasquez 92,826 32% Richard Edgar Libertarian 2,056 1%
2006 Chris Smith 124,482 66% Carol Gay 62,902 33% Richard Edgar Libertarian 1,539 1% Louis Wary Remove Medical Negligence 614 0%
2008 Chris Smith 202,972 66% Joshua Zeitz 100,036 32% Steven Welzer Green 3,543 1%
2010 Chris Smith 129,752 69% Howard Kleinhendler 52,118 28% Joe Siano Libertarian 2,912 2% Steven Welzer Green 1,574 1% *
2012 Chris Smith 195,146 64% Brian Froelich 107,992 35% Leonard Marshall No Slogan 3,111 1%
2014 Chris Smith 118,826 68% Ruben Scolavino 54,415 31% Scott Neuman D-R Party 1,608 1%
2016 Chris Smith 211,992 64% Lorna Phillipson 111,532 34% Hank Schroeder Economic Growth 5,840 2% Jeremy Marcus Libertarian 3,320 1%
  • In elections marked with an asterisk (*), additional candidates received less than 1% of the vote.


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External links[edit]

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

Preceded by
Steny Hoyer
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Al D'Amato
Preceded by
Al D'Amato
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Ben Campbell
Preceded by
Bob Stump
Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Steve Buyer
Preceded by
Ben Campbell
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Sam Brownback
Preceded by
Ben Cardin
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Ben Cardin
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
Succeeded by
Roger Wicker
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Hal Rogers
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steny Hoyer