|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|
January 4, 2001 – January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Bob Stump|
|Succeeded by||Steve Buyer|
Christopher Henry Smith
March 4, 1953
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1978–present)|
|Democratic (before 1978)|
|Education||The College of New Jersey (BS)|
Christopher Henry Smith (born March 4, 1953) is an American politician currently serving in his 20th term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 4th congressional district, having served since 1981. The district includes portions of Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. He is a member of the Republican Party.
Smith has been nominated and confirmed twice to serve as a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2015 for the 70th session and nominated again by President Donald Trump in 2017 for the 72nd session.
Smith is currently the Dean of New Jersey's Congressional Delegation, and was the delegation's sole Republican elected to the 116th Congress. Smith has focused much of his career on human rights, sponsoring numerous pieces of human rights and anti-human trafficking legislation and leading human rights missions to other countries.
Early life, education, and early career
Smith worked in his family's sporting goods business and earned the Eagle Scout rank. 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. In 1976, he managed the primary campaign of attorney Steven Foley against incumbent Senator Harrison Williams.
U.S. House of Representatives
While working at his family's sporting goods store, 25-year-old Smith ran for Congress as a Republican in 1978. He lost to longtime Democratic incumbent U.S. Congressman Frank Thompson 61%–37%.
In 1980 he ran again in a rematch. Initially, Smith was thought to have a very slim chance of winning, but Thompson was indicted as part of the FBI's Abscam probe. With the race now considered competitive, Republicans considered replacing Smith, but two alternative candidates seen as more competitive, Hamilton mayor John K. Rafferty and 1978 Senate nominee Jeff Bell, declined. Helped by Ronald Reagan's strong performance in the district, Smith defeated Thompson 57%–41%.
In 1982, Smith's district was redrawn to include more Democratic voters and his Democratic opponent was former New Jersey Senate President Joseph P. Merlino, who had run a competitive campaign for Governor the year before. It was widely assumed in New Jersey that Smith's 1980 victory over the scandal-plagued Thompson was a fluke, and that he would lose reelection after one term. At the end of one of their debates, Smith approached Merlino to exchange pleasantries. Merlino was quoted as saying "Beat it, kid." Nonetheless, Smith defeated Merlino with 53% of the vote.
Subsequently, a federal court found the 1982 re-districting was impermissible gerrymandering, and Smith's district was redrawn to more closely resemble the one used in 1980. He has not faced another contest that close since.
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.
In 2014, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Ruben Scolanio, 68%–31%.
In 2016, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Lorna Phillipson in 63%–33%.
In 2018, Smith defeated Democratic candidate Joshua Welle, receiving 55% of the vote to Welle's 43%. Smith was the only Republican to win a Congressional race in New Jersey that year, reducing the GOP to its smallest presence in New Jersey's House delegation since 1918. This was Smith's closest re-election since 1982.
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 by The Lugar Center.
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.
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. Smith passed 22 laws addressing veterans issues while he was chairman.
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.
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."
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.
As of April 2020, FiveThirtyEight reported that Smith voted in line with President Donald Trump's position 67.7% of the time, the third-lowest percentage among current Republican members of Congress after fellow New Jerseyan Jeff Van Drew, who was a member of the Democratic Party, and Brian Fitzpatrick. Relative to the partisan lean of their respective districts, only Van Drew and Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie were less likely than Smith to vote with President Trump.
- Committee on Foreign Affairs
- Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
- Congressional-Executive Commission on China
Smith is strongly anti-abortion. He is a co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and is co-chair of the Trump Administration's Pro-Life Coalition. 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.
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. Two years later, in 2013, he re-introduced the proposal, which further restricted insurance coverage of abortions. The bill passed the House but has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
Smith voted for the original 1994 Violence Against Women Act and co-sponsored the re-authorization bills of 2000 and 2005, the latter of 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. However, Smith voted against re-authorizing the act in 2013, due the Senate version of the bill's cutting of funding for the Trafficking in Persons Office at the State Department, which Smith's Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created.
As of 2017, Smith has a lifetime score of 62% on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters. Smith believes in climate change and has called it a "global challenge that must be addressed with a global solution."
Smith is also opposed to offshore drilling, particularly in New Jersey. He has said of the Trump Administration's plan to explore drilling off the coast of New Jersey "Not here, not now, not ever."
Smith opposes concealed carry. 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.
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.
Smith was one of five Republicans to co-sponsor HR 8 in the 116th Congress, which would require mandatory background checks for gun sales.
Smith called the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting "tragic beyond words" and said "The terrorist's motive, if linked to radical Islamist ideology, underscores the escalating national and worldwide threat from global jihad." 
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.
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).
On May 9, 2019, Smith was one of only three Republicans who voted for HR 986, a measure supported by all voting House Democrats intended to maintain protections of those with pre-existing medical conditions to have continued access to affordable medical insurance under the existing provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Five weeks earlier, Smith had voted with seven other Republicans to pass a resolution condemning the Trump administration's efforts by Department of Justice to have the courts invalidate "ObamaCare."
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."
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. However, he voted no on a bill that halts arms sales to Saudi Arabia and removes troops from Yemen.
He supported the return David Goldman's son in the Goldman child abduction case, which involved a trip to Brazil. Smith acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and has made calls for the U.S. to recognize it.
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. 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. Smith condemned Turkey's wide-ranging crackdown on dissent following a failed July 2016 coup.
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.
Smith held a congressional hearing regarding the disappearance of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng. He attempted, in 2011, to visit Chen in China, when the activist was under house arrest, but was not granted permission. 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.
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.
In November 2018, Smith raised the issue of Xinjiang re-education camps and human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority. Smith said: "The internment of over a million Uyghurs and other Muslims in China is a staggering evil and should be treated by the international community as a crime against humanity. The Chinese government's creation of a vast system of what can only be called concentration camps cannot be tolerated in the 21st century."
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. The law is now part of the Violence Against Women Act.
In 2017, Smith introduced and sponsored the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018, alongside Democrat Karen Bass of California. The bill 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 Senate in December 2018 and was signed by President Donald Trump on January 8, 2019.
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.
Intellectual property rights
Smith authored the Global Online Freedom Act in 2007, but it did not become law. The proposed legislation was a bill "to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments, and for other purposes." Specifically, the bill 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.
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Smith is, by his own account, pro-labor, and considers labor issues a "human rights issue." He supports the Employee Free Choice Act. The AFL-CIO Legislative Scorecard, which tracks support for workers' rights, gives Smith a 61% lifetime rating, ranking him seventh of New Jersey's twelve Representatives, and 195th of the House's 435 Representatives.
The AFL-CIO endorsed Smith for re-election in 2018, calling him one of the "best candidates for working people," due to his support for collective bargaining, opposition to the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, and support for infrastructure funding, among other reasons.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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." Smith said he would be "forced to oppose" more tax cuts if legislation included a provision "permanently extending the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction".
As of March 2019, Smith is the only Republican co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. He also supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which expanded the scope of the statute of limitations for pay discrimination.
|Year||Republican||Votes||%||Democratic||Votes||%||Third Party||Party||Votes||%||Third Party||Party||Votes||%|
|1978||Chris Smith||41,833||36.9%||Frank Thompson (Inc)||69,259||61.1%||John Valjean Mahalchik||Independent||1,145||1%||Paul Rizzo||No Slogan||827||0.7%|
|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 Laurenti||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%|
|2018||Chris Smith||159,965||55%||Joshua Welle||123,995||43%||Michael Rufo||Libertarian||1,352||1%||Ed Stackhouse||Independent||1,034||0%||*|
- In elections marked with an asterisk (*), additional candidates received less than 1% of the vote.
- Salant, Jonathan (September 11, 2015). "N.J. Rep. Chris Smith to join American delegation to United Nations". NJ.com. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
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- Faherty, Emily. "Unsung Hero; By now, everyone is familiar with the David Goldman custody battle. But what everyone might not be aware of is the depth of Congressman Chris Smith's involvement in returning Sean to his father.", New Jersey Monthly, March 15, 2010; accessed November 14, 2017.
"'That's what my parents were all about,' says Smith, who was born in Rahway and grew up in Iselin. 'They were always passionately in favor of the underdog, and I've always been taught to look out for the disenfranchised.' Raised as a Roman Catholic with two brothers, Smith attended St. Mary's High School in Perth Amboy, where he ran track and cross-country and wrestled."
- 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 Thompson was convicted of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam scandal and later served two years in prison."
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- "Unlock Family Planning Funds". The New York Times. February 4, 1997. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
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- "Enact Stupak-Pitts Amendment On Health Care Bill". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- "H.R. 7 – No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act". Congress.gov. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
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- "Smith Hails Signing of Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization". Chris Smith. January 5, 2006. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
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- "Is Your Member of Congress a Lapdog for the Corporate Gun Lobby?". Finish the Job Scorecard: Lap Dog Edition.
- "H.R. 8-Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019". Congress.gov. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
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- "CBO – H.R. 4631". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
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- Smith, Chris. "SMITH: U.S. must end its denial of Armenian genocide". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- "Representatives Chris Smith and Jim McGovern Urge Congress Hold Azerbaijan Accountable for Human Rights Abuses". The Armenian Weekly. September 27, 2017. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
- Blau, Reuven. "Bipartisan group urges Tillerson to deport Nazi living in Queens". NY Daily News. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
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- "To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes". Congress.gov.
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- "Official List – Candidates for House of Representatives For GENERAL ELECTION 11/06/2012 Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. 2013-01-22. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- "Official List – Candidates for House of Representatives For GENERAL ELECTION 11/04/2014 Election" (PDF). New Jersey Department of State. 2014-12-02. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- "Official List – Candidates for House of Representatives For GENERAL ELECTION 11/08/2016 Election" (PDF). New Jersey Division of Elections. 2016-12-06. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
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- Congressman Chris Smith official U.S. House website
- Chris Smith for Congress
- Chris Smith at Curlie
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Smith: China's illegal organ harvesting September 18, 2012, Washington Times