Since coming to the U.S. Senate in 2018, Tina Smith has been a fierce advocate for Minnesota by working to create economic opportunity for families, businesses, and communities across the state. She has traveled to all corners of Minnesota to meet people, listen to their concerns, and then take what she’s learned to the U.S. Senate. In Washington, D.C., she’s worked to find common ground with both her colleagues and the Administration. As a result, she’s successfully passed legislation into law and solved problems in a bipartisan way. At the same time, when Minnesota’s interests are threatened—either by Administration actions or by special interests—she’s stood up and held them accountable.
Her Accomplishments As Senator Include:
Addressing the High Cost of Health Care
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, has made bringing down health care costs a top priority, saying it’s the issue she hears about most as she travels the state.
Lowering Prescription Drug Costs
Sen. Smith’s very first bill took aim at a tactic big pharmaceutical companies use to keep affordable generic drugs out of the hands of Minnesota families and seniors. She later introduced a more comprehensive bill to not only lower drug prices for Minnesotans, but to also save billions of tax dollars for Medicare’s prescription drug program. When drug companies received billions in tax breaks, she pressed major pharmaceutical executives to use the windfall to lower drug prices instead of enriching their investors, and later introduced legislation to require that they disclose how they’re using those large tax cuts. In October of 2018, President Trump signed into law a measure she pushed to end rules that prevented pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money by paying cash for their drugs, rather than using their insurance co-pay.
Providing Relief to Americans Struggling to Afford Insulin
Sen. Smith introduced her bipartisan Emergency Access to Insulin Act with Republican Senator Kevin Cramer to bring down the cost of insulin and to hold manufacturers accountable for excessive increases in the price of the life-sustaining medicine. The bill—introduced in remembrance of Minnesotan Alec Smith, who tragically passed away in 2017 after rationing his insulin—would provide emergency access to insulin for people in Minnesota and across the country who can’t afford the skyrocketing price of the drug they need to stay alive.
Sen. Smith also successfully secured her bipartisan bill with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana—which aims to bring more low-cost insulin products to market and lower the price of insulin—in a budget agreement signed into law in December of 2019.
Expanding Mental Health in Schools/Addressing Opioid Abuse
President Trump signed into law a bipartisan measure written by Sen. Smith and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to expand mental health services for students and communities in Minnesota and across the country. That provision was part of a sweeping package that also provides $1.5 billion in funding—supported by Sen. Smith—to deal with the nation’s opioid crisis. Opioid overdoses have killed thousands of Minnesotans, and continue to devastate families and communities across the state.
Sen. Smith has introduced the Mental Health Services for Students Act, which would bring more mental health services into schools and train teachers to identify and help children and youth in need of mental health care.
Quality Health Care in Rural Minnesota
Sen. Smith was named to a leadership role on the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus. In Minnesota, she has met with rural hospital CEOs, rural health providers and patients about the unique health care challenges that rural America faces. The Farm Bill that was signed into law in 2018 includes a bipartisan provision that she championed with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of North Dakota to create a “Rural Health Liaison” at USDA whose job will be to focus federal health efforts on the unique needs of rural America.
Approximately a third of Minnesota’s rural counties don’t have a hospital where women can give birth, and more than half of rural counties nationwide lack hospitals with labor and birthing services. Additionally, the disparity in access to care and worse health outcomes disproportionally affect women of color. Rural counties with more black residents are at greater risk of losing their labor and delivery services. Sen. Smith has introduced a bipartisan bill that would help ensure that new and expecting moms living in rural communities get the care they need—the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (MOMS) Act.
Sen. Smith also fought to extend funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs), which have transformed mental health care for communities in Minnesota.
Ending Handouts for Drug Companies in Trade Agreements
Sen. Smith successfully pressed for changes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to remove provisions that could have limited access to medicines and contributed to higher drug prices. After pressure from Sen. Smith and Congressional Democrats, the Trump Administration removed the problematic language.
Pressing for Economic Growth and Opportunity for Everyone
Sen. Smith sought, and secured, a spot on the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee because she wants to help create economic and social opportunities for all Minnesotans and worked to ensure everyone has access to those same opportunities.
She’s focused on working with both parties to get things done to support economic growth in Minnesota. Sen. Smith introduced a bipartisan measure to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. This measure received unanimous support in the Senate Banking Committee, and was the only measure approved by Committee last year. It was signed into law by President Trump in December 2019—a full year before the program was scheduled to expire. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) is vital to Minnesota because insurance against terrorism-related risks is required for major building projects and public events, such as the Super Bowl. Without TRIA, countless jobs would be at risk—especially in the construction and insurance industries.
Creating a Pathway to Citizenship for Liberian Americans
Sen. Smith started fighting for the Liberian community as soon as she joined the Senate in 2018. In January of that year, Smith joined Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island in urging the Trump Administration to extend DED protections. Sen. Smith then supported the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act to provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Liberians. She continued the fight in early 2019, when she penned an op-ed in the Star Tribune calling on the administration to extend DED protections. After months of continued pressure on the White House, Sen. Smith suggested a strategy to move the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act through Congress. She urged Sen. Reed to introduce an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill offering protections for Liberians. Sens. Smith and Reed ultimately co-led this amendment, passing into law a pathway to citizenship for eligible Liberians.
Preparing a 21st Century Workforce
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee, has made workforce development a top priority. Her first Minnesota stop as Senator was at a local sheet metal fabricator and since then, she’s held meetings around the state to discuss workforce issues. She understands that not everyone wants or needs to go to a four-year college to succeed, and she supports many innovative partnerships among Minnesota businesses, high schools, and technical colleges that give students the skills they need to build good-paying careers. In 2019, Sen. Smith partnered with Representative Angie Craig to introduce the 21st Century Workforce Partnerships Act, which would replicate many of these successful partnerships seen in Minnesota. In the summer of 2018, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill she worked on with both Republicans and Democrats to update and increase resources for career and technical education. Sen. Smith also partnered with Republican Senators David Perdue and Lindsey Graham to introduce the Youth Workforce Readiness Act, which would connect young people in afterschool with career readiness programming with local employers.
Deploying Broadband to Rural Communities
Sen. Smith has long understood that broadband internet service is the infrastructure of the 21st Century, saying “it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary” for broadly-shared economic opportunity and for families and communities to thrive. As Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor, she led the State’s efforts to deploy broadband in rural communities. As Senator, she’s continued that push. The bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill incorporates her Community Connect Grant Program Act to bring broadband to communities without it.
Sen. Smith has also been contacted by several Minnesota cooperatives—which are a vital part of the effort to build out rural broadband in the state. Because of a mistake in the 2017 tax law, they are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status if they receive government grants to expand broadband or to recover from a natural disaster. The bipartisan Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act, that Sen. Smith introduced with Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio would fix that error and ensure that co-ops can retain their tax exemptions if they receive government grants to expand rural broadband or to assist with a weather disaster. Sen. Smith successfully fought to include her bipartisan bill in the government spending package signed into law in December 2019.
Expanding Access to Childcare
Minnesota’s growing childcare shortage hurts children, families and businesses alike. Sen. Smith and her staff have traveled to communities across the state as part of her Child Care Listening Tour to understand the impact that the shortage has had on Minnesota and to find solutions. She has pushed her Child Care Supply Improvement Act to fund childcare facilities, help childcare providers improve quality and navigate the system as businesses. The bill would also help states and tribes improve coordination and licensing and establish a community needs assessment to ensure investments are responsive to local needs.
Sen. Smith understands that Minnesota families need affordable, quality childcare. She is a cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, which would cap childcare costs for middle-class families at no more than seven percent of their annual income. The bill would make investments to improve compensation for childcare workers and make preschool more accessible in Minnesota and across the country.
Helping Minnesota Schools Hit Hard by Teacher Shortages
After learning that more than 40 percent of small, rural school districts struggle to find teachers, Sen. Smith introduced legislation to help schools overcome teacher shortages. Her Addressing Teacher Shortages Act would support grants to help school districts attract and retain quality teachers, in rural school districts, hard to staff subject areas like special education, and to develop a more-diverse teacher work force.
Protecting LGBTQ+ Students
Sen. Smith has worked to ensure all LGBTQ+ students in Minnesota and across the country have a quality learning environment free of bullying and discrimination. She is a cosponsor of the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would give LGBTQ+ students the same federal protections that guard against discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, and disability.
Leading a Native Behavioral Health Program
A 2019 Senate Interior spending package continued funding for a special behavioral health pilot program for Tribes. The pilot is based upon Sen. Smith’s legislation to create a permanent special behavioral health program—called the Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act—to address the opioid epidemic, suicide prevention, and other behavioral and mental health needs.
Protecting Federal Health Benefits During Government Shutdowns
Sen. Smith fought to secure protections for federal health care benefits in the event of a government shutdown, and these measures were signed into law in December 2019 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Earlier in 2019, Sen. Smith took to the Senate floor to share letters from Minnesota air traffic controllers hurt by the then-ongoing government shutdown. Among the several letters that she read on the Senate floor, Sen. Smith shared a letter from a new father in Minnesota who said that his son had been born during the shutdown and had been in intensive care since birth. The father went on to share that both he and his wife weren’t being paid, and he ended this letter with: “Please do what you can to reopen the government and leave us with one less worry.” Sen. Smith is glad to have made good on her promise to help families and workers in Minnesota and across the country.
Fighting Lyme Disease and Other Vector-Borne Illnesses
With the number of Lyme disease cases on the rise, Sens. Smith and Republican Susan Collins of Maine introduced the Kay Hagan Tick Act to improve research, prevention, diagnostics, and treatment for vector-borne diseases. Their bipartisan bill was signed into law in December, and it was renamed in honor of former Senator Kay Hagan, who passed away due to complications from the tick-borne disease known as the Powassan virus.
Safeguarding Hard-Earned Pensions
Sen. Smith has met regularly with many of the Minnesotans who face devastating pension cuts and pushed to head off those cuts in the Senate. These retirees paid into their pension funds for decades and now face having their promised retirement savings disappear. Sen. Smith strongly supports the Butch Lewis Act, which would help keep troubled pension funds solvent.
Championing a Strong Farm and Rural Economy
When she first arrived in Washington, D.C., Sen. Smith fought for and won a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee because she understands how important agriculture is to jobs and economic development across Minnesota. In preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill debate, she formed a 30-member Farm Bill Working Group made up of Minnesota farm leaders, as well as energy, nutrition, conservation, and forestry experts from around the state. She and her staff then led nearly 40 Minnesota meetings to discuss priorities for the Farm Bill.
In August of 2019, Sen. Smith announced that she had formed the bipartisan Senate “Rural Economic Working Group” along with Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota to connect with people and organizations in rural communities who have come together to take on the many unique challenges that often hit rural areas hard. As part of that work, Sen. Smith has conducted several “Rural Economy Tours” in communities across Minnesota.
Making Sure America is Leading in Tackling Climate Crisis
Minnesota is a leader in finding affordable ways to reduce emissions, and Sen. Smith wants the nation to follow the state’s lead. Sen. Smith recognizes that states across the country have different energy mixes, and she introduced a bill that recognizes that we can all work toward the goal of net-zero electricity emissions by utilizing a range of effective technologies. Her bill—the Clean Energy Standard Act—would establish a federal Clean Energy Standard (CES) to put America on course to achieve net-zero emissions from the electric sector by midcentury to fight climate change.
Prioritizing Rural Housing Needs
Sen. Smith successfully included two bipartisan rural housing amendments in an appropriations package that passed in late 2019.
The first would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to prioritize maintenance and staff needs for rural housing facilities, and the second will allow rural property owners to enter into longer term contracts for Department of Agriculture rental assistance.
Sen. Smith hears a lot about how the federal government isn’t living up to its commitment to maintain rural properties, so she worked with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to make sure that the Department of Agriculture prioritizes maintenance and repairs so rural families can have a safe, affordable place to live.
During her 2019 statewide housing listening tour, Sen. Smith heard from Minnesotans about the difficulty of complying with several federal funding programs at once, since many program requirements are not aligned. Her second amendment will remedy that by bringing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rental assistance program in line with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, making it easier for rural property owners to take advantage of both USDA rental assistance and the Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Helping Write the Bipartisan Farm Bill Signed into Law
The bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill includes several key provisions Sen. Smith authored or championed that will expand broadband services to rural communities and tribal areas, increase our nation’s use of renewable energy, and fund Sen. Smith’s efforts to help younger and non-traditional farmers get started in agriculture. It also responds to her call to preserve the Sugar Program, which supports thousands of jobs in Northwest Minnesota. The Farm Bill strengthens key elements of the farm safety net like crop insurance and other tools to safeguard farmers from unexpected losses. It also adds $100 million to the program to help dairy farmers and focuses that assistance on small and medium-size farms. Beyond that, the bill promotes expanded trade, and it protects important hunger and food assistance programs that tens of thousands of Minnesota families and seniors rely upon.
Expanding Demand for Minnesota Farm Products
Sen. Smith has repeatedly pressed the President and his top farm and trade officials to take several steps to help farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and across the country. As part of that effort, she pushed to allow the year-round sale of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. The move would expand demand for Minnesota farm products and lift farm income. In October of 2018, the President directed the EPA to begin taking steps to allow such sales.
Sen. Smith also fought to extend the Biodiesel Tax Credit, which is vitally important for Minnesota.
Going to Bat for Minnesota Veterans, Service Members
Sen. Smith believes the nation must honor veterans, service members, and their families by ensuring they receive the benefits they’ve earned. She has sent her staff to communities across Minnesota to meet with area veterans and local leaders to learn about the challenges they face when trying to secure the health care, education, housing, or job placement benefits.
Sen. Smith also supported a pay raise for members of the military—the largest in a decade—because she understands that this is the right thing for the women and men who serve our country.
Addressing Veterans’ Hearing Loss
After learning that Minnesota veterans often struggle to get help for hearing loss and tinnitus-- one of the most common service-connected ailments--Sen. Smith introduced legislation to reduce the red tape they face when trying to get benefits. The Veterans Hearing Benefit Act would make it easier for veterans to establish service-connection and get the benefits they’ve earned.
Helping “Atomic Veterans”
Sen. Smith joined with Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina on a bipartisan measure to support health care benefits for “Atomic Veterans” in Minnesota and across the country exposed to harmful radiation during the cleanup of nuclear testing sites in the 1970s. The bill allows veterans – including many from Minnesota - who cleaned up sites in the Marshall Islands to receive the same benefits given to other service members who cleaned up other sites.
Supporting Veteran Farmers
Sen. Smith championed a provision included in the 2018 Farm Bill—the Vets 2-FARM Act—that directs USDA to help veterans work in farming after they return from service.
Military Readiness and Conservation at Camp Ripley
President Trump signed into law a measure that Sen. Smith championed to ensure that Minnesota’s Camp Ripley has continued access to military readiness and environmental protection grant funding.
Constituent Services: Bringing Her Senate Office to Minnesotans
Sen. Smith has prioritized helping Minnesotans when they call on her for help. She and her Constituent Services staff have traveled to dozens of Minnesota communities to meet one-on-one with residents who need help securing Social Security, Medicare, or Veterans benefits, as well as providing assistance on issues like immigration, housing programs, student loans or applying for a passport.
Assisting Minnesotans Who Need Help
Her office has answered more than 311,000 constituent correspondence and worked with more than 3,100 Minnesotans who have contacted her office for assistance with a problem.