“We are thrilled,” says Clara VanderWaal, the Progressive Policy Institute director of government relations.
Few committees in Washington have the power to set policy as speaker of the House.
And the Progressive Policy Institute, or PPI, is more than just an umbrella group for a slew of pro-Democratic groups. Founded in 1994, the policy advocacy group offers technical assistance to Congress and government bodies on everything from housing and trade to health care and education. The impact goes beyond issues directly on the books. Advocacy and policy groups, such as PPI, influence the way the issues are thought of and tackled in legislation.
“The vast majority of American households have incomes greater than the highest-earning 1 percent in this country,” said Scott Lilly, the senior fellow at the PPI that focuses on ways to strengthen Social Security. The report details ways to “streamline benefits in Medicare and Social Security” that would “save millions of seniors money,” said Mr. Lilly.
Experts say that PPI’s nominee, Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., will bring top-level political and policy training to the House Appropriations Committee, which advocates and writes funding bills for the government.
“He will be one of the brains behind the force,” said Jason Delisle, a fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy think tank. “The younger members need to learn on the fly.”
“I think he is definitely going to be able to contribute to the Democratic team,” said Baker Drohan, a partner at Delaney & Cromwell, a policy and consulting firm. “But I think especially in the Republican side he will be able to work closely with them,” said Mr. Drohan.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention, Mr. Smith, then in the House, was named the chairman of the Media Relations Committee.
After Mr. Smith retires in the 112th Congress, assuming he is re-elected, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC said in a statement they will work with the Nebraska Republican to maintain their often close relationship. “Chairman Smith is our most trusted and trusted friend in the House,” said Joe Mathis, chairman of the CBC PAC.
As for his young family, his heart lies, of course, with his family. But when he’s home in the district, his voice is heard in politics. In 2009, he pulled off a 27-day “walk across America” to lobby for a bill that established autism research as an unclassified disease, the first of its kind in the country. In a Nebraska town, a town that President Obama visited last year, the walk meant there were six friends in town with him during the trip.
“No matter how successful you are, there is a tug,” said Mr. Smith. “You have to decide what that tug is.”