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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts
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March 1, 2010


I recently traveled to Haiti to review humanitarian relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. I represent one of the largest Haitian-American communities in the country and thought it was important to see firsthand how much needs to be done to help the people of Haiti rebuild their lives and their neighborhoods. I also believe it is important to convey the depth of America’s commitment to the region.

I met with local officials and US personnel working in Haiti. We talked about a whole host of issues, including the status of rescue and reconstruction efforts, the provision of emergency food, shelter and medical care and the work of non-government organizations on the ground. The devastation was truly stunning and it is clear that the rebuilding process will take years. I was very heartened to learn more about the work that the United States is doing in Haiti. Our level of commitment was visible everywhere I went. I visited a Cash to Work site, which employs Haitian residents to help with the clean up. Many people found their homes as well as their jobs wiped out by the earthquake. Many businesses are no longer standing. The Cash to Work program gives residents much needed income and an opportunity to participate in the rebuilding process.

I had the chance to talk with Chelsea Clinton, who is in Haiti on behalf of the Clinton Foundation, to hear more about the efforts of the foundation and to get a sense of the additional resources that will be needed.

Rep. Robert Scott, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Gwen Moore also joined me in Haiti.

Health Care

While the House, Senate and President continue working to reach agreement on a comprehensive health care legislation, the House last week adopted an important provision of the reform bill passed in the fall. H.R. 4626: Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act.

In general, competition in any industry stabilizes rates and increases the quality of services provided. But the health insurance industry has been exempt from federal antitrust laws since the 1940’s. This just doesn’t make sense. The House voted 406 to 19 to repeal that exemption. By removing this artificial protection, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission will now have the authority to investigate claims of collusion on pricing within the health insurance industry. I voted YES. H.R. 4626 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

I voted YES. H.R. 4626 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Many Members of Congress join the President in a desire to finally achieve true health care reform. While the larger measure continues to be shaped, many in the House felt it was important to make progress on issues where consensus exists. H.R. 4626 was the first substantive step toward that goal. I hope we can consider more measures such as repeal of the Republican law that prohibits the Federal government from negotiating better prices for Medicare funded prescription drug purchases, prohibiting discrimination based on pre-existing health conditions, and allowing parents to cover their dependent children through age 26. Taken together, these may not add up to full-blown health care reform, but they constitute real progress and a way to move forward.

Patriot Act

The House last week extended for one year three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act: the “lone wolf” provision, roving wiretaps and access to business records. You may recall that in 2001, I voted against the Patriot Act because I strongly believed that it did not do enough to protect our cherished civil liberties. I continue to have serious concerns about some of its provisions, including the three that were extended.

The “lone wolf” provision permits surveillance of non-U.S. persons believed to be engaged in international terrorism without first requiring evidence that they are linked somehow to a terrorist organization or identifiable foreign power. The roving wiretap provision permits law enforcement to obtain a wiretap for a single line, which then applies to all phone lines associated with the subject of the wiretap, such as cell phones or office phones. The third provision, access to business records, has become commonly known as the “library provision”. This gives law enforcement access to “any tangible things” during an investigation, including records such as a list of items that have been checked out of the library. This provision essentially enlarges the scope of documents that can be sought and lowers the standard requiring a court order for the production of the documents in question.

I have signed on as a cosponsor of H.R. 4005, the JUSTICE Act, which would reauthorize aspects of these and other Patriot Act provisions while increasing judicial oversight and setting reasonable limits. I want to be clear that it is important to give law enforcement the tools they need to pursue criminals. However, there is a way to do that and still recognize the importance of civil liberties – and such a solution is not currently being pursued by the House and Senate.

I voted NO. H.R. 3961 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















What's up Next Week

This week the House is expected to consider H.R. 4247: Keeping All Students Safe Act.

Congressman Mike Capuano
8th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services
Committee on House Administration

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