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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 11, 2011

Natural Disasters

My thoughts are with the people of Japan today in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake and tsunami. Please know that a nation mourns with you, and stands ready to provide assistance during this very difficult time. The dangerous tsunami waves made their way across the Pacific Ocean and were felt in our own country today — in Hawaii and across our western coast. My thoughts too are with my fellow citizens, you have my support and my commitment to do what I can to provide the assistance necessary to repair any damage caused by the tsunami.


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Home Heating Oil

I've written before about some of the deep cuts to valuable programs proposed by both the Republicans and the President. These appear in the Continuing Resolution for the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 and in President Obama's proposed budget. One that concerns me deeply, particularly as oil prices rise and the calendar still tells us it is winter, is the proposed cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) Program. The White House has proposed cutting this lifeline in half for Fiscal Year 2012. As you know, Congress is still debating funding for the rest of FY 2011, and LIHEAP will surely be impacted this year as well. On Tuesday I joined my colleague Rep. Jim McGovern, former Congressman Joe Kennedy and an East Boston family to ask President Obama to consider restoring some LIHEAP funding in his budget proposal. This is one of many valuable programs that I am trying to protect from steep cuts. I've said it repeatedly but it's worth noting again — our deficit is serious and we must address it, but we shouldn't be starting by decimating programs that help some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Recent Votes

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 830: The FHA Refinance Program Termination Act. This is the first of several bills being considered that would end recently established housing programs. H.R. 830 ends an Obama Administration program that helps homeowners with "underwater loans", mortgages that amount to more than the homeowner's property is currently worth. The program gave the FHA the authority to refinance these loans as long as the homeowners are up to date on all of their mortgage payments. The program has only been operational for little over a month. H.R. 830 simply ends the program. Republicans have not proposed an alternative program or improvements to the program. Instead, the program is just being eliminated. I voted NO. H.R. 830 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















On Friday the House considered H.R. 836: the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program Termination Act. This bill ends a housing program that provides loans to borrowers who are having trouble paying their mortgages because they are unemployed. This HUD administered program was scheduled to start next month. I voted NO. H.R. 836 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Many homeowners are struggling to pay their mortgages because they are facing difficult financial times, including dealing with unemployment. In many parts of the country, and in parts of our own state, many homeowners owe much more than their house is currently worth due to the reduction in home values. These two programs that the Republican-led House just voted to end weren't even given the opportunity to succeed. They were just eliminated, without any alternative programming offered. And we'll be doing the same thing next week with two more housing programs. I am including video from the consideration of some of these bills in the Financial Services Committee in case you are interested in watching the debate.

Religious Liberty

Issues of religious liberty have been in the news recently both at home and abroad. As you may have heard, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, held a hearing yesterday on "the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community." Many Members of Congress, including myself, were concerned by exclusive focus on American Muslims when considering homegrown terrorism and incitement of violence. I joined over 50 of my colleagues in sending a letter to Rep. King asking that the scope of his hearings be broadened to include all manner of domestic extremist threats and not stigmatize the American Muslim community. The letter reads, in part, "The choice between our values of inclusiveness and pluralism and our security is a false one."

This week also I supported a resolution urging religious toleration in Pakistan: on March 2nd, Pakistani Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated, reportedly for his promotion of rights for religious minorities and his opposition to blasphemy laws. Three members of a minority Muslim sect were killed recently in Java, in the presence of police officers who did nothing to protect them, and I have written to the President of Indonesia expressing my concern. I regret that earlier this week clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt have resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people, and that tensions are rising there. I believe we must treat each other with respect and protect the rights of people everywhere, whether it's advocating for understanding here in America or speaking up for the rights of minorities abroad.

What's Up Next Week

Next week the House is scheduled to consider several housing bills. The House is scheduled to consider two additional housing bills, as well as address the pending expiration of the latest Continuing Resolution, which ends on March 18th.

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

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