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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts

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February 14, 2014

Debt Ceiling

On Tuesday the House voted to suspend the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015. Without action, the federal government ran the risk of defaulting on bills that have already been incurred. As I am sure you are aware, the issue of suspending the debt ceiling has come up regularly over the past few years, and the government has come dangerously close to breaching it. Simply put, this would be catastrophic for the economy. I was encouraged that Speaker Boehner made the decision to bring a clean debt ceiling suspension proposal to the floor. In past discussions, many Republicans have refused to consider doing anything with the debt ceiling unless equivalent spending cuts were also implemented. President Obama has held firm that he will not negotiate on this matter. Please note, this is really not a matter of new spending. This gives the government the ability to pay bills it has already incurred. You will notice that very few Republicans supported this measure. I give the Speaker credit for bringing this legislation to the floor despite such strong opposition within his own party. It was important for the health of our economy to address this deadline. I voted YES. The legislation passed the House and the President is expected to sign it. The entire vote is recorded below:





















A Note About 2014 and the Legislative Calendar

Despite this week’s success with the debt ceiling, I have little hope that much more of substance will be placed on the legislative calendar this year. In a February 12th National Journal Daily article on the debt ceiling, Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp is actually quoted as saying, “That’s what our leadership said – if we get past this one, we’re done until the election.” Though I cannot say I am surprised, I am offended and disappointed. There are so many important issues we should be addressing. Even if we cannot agree on how to handle them, we owe it to the public to at least have an open debate about issues like extending unemployment insurance, reforming immigration policies and increasing the minimum wage. I realize that reasonable people differ about how to address these matters and compromise may prove elusive. However, that doesn’t mean the House should stop working on them.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

New Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen appeared this week before the Financial Services Committee to deliver the Federal Reserve’s semi-annual report to Congress. When I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions I brought up the perception that many financial institutions are still considered “Too Big to Fail” despite recent controls put in place by Dodd Frank financial regulatory reform. I spoke about the possibility of reinstituting some provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed more than a decade ago. Glass-Steagall required a separation between commercial and investment banking and many, including myself, believe that the easing of this separation contributed to the financial crisis in 2008.

I also raised the possibility of employing a market-driven limitation on size such as the approach taken through my legislation, H.R. 2266, the Subsidy Reserve Act of 2013. H.R. 2266 requires financial entities with assets over $500 billion to maintain a subsidy reserve account on its balance sheet. The idea behind the subsidy reserve is to require the financial entities that are perceived as “too big to fail” to set aside funds each year that they could not access for any reason.

The most interesting response I received from Federal Reserve Chair Yellen came when I asked her about a recent editorial in American Banker that pointed out the moral hazard of not prosecuting certain bankers on a personal basis for any wrongdoing and instead allowing them to write corporate checks as restitution. Chair Yellen’s response was: “I agree with you that there certainly should be accountability within these organizations.” That answer certainly sounds to me like she agrees that no one should be Too Big to Jail and I was glad to hear it. I am including links to the hearing video as well as the editorial for your review.

Transportation Panel

As Ranking Member on the Transportation Committee’s Panel on Public Private Partnerships, I participated in a roundtable policy discussion on “Case Studies in Public-Private Partnerships. We looked at a number of public/private partnership examples such as the Capital Beltway High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes in Virginia and Ohio River bridges in Ohio and Indiana. We also considered transit projects in Maryland and Colorado as well as upgrades to the Presidio Parkway which leads to the Golden Gate Bridge in California.

All of these initiatives have a private sector component and the panel is exploring the effectiveness of these partnerships in delivering transportation services for commuters. Communities all over the country are dealing with pressing transportation needs and the resources to address them are limited. The panel is exploring the role that public/private partnerships can play in improving infrastructure and considering also how to best structure these partnerships to ensure that the public interests are taken into account.

What’s Up Next Week

A district work period is scheduled. The next House votes will take place on Tuesday February 25th.


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Ethics
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

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