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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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June 13, 2014


I have grave concerns about events unfolding in Iraq and recognize the danger as well as the human suffering that will occur if that country collapses into civil war. This is compounded by the civil war in Syria on Iraq’s very porous western border. While I am always willing to listen to the President and understand that events are moving quickly, I have serious reservations about U.S. involvement in the region. I was encouraged to hear the President say U.S. troops would not be sent back into combat. I also appreciate that the President stated his willingness to consult Congress on Iraq. As someone who voted against the use of force in Iraq more than a decade ago, I long feared an eventual civil war once U.S. engagement ended. I will be closely watching this troubling situation and weighing what role the U.S. should play.

College Ratings

This week I joined my Republican colleague Rep. Bob Goodlatte in introducing H. Res. 614, expressing strong disagreement with the President’s proposed college ratings system. In August 2013, as part of the Obama Administration’s “Plan to Make College More Affordable, the Department of Education announced it would develop a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), or college ratings system. It is scheduled to go into effect before the 2015-2016 academic year. Under this proposed system, colleges and universities would be rated on a number of measures such as the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, average tuition rate, loan debt, graduation rates, and graduate earnings. This ratings system, as proposed, would potentially tie financial aid to an institution’s rating.

I certainly share President Obama’s commitment to equal opportunity and his belief that, in order to compete globally, we must make higher education more affordable and accessible. Nonetheless, I have serious concerns about aspects of this proposed ratings system. Specifically, some of the criteria the Department of Education is considering seem to me ill-conceived and potentially even counter-productive.

For example, judging the value — or the “value-added” — of a college by the salaries of its graduates could cause schools to discourage alumni from public service or a variety of other essential and rewarding, but not as financially rewarding careers. Additionally, there are too many questions about the accuracy of data used by the Department of Education, and its ability to track student transfers between institutions. This is essential in order to obtain realistic graduation rates. I am also very concerned about how these ratings, based on imperfect data, may adversely impact schools that educate underserved populations.

While I appreciate and support many of the President’s efforts to address the rising cost of higher education, I cannot support the proposed ratings system at this time. This resolution expresses these concerns and calls on Congress to reject it.

Appropriations Bills

This week the House continued consideration of Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills with H.R. 4745, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations. This legislation cuts resources for transportation, housing and other programs by almost $2 billion over last fiscal year. Amtrak is cut by $200 million and funding for the Federal Transit Administration is cut by $252 million. The HOME Investment Partnership would receive $300 million less, bringing overall funding to its lowest level since the program was established. This money is used to help communities create new affordable housing and make improvements to existing affordable housing stock.

H.R. 4745 does contain an amendment I sponsored with Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) that prohibits federal funds from being used to purchase cameras that are being acquired for the sole purpose of collecting license plate data. You may recall my legislation, H .R. 2644, the “Reasonable Policies on Automated License Plate Readers Act” which establishes privacy protections for the information obtained through automatic license plate readers. These readers are set up on police cars or as fixed cameras to capture thousands of license plates every hour. There is no statutory limit on how long the information can be stored or who can access it. This amendment is simply a way to prohibit federal funds from being used for these types of cameras until the privacy questions surrounding that data collection can be addressed.

Although I am pleased my amendment was adopted I could not support the overall bill because of the steep funding cut to programming. In every community there are transportation projects in need of funding and infrastructure in need of repair. More money should be dedicated to transportation, not less. This translates into jobs and increased economic activity. I voted NO. H.R. 4745 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Small Businesses and “Bonus Depreciation”

Yesterday the House considered H.R. 4457, America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014 H.R. 4457 makes permanent the bonus depreciation, which was originally intended as a short term stimulus to encourage businesses to make immediate investments in the economy. It allows businesses to immediately deduct from their taxable income the full costs of up to $500,000 for certain equipment, instead of spreading the costs out over time. H.R. 4457 is not paid for and adds another $73 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years. A number of leading economists have questioned the effectiveness of bonus depreciation as an economic stimulus. The Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service have both described bonus depreciation as poor economic stimulus. I voted NO. H.R. 4457 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















70th Anniversary of D-Day

It was my great honor last week to join President Barack Obama, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, French President Francois Hollande, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and other dignitaries at ceremonies in Normandy, France, commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Observances were held at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach and at Sword Beach to honor all those who fought so courageously during the landings on the Normandy coast, and to reflect on their sacrifices.

June 6, 1944 was a pivotal day during World War Two, a crucial turning point in the war to defeat Nazi Germany. I am proud to have been present, seven decades later, to participate in the observances honoring all the brave Allied forces who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

Thousands of lives were lost during the D-Day invasion, as Allied forces fought to secure a beachhead, liberate France and defeat Hitler. We will never forget those who died on the battlefield. We think of them, and of their families who lost precious loved ones.

Rep. Capuano with World War II veteran, and Cambridge resident, Dan Pinck

What’s Up Next Week

Next votes are scheduled for Tuesday June 17th. The House is expected to consider appropriations for the Department of Defense and H.R. 4413, the Customer Protection and End User Relief Act.


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

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