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


12,169 subscribers

March 4, 2015

Prime Minister Netanyahu

After much deliberation, I decided to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress. I continue to believe that Speaker Boehner should not have issued an invitation to him or to any other foreign leader without consulting the Department of State and the White House. I was troubled by the partisan nature of the event in the United States and on the eve of a general election in Israel. While I did have serious concerns, I decided that the friendship between our two countries trumped those concerns. If a longtime friend showed up unannounced, I would still offer him a cup of coffee.

As for the speech itself, there is little that I disagree with in its substance. I agree Iran is dangerous and not trustworthy. I agree that they have supported terrorism in the region and elsewhere. I agree that Iran has been a bad influence in the Middle East and a nuclear weapon in their hands would be a terrible result. All these concerns have led me and the Obama Administration to demand Iran give up its quest for a nuclear weapon.

The only question remaining is HOW this goal can be accomplished. Military action could be taken — but very few Americans would support that at this time. I certainly would not.

That leaves us only with negotiation, which is exactly what the United States has been doing. However, this has not been a bi-lateral negotiation between Iran and the United States. Our negotiating partners have been the P5 + 1, the permanent members of the Security Council, Britain, France, China, Russia with us, plus Germany. And, indeed, the entire world must be involved. The US alone does not have enough leverage in the region to force Iran to do something they don’t want to do. We must have the support of Europe, India, Turkey, Russia and China.

This broad coalition pushing in the same direction has imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran, which is why Iran is still at the table. If there is going to be a deal, then all these parties must agree. If there is no deal to be had and the US wants to continue sanctions, all these countries must agree and take similar action. Otherwise US-only sanctions are doomed to failure and there is no leverage to stop Iran.

One aspect of deciding how to address this difficult and critical situation is determining how far away Iran actually is from developing a nuclear weapon. Experts disagree (even Massachusetts based experts), but Mr. Netanyahu has made his decision — he believes “break out” is imminent. In fact, he has been warning at least since 1992 that Iran was “months away”. Reports have recently surfaced that Israel’s own intelligence agency, the deservedly respected Mossad, may have disagreed with this estimate when he repeated it at the United Nations in 2012. I believe he is seeking a confrontation with Iran because he believes their nuclear ambitions cannot be negotiated away. His record on this issue renders his judgment and conclusions subject to serious question.

It must be noted that Mr. Netanyahu’s motives are not entirely selfless. He is facing a tough re-election battle and is clearly appealing to elements of Israeli opinion that will never trust negotiated peace, with Iran or with the Palestinians. But I leave the choice of the next Prime Minister to the voters of Israel. I hope and expect that Mr. Netanyahu, should he prevail, or his successor, will work with the United States and other nations to seek a lasting peace for his country and for its neighbors.

In the final analysis, although I share many of the concerns expressed this week by Mr. Netanyahu, I still believe that the United States must continue negotiating with Iran. We must do all we can to reach a negotiated settlement. If that fails, it will not be because we held the bar so high it could not be reached. If negotiations fail, the whole world should know that the failure lies with Iran. Only then could the US truly argue that the rest of the world should stand with us in continuing and expanding sanctions. That is the only way we can avoid premature military action in a region where peace has proven so elusive.

Homeland Security

Late on Friday the House passed legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security for one week. This vote took place after House Republican leadership refused to bring up the Senate passed bill that would have funded DHS through the end of the current fiscal year. Too many Republicans took issue with the fact that the Senate bill did not contain any provisions prohibiting DHS from implementing the Executive Orders on immigration the Administration issued last year. On Tuesday the Senate bill was finally brought to the floor and it passed easily, just as it would have last week. As you will see in the vote chart below, a majority of Republicans still voted against funding DHS without the immigration provisions. I voted YES and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

75

167

0

3

DEMOCRAT

182

0

0

6

TOTAL

257

167

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Passenger Rail Reform

Today the House considered H.R. 749, the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015. This legislation reauthorizes Amtrak for 5 years, providing close to $2 billion for improvements to the Northeast Corridor. H.R. 749 also provides $3.9 billion in funding and grants for passenger rail service. It requires Amtrak to submit a yearly operating plan and examine its decision-making process for choosing long-distance routes. H.R. 749 will improve passenger rail service which is an important component of an effective transportation network. Increasing investment in rail service not only leads to a better customer experience, it also creates economic benefits and employment opportunities. While I would have preferred a higher funding level, H.R. 749 has bipartisan support and represents a compromise between those of us who would like to see more investment and those who prefer lower levels of funding. I addressed this in my remarks on the floor about the legislation. I voted YES. H.R. 749 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

132

101

0

11

DEMOCRAT

184

0

0

4

TOTAL

316

101

0

15

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Multifamily Homes and Mortgages

This week I participated in a Financial Services Committee hearing on the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Semi-Annual Report. I focused on a mortgage issue that is of particular concern in Greater Boston. Owner-occupied properties with more than two units, such as the many triple decker homes found throughout the 7th CD, may not meet the Qualified Mortgage rule’s current definition of a single family property. Generally, the federal definition of an owner-occupied home encompasses properties with up to four units. The problem comes because many lenders only issue mortgages that meet the Qualified Mortgage rule definition. They are considered safer due to strong underwriting requirements and consumer protections. This places many prospective homebuyers who are seeking to purchase a multifamily home at a disadvantage. Even though their owner-occupied property is residential real estate, it is not always treated as such when it comes to obtaining a mortgage. You can view my comments here:

What’s Up Next

A district work period has been scheduled. The next votes will take place on Monday March 16th.

Mike


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

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