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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


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June 5, 2015

Amtrak Hearing

This week the House Transportation Committee, of which I am a member, held a hearing on last monthís tragic Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia. Amtrak officials testified at the hearing along with representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. The purpose of the hearing was to learn more about the steps Amtrak is taking to improve passenger safety and receive an update on the status of the investigation. The NTSB briefed us on their findings at this stage in their review. Some members pressed for additional details about certain aspects of the investigation and the NTSB stressed that it needs adequate time to conduct a thorough investigation of the crash. While I understand the desire to learn as much as possible about the crash as quickly as possible, it is important to give the NTSB the time it requires to complete its investigation.

The FRA shared details about the work they are doing to implement additional rail safety regulations. One of the most important steps is the mandated installation of positive train control, which monitors speed and can automatically stop a train to prevent an accident. Amtrak assured us that this technology would be in place throughout the Northeast Corridor by the end of the year.

One of the questions I asked related to the mandating of seat belts on trains. Their installation is required on planes and vehicles, and under certain circumstances their use is also required (i.e. takeoff and landing on an aircraft). Itís worth exploring whether seatbelts should be part of the discussion on how to improve passenger rail safety.

Fisheries Management

On Monday the House considered H.R. 1335, Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This legislation reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, first passed in 1976 to help manage U.S. fishing resources. Unfortunately, H.R. 1335 simply does not go far enough to protect the nationís fishing stock. Catch limits are in place for numerous species of fish in order to prevent overfishing. However, this legislation exempts far too many species of fish from those catch limits which makes monitoring more difficult. Thus, the bill will make it much harder to determine if fishing stock has been depleted. The Administration has stated that H.R. 1335 will be vetoed. I voted NO. H.R. 1335 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

220

3

0

21

DEMOCRAT

5

149

0

34

TOTAL

225

152

0

55

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

3

6

0

0

Appropriations

The House continued consideration of Fiscal Year Appropriations bills with H.R. 2578, Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations. Overall funding for these programs is more than $3 billion below what the Administration has requested and sequestration continues to have a negative impact on funding levels. H.R. 2578 contains cuts to numerous programs such as State and Local Law Enforcement grants, Juvenile Justice programming and climate research. It doesnít contain any funding at all for hiring under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program which the Office of Management and Budget estimates will result in 1,300 fewer police officers on the streets. While funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) is slightly increased, some specific initiatives at the NSF are singled out for cuts. Research related to Geosciences as well as Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences is slashed. This research underlies planning for disaster preparedness, cybersecurity and childrenís educational initiatives. I voted NO. H.R. 2578 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

230

10

0

4

DEMOCRAT

12

173

0

3

TOTAL

242

183

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

The Federal Reserve

This week I introduced H.R. 2625, the Bailout Prevention Act of 2015 with Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who is Chairman of the House Financial Services Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve used broad powers under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act to provide trillions of dollars in low-cost loans to a handful of financial institutions. While the Dodd-Frank Act included provisions intended to restrict some of these powers, the Fedís proposed rule in 2014 to implement Dodd-Frank did not make any meaningful changes, creating a need for Congressional action.

Americaís largest financial institutions received unprecedented assistance from the Federal Reserve during the crisis, much of it unknown to the Congress or public at the time. While the Dodd-Frank Act brought some reforms, the perception lingers that some financial institutions are simply Too Big to Fail and could be bailed out again. This perception has consequences favoring the biggest players in the financial system. We may not know today what the next crisis will look like, but we all have a right to know the full extent of measures that may be taken to prevent a crisis. This legislation will help protect taxpayer dollars by increasing oversight of the Federal Reserveís emergency lending powers and bringing much needed transparency to the process.

The bill would prohibit the Federal Reserve from lending to insolvent borrowers and establish a penalty rate for borrowers using a lending facility under 13(3). It would also prevent the creation of lending facilities unless they are needed by a minimum of five borrowers. This requirement would ensure that special programs arenít being created just to help individual institutions. If the Federal Reserve creates programs that do not meet these criteria, they would be subject to Congressional review. There are also enhanced disclosure requirements so the public has access to information about borrowers, including the amounts borrowed. Similar legislation has been introduced by Senators Warren and Vitter.

Banks and Pensions

I recently wrote, along with a number of my House and Senate colleagues, to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez asking for public hearings before granting 5 large financial institutions waivers related to pension management. These banks recently pled guilty to criminal antitrust violations for rigging the price of foreign currencies. Under the law, the banksí criminal conviction in court following these guilty pleas will automatically disqualify them from acting as professional asset managers of pension funds and individual retirement accounts, unless they receive waivers allowing them to continue in this business. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) quickly granted these waivers without public debate but approval of the Labor Department is also required. These banks have admitted to wrongdoing. At a minimum, they should be required to make their case in a public forum on why they should still be trusted to oversee the retirement savings of countless Americans.

Whatís Up Next

The next House votes will take place on Tuesday June 9th. The House is expected to continue consideration of FY 2016 appropriations bills.

Mike


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

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