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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


12,360 subscribers

June 12, 2015

Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)

The trade bills this week were considered under a Rule that prohibited any amendments. Unlike the Senate, which at least had the opportunity to improve and amend the bill put forward, the House was not allowed to offer a single amendment. Under this Rule, the House considered a motion related to Title II of H.R. 1314 renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance Programs, which are intended to help workers who lose their employment as a result of increased trade. Some sectors of the economy are more significantly impacted than others. These programs have been providing education, training, and other assistance for years. Unfortunately, this legislation just doesn’t go far enough to assist impacted workers. Public sector employees, for example, whose jobs might be outsourced are not eligible to receive any assistance through these programs. Furthermore, in a cynical political maneuver, this proposal was tied to Fast Track (see below). If this passed, Fast Track would pass. In effect defeating TAA was the only way to stop Fast Track. I voted NO. The motion FAILED to pass. Under the Rule, because the House did not pass the motion, the overall bill, including Fast Track, fails unless the vote on TAA is reversed.

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

86

158

0

2

DEMOCRAT

40

144

0

4

TOTAL

126

302

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Note: Immediately after TAA failed, the Speaker made a motion to reconsider the vote next week. His hope is to switch enough votes so TAA passes, thus allowing Fast Track to move forward to the President’s desk.

“Fast Track”/Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

Even though the TAA portion failed, the House still voted on the TPA portion. As you may know, Congress will soon consider two trade agreements. Historically, Congress has had the authority to agree, reject, or amend any proposed trade agreements submitted for ratification. If amended, the President was then required to re-negotiate the agreements to incorporate the changes made.

The Obama Administration, like past Presidents, requested Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), more commonly known as “Fast Track”. I do not support TPA because it significantly limits the voice of the legislative branch. By approving TPA, Congress agrees to give up its right to amend the trade agreement and instead simply takes an up or down vote on it. In this case, the House voted to grant TPA before any trade agreement was even finalized.

I think it is unwise for any Member of Congress to surrender our constitutional responsibilities without knowing exactly why this step is necessary and what specifically Congress is agreeing to. I voted NO. The motion for TPA passed, though the overall bill failed, and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

191

54

0

1

DEMOCRAT

28

157

0

3

TOTAL

219

211

0

4

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Iraq

I am deeply troubled by the Administration’s decision to send an additional 450 U.S. military personnel into Iraq. It will bring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to approximately 3,500, a clear escalation of our role in the region. Although we are being told our personnel will serve in noncombat roles as trainers and advisors, how long are they expected to serve in this capacity?

President Obama MUST come to Congress for this creeping escalation. The U.S. is slowly but definitively getting further and further drawn into this conflict and the Administration cannot guarantee that additional troops won’t be ordered. The President has a Constitutional obligation to bring this matter before Congress. If this effort expands into combat, it should be based on a Congressional authorization, not an Executive order.

Although I believe the President has an obligation to come before Congress, I do not support this escalation. I have real problems with US troops serving in this capacity without a broad coalition, and that includes troops on the ground from neighboring regional countries.

I am also very concerned by what seems to me to be a half measure of participation. If the U.S. is to deepen its engagement, it should be with an equally strong coalition of partners and a well defined mission. If a military action deserves our support there should be a clear understanding of what winning means and a commitment to achieving it. We have had to learn that lesson too many times, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Iraq II, Somalia and so many other places. The debate about our role in the Middle East and indeed in the world at large is long overdue. The President has the responsibility to present coherent foreign and defense policies to Congress and engage in that debate with us. I am not at all convinced that more involvement in this troubled region is the most prudent path and I am not prepared to support additional military action.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 2289, the Commodity End-User Relief Act. This legislation reauthorizes the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) through 2019 but weakens its ability to regulate overseas derivatives transactions conducted by U.S. companies. Over 50% of Wall Street derivatives transactions fall under this category. H.R. 2289 increases the CFTC’s workload in analyzing proposed rules by expanding the scope of information it must consider. For example, H.R. 2289 requires the CFTC to determine whether a proposed regulation “maximizes net benefits” when compared to all other possible regulations that it could impose. This will significantly expand the analysis the CFTC must do, increasing cost to the commission and delaying the implementation of necessary regulations. H.R. 2289 does not increase the CFTC’s budget despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will take an additional $45 million over 5 years to do the additional work mandated in the legislation. I voted NO. H.R. 2289 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

237

1

0

6

DEMOCRAT

9

170

0

9

TOTAL

246

171

0

15

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

More Appropriations

The House continued consideration of Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations bills with H.R. 2577, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. While H.R. 2577 represents a funding increase over FY 2015, it is much less than the President requested and imposes specific cuts on a number of programs. This legislation cuts Amtrak by more than $250 million and rejects the President’s request to include additional funding for the installation of Positive Train Control. The freight and passenger industry faces a December 31st deadline to install this safety feature, which monitors speed and can automatically stop a train to prevent an accident. It was not yet in place at the site of the tragic Amtrak crash last month. H.R. 2577 also cuts the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant Program, money used by states and municipalities to improve transit availability. Housing programs also experience deep cuts, including the Public Housing Capital Fund and HOME grants. I voted NO. H.R. 2577 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

213

31

0

1

DEMOCRAT

3

179

0

6

TOTAL

216

210

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

The House also considered H.R. 2685, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. While I support some of the provisions in this bill, I could not vote for it because it is structured to avoid the spending caps mandated through sequestration. I have always opposed sequestration and think it should certainly be reconsidered, exempting one department while subjecting the others to even steeper funding reductions is not responsible budgeting. I voted NO. H.R. 2685 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

235

5

0

5

DEMOCRAT

43

144

0

1

TOTAL

278

149

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Food Labeling

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 2393, the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Amendments Act of 2015. In 2002 Congress passed a law requiring that certain meat products include labels identifying their country of origin. Canada and Mexico challenged this at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and prevailed. In response, the United States Department of Agriculture issued a new rule requiring that meat be labeled at each stage of production beginning when the animal is born. H.R. 2393 repeals U.S. country of origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and chicken sold in this country. Completely doing away with the labeling requirements goes too far. I voted NO. H.R. 2392 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

234

10

0

1

DEMOCRAT

6

121

0

1

TOTAL

300

131

0

2

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

What’s Up Next

The next House votes will take place on Monday June 15th. 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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