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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 26, 2015

The Supreme Court

Some truly historic decisions have been handed down this week by the Supreme Court. They have rightly received a significant amount of media attention but because they are so consequential I wanted to briefly share my views. Today’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is an historic step forward in the march towards full equality for same-sex couples. While there is certainly more work to do to ensure everyone in the LGBT community enjoys equal protection under the law, today’s ruling really is a monumental step forward.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld an important aspect of the Affordable Care Act, the second decision upholding key provisions of this landmark law. Instead of wasting time on more fruitless repeal attempts, I truly hope Republicans in Congress finally recognize the ACA is the law of the land.

Fair Housing

In another decision this week, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that the Fair Housing Act does allow lawsuits based on “disparate impact” – an allegation that a law or practice has a discriminatory effect even if there is no evidence of intentional discrimination. The case involved the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs which allocates federal low income housing tax credits to affordable rental housing developers. The plaintiff in the case, a non-profit helping low-income minorities use rental assistance vouchers to find housing, alleged the Texas agency was allocating more of these credits to low income, minority communities instead of higher income neighborhoods with smaller minority populations. In most cases, those neighborhoods had better schools and more employment opportunities.

The plaintiff argued that this limited the housing choices of voucher holders and had a discriminatory effect or “disparate impact” on African Americans and Latinos. While the Court returned the case to the lower courts for further deliberations, it clearly held that “disparate impact” claims are recognized under the Fair Housing Act. I, along with other current and former members of Congress, submitted an amicus brief to the Court in support of the disparate impact standard. I am heartened by the Court’s recognition of the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in eliminating housing segregation in our society.

More on Trade

Last week the House passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or “Fast Track”. As you may recall, it was first considered a couple weeks ago in conjunction with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). When that package failed, TPA and TAA were brought to the floor separately. Although I voted against it, TPA passed last week by a narrow margin.

Yesterday the House considered legislation to Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 1295, the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. This included several previously considered provisions, including TAA, intended to help workers who lose their jobs as a result of increased trade. Through TAA, workers have access to education assistance and job training programs. I voted against TAA earlier this month because in a cynical maneuver, the rule tied TPA and TAA together so passage of TAA was necessary to pass TPA. Once TAA failed overwhelmingly, the whole trade bill could not pass, even though the House did approve TPA in a separate vote.

This legislation also extended several trade preference programs, including the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE). The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which expired, is renewed and extended. The GSP allows developing countries to ship goods here duty free. The Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP), which encourages job growth in Haiti, was also extended.

I recognize that TPA is on its way to the President’s desk, despite my strong opposition. Given that, I thought it was important for the House to do what it could to extend some important trade preference programs and help workers who will be negatively impacted by pending trade agreements. Even though this particular TAA does not go as far as I think it should, it is clearly the best deal we are going to get. I couldn’t let the perfect or even the better get in the way of providing some help for displaced American workers. I voted YES to Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 1295, the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015. The entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

111

132

0

2

DEMOCRAT

175

6

0

7

TOTAL

286

138

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

8

1

0

0

College Ratings

We received some welcome news yesterday when the Obama Administration announced that, instead of establishing a college ratings system, the Department of Education would instead develop consumer tools students and parents can use to assess institutions of higher learning. I filed a resolution with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) opposing the establishment of a college ratings system earlier this year. This change of direction from the Administration is an important development. Instead of using a series of arbitrary measures, such as how much money graduates are making, it appears that officials will instead focus on giving families additional resources as they consider which schools may be the best fit for their children. While these tools have not been finalized, I am hopeful that they will take into consideration the concerns we raised about rating schools.

Health Care Votes

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 1190, Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015. This legislation eliminates the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a way to contain Medicare costs. The IPAB is one of the ACA provisions that most concerned me when health care reform was being debated. The ACA shifted the authority to set Medicare policies and reimbursement rates from Congress to the IPAB, with members appointed by the President. It effectively takes Congress out of the discussion about Medicare reimbursement. Historically, reimbursement rates from Medicare have taken into account a variety of factors, including cost, the complexity of medical issues and whether a provider engages in scientific research to advance medicine. My concern over the IPAB has been that if it considers cost only when determining rates, Massachusetts could lose billions of dollars. There is no question that such a significant financial loss would hurt our medical schools, teaching hospitals and research programs. That in turn will result in the loss of jobs which will hurt the local economy.

Furthermore, there was no Congressional oversight whatsoever with the IPAB. The President appoints its members and Congress has no authority over its work. It should be pretty clear by now that many Republicans want to repeal the entire ACA. What happens with the IPAB and the ACA when President Obama is no longer in office? Future Presidents may have very different approaches to those they appoint and the role of the IPAB.

I don’t like the way H.R. 1190 pays for repeal of the IPAB but I have never accepted the premise that this board will save money – so repealing it won’t stand in the way of savings. I voted YES. H.R. 1190 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

0

0

12

DEMOCRAT

11

154

0

23

TOTAL

244

154

0

35

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

2

7

0

0

Ratepayer “Protections”

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to undermine efforts to reduce power plant carbon pollution. H.R. 2042 delays the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of its Clean Power Plan, a rule to address carbon pollution that hasn’t even been finalized yet. The legislation also gives states the ability to opt out of the EPA’s pending requirements altogether. I voted NO. H.R. 2042 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

239

4

0

2

DEMOCRAT

8

176

0

4

TOTAL

247

180

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Federal Contractor Disclosure

I joined 129 of my fellow House members in calling on President Obama to require that federal contractors disclose any political contributions they make. In 2011 the President released a draft Executive Order requiring this disclosure but it was never finalized. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has allowed corporations to freely spend on political campaigns. Vast amounts of money have flooded into the system, and the public has no information on where the money is coming from. Our letter urged the President to re-issue and finalize the Executive Order. Federal contractors get paid with our tax dollars and they should fully disclose their political activities. 25 Senators signed a similar letter.

What’s Up Next

A District Work Period has been scheduled. The next House votes will take place on Tuesday July 7th.

Mike


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

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