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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

October 23, 2015

Transportation

On Thursday the House Transportation Committee passed H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015. This legislation reauthorizes highway and transit programs for six years, through Fiscal Year 2021. The previous authorization expired some time ago and has been subject to numerous extensions, with the most recent expiring on October 29th. Even if the full House does pass H.R. 3763 next week, additional time will be needed to conference with the Senate, making another short term extension necessary.

While not the legislation that I would have written, I supported H.R. 3763 in committee because it will provide some stability to states and municipalities. These programs have been subject to dozens of short term funding extensions over the past several years, creating uncertainty in infrastructure planning. H.R. 3763 provides $325 billion in funding authorizations over 6 years for highways, transit, and highway safety program. This figure is consistent with what was allocated in the previous authorization, with additional funds to account for inflation.

H.R. 3763 contains some of the recommendations of the House Transportation Committee’s Panel on Public Private Partnerships, on which I served as Ranking Member. The bill creates a National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau and requires them to share best practices. It also requires the new bureau to standardize the significant terms and definitions used when developing and monitoring a public private partnership (P3). The P3 panel thought this was necessary because we found great diversity in the models states use to evaluate P3 projects and determine how to move forward. H.R. 3763 also requires the Department of Transportation’s credit programs to undergo a value for money or comparable analysis and to make the results public. During our research the panel found that every P3 required significant federal assistance in the forms of loans, tax breaks, or grants. To increase transparency, all public/private transportation projects must provide a publicly available summary of the total federal assistance. Finally, once a project is underway it would be subject to review within 3 years to ensure the private partner is meeting the terms of the agreement.

Historically the federal gas tax, which is directed exclusively to the Highway Trust Fund, has been used for transportation. The federal gas tax has not increased since 1993 and is no longer sufficient to cover our nation’s transportation needs. Additional revenue has become necessary. H.R. 3763 does not include a funding mechanism to address the ongoing shortfall. That is the jurisdiction of the House Ways and Means Committee. I am closely watching this aspect of H.R. 3763 and sincerely hope I can support the revenue path identified.

Every Member of Congress in every corner of our country represents communities facing transportation infrastructure needs. Transportation reauthorization has been historically bipartisan because of this. Needs range from repairing aging bridges and rehabilitating deteriorating roads to improving public transit. Transportation dollars not only improve the overall infrastructure, they create jobs and benefit the economy. They make it easier for people to access jobs and necessary services.

It is possible that H.R. 3763 will be considered on the floor of the House next week. While there is still a long way to go, I am cautiously optimistic that Congress will deliver transportation reauthorization legislation to President Obama’s desk.

The Debt Limit

The Treasury Department has estimated that very soon, in early November, the debt limit will have to be raised in order to pay bills already incurred. This is not for additional spending; it concerns money that the federal government has already spent. If the debt limit is not increased then the U.S. government will default on its financial obligations. Instead of considering legislation to raise the debt limit the House instead considered H.R. 692, the Default Prevention Act. This legislation gives the Treasury Department the authority to keep borrowing once the debt limit is reached, but the money can ONLY be used to pay the principal and interest on debt held by the public. The largest holder of this debt is China. H.R. 692 prioritizes China over everything else the federal government funds such as veterans’ benefits, military pay, Medicare, housing, nutrition assistance and transportation. Democrats are calling H.R. 692 the Pay China First Act because that’s exactly what it is. The Administration has stated that H.R. 692 will be vetoed. I voted NO. H.R. 692 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

235

9

0

2

DEMOCRAT

0

185

0

3

TOTAL

235

194

0

5

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

The Monuments Men

It was truly an honor yesterday to attend a special ceremony awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the “Monuments Men”. These brave men and women served during World War Two protecting some of the world’s greatest treasures. These brave soldiers struggled, often behind enemy lines, to locate and preserve precious artifacts that would have been lost forever without their efforts. Without thought for their own safety, they helped save from destruction cathedrals, sculptures, paintings, tapestries and other works of art. All of these treasures help to tell the story of our history. Last year I was the lead Democratic sponsor of H.R. 3658, the Monuments Men Recognition Act, which passed by voice vote. I was thrilled yesterday to participate in the ceremony granting this long overdue recognition to the men and women who served as the “Monuments Men” during World War Two and to recognize the Monuments Men Foundation.

Education

Also on Wednesday the House considered H.R. 10, the Scholarship for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act. H.R. 10 reauthorizes a private school voucher program for the District of Columbia, providing up to $12,000 per student for private school tuition. Public school choice is already available in D.C. with 75% of all students attending schools outside of their neighborhood. I voted NO. H.R. 10 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

238

8

0

0

DEMOCRAT

2

183

0

3

TOTAL

240

191

0

3

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Mining

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015. The real intent of H.R. 1937 is to ease oversight of mines and speed production. This legislation defines strategic minerals so broadly that even sand and gravel would meet the definition. Any minerals deemed strategic would then be subject to abbreviated environmental reviews. H.R. 1937 also categorizes every mine as an “infrastructure project”. This means they will fall under an Executive Order streamlining certain infrastructure projects that do not have as much of an environmental impact as mining, such as surface transportation projects. I voted NO. H.R. 1937 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

246

0

0

0

DEMOCRAT

8

177

0

3

TOTAL

254

177

0

3

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Health Care

Today the House considered H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015. This legislation repeals some provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and defunds Planned Parenthood. Because H.R. 3762 is a “reconciliation” bill, it can be considered in the Senate under different rules, making it more likely that the legislation will reach the President’s desk. If it does pass the Senate, the Administration has stated H.R. 3762 will be vetoed. The House has already voted to repeal or alter the ACA dozens of times. If you’ve been reading my newsletter lately, you know that the House has also already voted a number of times to defund Planned Parenthood. One of the provisions that H.R. 3762 repeals is the employer mandate, the requirement that businesses meeting specific thresholds must provide health care to their employees. That will actually increase the deficit and take affordable health care away from many Americans. I voted NO. H.R. 3762 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

239

7

0

0

DEMOCRAT

1

182

0

5

TOTAL

240

189

0

5

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

What’s Up Next

Votes are scheduled for Monday October 26th. The House is expected to consider H.R. 3763, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015.

Mike


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

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