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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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January 6, 2017

Rules for the 115th Congress

When the new Congress convenes, one of its first actions is voting on the rules of the House. On Tuesday the House considered H. Res. 5, Adopting rules for the 115th Congress. This routine exercise received a great deal of attention due to two controversial proposals. On Monday night, House Republicans added language to the rules essentially obliterating the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) by bringing it under the authority of the House Ethics Committee. When I wrote the law establishing the OCE, the whole point was to bring a measure of transparency and accountability to the broken House ethics process. The OCE operates independently of the House Ethics Committee, with the authority to choose which matters merit review.

The practical result of the Republican effort would have been to render the OCE ineffective. Its transparency, accountability and independence would be gone, which was of course, the real intention of this rules change.

After a storm of criticism, House Republicans scrapped this effort. I want to thank everyone who registered their outrage about this plan. Your voices made a difference on this.

The other controversial measure was language expanding rules against taking photographs and video on the House floor. This was already prohibited but rarely enforced, particularly during significant events like the State of the Union. Now, Members taking photos or video are subject to fines of $500 for the first offense and $2500 for additional offenses. These new fines will also cover vaguely defined disruptive conduct. In short, this is nothing more than an attempt to silence Members after many of us participated in the sit-in to protest lack of Congressional action on gun control. I voted NO. H. Res. 5 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

234

3

0

3

DEMOCRAT

0

190

0

3

TOTAL

234

193

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Regulations

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 21, the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017. This legislation amends the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996, giving the 115th Congress the authority to overturn all regulations enacted during the last 60 legislative days. H.R. 21 effectively allows Congress to invalidate every rule or regulation submitted during the final weeks of President Obama’s tenure. Under current law, each regulation must be considered separately. H.R. 21 gives Congress the power to overturn many regulations at once. Once a regulation has been nullified, it cannot be reinstated unless there is Congressional action. This would impact a whole host of rules, including ones related to health and safety. H.R. 21 is the same bill as H.R. 5982, which passed the House in November. I voted NO. H.R. 21 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

234

0

0

6

DEMOCRAT

4

184

0

5

TOTAL

238

184

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

More Regulation

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 26, Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Under the authority of the Congressional Review Act, Congress may weigh in on rules that federal agencies issue, including taking action to disapprove them. H.R. 26 updates this by requiring that Congress approve all agency regulations considered “major rules”. If Congress does not approve them within 70 legislative days then they cannot be implemented. This is nothing more than an attempt to weigh down agency rulemaking authority. The practical impact of this will be limits on environmental protections, and less health, safety and financial safeguards. I voted NO. H.R. 26 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

235

0

0

5

DEMOCRAT

2

187

0

4

TOTAL

237

187

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

U.N. Resolution

This week I voted “Present” on H. Res. 11, Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 as an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. This non-binding resolution divided the Massachusetts delegation but passed the House by a vote of 342-80. Constituents expressed passionate and thoughtful opinions in support and in opposition. I am grateful for their interest and concern.

The House, and the Senate in S. Res. 5, were responding to the recent United Nations Security Council vote on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israel wanted the U.S. to exercise its veto; instead the U.S. abstained. It should be noted that the Security Council resolution itself is not binding on Israel or any other United Nations member. People on all sides of this issue disagree on how much harm it could actually do to Israel. I believe no real harm could be done without further UN votes and the U.S. would veto any such attempt — as we always have done. A copy of the UN resolution is here: [PDF]

H. Res. 11 reiterated support for a two-state solution, negotiated between the parties and also stated the belief that the UN resolution “undermined the longstanding position of the U.S. to oppose and veto UNSC resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status, or are one-sided and anti-Israel”. The full text of that resolution can be found here: [PDF]

Several Members of Congress, led by Rep. David Price (NC), tried to offer an alternative to H. Res. 11 that was less explicitly critical of the U.S. abstention. Unfortunately, the House Rules Committee denied them that option. In fact, the Rules Committee also denied the minority party the right to offer ANY alternative draft. This is highly unusual and very undemocratic. The alternative was introduced this week as H. Res. 23 and I am proud to co-sponsor. The legislation states that “the U.S. should continue to support a durable and sustainable two-state solution”. The text of that alternative can be found here.

The U.S. has always been and always will be Israel’s best friend. We provide them with more aid than any other country and are committed to maintaining their “qualitative military edge.” We have pledged to defend them with American boots-on-the-ground if necessary, though Israel has never in its history asked for such support. We have vetoed more anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and elsewhere than can be counted.

I am a strong supporter of Israel as my voting record in Congress and political leadership in Massachusetts have illustrated. I have never believed that warring parties can be brought together by poking one of them in the eye or forcing one of them to submit. Peace is achieved through mutual respect and trust — which is harder to find than it should be. Peace cannot be imposed in the Middle East — it will have to come by the two parties (and their supporters) working it out. That does not mean their friends remain silent.

Virtually everyone in America and Israel claims to support a two-state solution. However, even the closest friend and allies may disagree on how best to achieve that goal. Israelis, living in a real and often boisterous democracy, disagree. So do American supporters of Israel, and, from time to time there are differences between the U.S. and Israel — despite our shared goals.

I felt I could not support the resolution as written, nor could I in conscience oppose it. Therefore, I chose to vote Present. I judged it the best way to demonstrate my personal commitment to keeping America as an “honest broker” in a troubled region, while maintaining our support of Israel.

I offer statements made by both J Street and AIPAC — both nationally respected pro-Israel groups:

I voted PRESENT on H. Res. 11. It passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

4

0

3

DEMOCRAT

109

76

4

4

TOTAL

342

76

4

4

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

4

4

1

0

Office of Financial Research

I wrote the Office of Financial Research (OFR) this week in follow up to a recent meeting we had on creating more transparency regarding settlement agreements reached with large financial institutions. Too often, the public learns about these agreements haphazardly, or not at all.

As far as I am aware, the public does not have access to a single database detailing major actions taken by federal regulators and the Department of Justice to address illegal activity conducted by the largest financial institutions in this country. This is a gap that desperately needs to be filled and I urged OFR to pursue this.

One recent example is Wells Fargo, in the news for creating two million phony accounts without their customers’ knowledge or consent. It turns out, however, that this was not the first time Wells Fargo engaged in large scale customer abuse. Federal regulators – including the Department of Justice, the Federal Housing Administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others - have levied over $10 billion in fines in the past few years alone for practices ranging from mortgage fraud to student loan abuses. And yet, there is no single place for an investor, a state securities regulator, or even a federal regulator, let alone a member of the public, to access a running list of a large financial institution’s worst offenses.

This is a basic and commonsense effort that would go a long way towards providing the American public with information that is crucial to the safety of our financial system.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday January 9th. The House is expected to consider legislation related to the Affordable Care Act.

Mike


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

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