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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

February 3, 2017

This is a lengthy report, particularly since it’s our third one this week. It’s also a good example of what we wrote about earlier — doing so much at once some important actions will go unnoticed.

A few days ago we launched our new feature, Behind the Curtain. We will regularly update this list of actions taken by the Administration and the House of Representatives that we believe have an important and direct impact on the American dream and on programs that help improve our lives. As noted earlier, there will be some overlap when legislation reported in the newsletter ends up on the list, but we think it’s important to be comprehensive. You can find new items at the end of our regular newsletter. The complete running list will be on the front page of our website.

As we reviewed this week’s legislation, we were struck by the misleading nature of some of the bill titles. This is one way the majority party tries to control the message. Here is a striking example you will read about below: H.J. Res 41 is titled - Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers”. That title is pretty innocuous and sounds like it must deal with some trivial technicality – but the legislation actually repeals an SEC rule (adopted pursuant to Dodd-Frank banking reforms) that requires oil, gas and mineral companies to report payments made to a foreign government. It was intended to minimize/eliminate bribes to foreign dictators. A more accurate title really would be the Make Corporate Bribery Legal Again Act.

We will start supplementing the official bill title included in our newsletter with more honest and accurate titles when we feel it is appropriate. We are calling this our Truth in Titles Pledge.

Steve Bannon

On Saturday night, as protests against President Trump’s appalling actions on immigration and refugees erupted all over the country, he signed another Executive Order (EO). This one has gotten some attention but not as much as it should. The EO elevates Trump’s chief political strategist Steve Bannon to the “principals committee” on the National Security Council (NSC). He simultaneously reduced the roles of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. This is a shocking and frankly frightening move. The man best known for his role at Breitbart, Mr. Fake News himself, will be at the table when issues of national security are discussed and strategies are devised – and our leading defense and intelligence people will be excluded.

I joined my colleague Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s (D-FL) bill that would prohibit any individual from serving on the National Security Council if their primary or predominant responsibility is political in nature.

The New “Diplomacy”?

The American public got some troubling glimpses into the diplomatic approach that President Trump is taking with foreign leaders. He reportedly had a difficult conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement reached with former President Obama. Leaving aside the President’s apparent distaste for foreign commitments that the United States has made in good faith, it is difficult to understand why he chose to insult and upbraid the leader of one of our strongest and most loyal allies. Australians fought bravely in two world wars and, ever since the Korean war, has always supported U.S. military actions in Asia.

It is impossible to know what, exactly, transpired between President Trump and Mexican President Nieto. However, President Trump’s vague reference to sending in the American military to track down some group of ‘bad hombres’ seems completely out of bounds. The United States has a questionable history of military intervention in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. It is unconscionable to threaten our third largest trading partner with a capricious return to that brand of diplomacy.

Iran test fired an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) in defiance of UN Security Council resolution 2231, adopted a few days before the “Iran deal” (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - JCPOA). The chief purpose of ICBMs is to deliver nuclear warheads. Obviously, this is potentially very dangerous. It may be merely a symbolic provocation or it may be a real threat. Whatever it is, it should not be met with tweets or blustering. It requires serious consultation with other members of the Security Council and our allies in the region.

This week the Administration issued vague threats about putting Iran “on notice”. President Trump also tweeted about Iran using the same phrase. After some additional warning tweets to Iran Friday, sanctions against that country were announced. The President also refused to rule out military action, responding to a press question with: “nothing is off the table.”

I fear that it is only a matter of time before his approach puts the United States in a difficult situation.

The Legal Bribery Bill

As noted above, this week the House considered H.J. Res. 41, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of a rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers” or, the more aptly titled, Make Corporate Bribery Legal Again Act. This legislation seeks to invalidate the rule that requires companies involved in oil, gas or mineral extraction who are registered in the United States to report any payment they make to a foreign government of $100,000 or more. This resolution invalidates that disclosure requirement. The reason for the requirement is to simply make it public how much money companies are paying to foreign governments they do business with. I voted NO. The Resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

230

4

0

5

DEMOCRAT

5

183

0

5

TOTAL

235

187

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Love That Dirty Water

The classic Standells song that has become a Boston anthem perfectly describes H.J. Res. 38, a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to disapprove of the Department of the Interior/Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Stream Protection Rule. This resolution invalidates the Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which restricts mountaintop removal mining. The rule prohibits this activity if streams and other bodies of water would be destroyed, requires companies to monitor area water, improve waste oversight and restore surrounding land to its original condition. More than 2,000 miles of Appalachia streams have been choked and poisoned by this practice. Not surprisingly, this has destroyed fish and wildlife and contaminated drinking water. People living near these mining sites have experienced higher levels of cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement believes that this rule will improve conditions for 6,000 miles of streams and thousands of forest acres. Yet the House just voted to get rid of it because the regulatory burden on business is just too high. I voted NO. The resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

224

9

0

6

DEMOCRAT

4

185

0

4

TOTAL

228

194

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Making it Even Easier to Buy a Gun

Yesterday the House considered H.J. Res. 40, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Social Security Administration (SSA) relating to Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. The Social Security Administration recently issued a rule as part of the process for implementing a law passed by Congress in 2007. That law updated the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so that all federal agencies with information on individuals prohibited from having a gun under existing gun safety laws provide that information to the NICS. The SSA rule applies to individuals with a serious medically documented mental disability and who have been assigned a “representative payee” to oversee their benefits. According to the law passed in 2007, those individuals must automatically be entered into the NICS which restricts their ability to buy a gun. This resolution essentially prohibits the SSA from sharing information with the NICS as required by law. I voted NO. H.J. res. 40 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

229

2

0

8

DEMOCRAT

6

178

0

9

TOTAL

235

180

0

17

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

7

0

2

Go Ahead, Ignore those Labor and Safety Laws — Federal Contracts Can Still be Yours!

Yesterday the House also considered H.J. Res. 37, disapproving the final rule submitted by the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration relating to the Federal Acquisition Regulation. This resolution rejects President Obama’s 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. That rule simply required companies seeking federal contracts to provide information about any federal labor or safety violations on their records. It doesn’t exclude these companies from being awarded federal contracts, it simply requires that the companies be transparent about any violations they may have had and what they did to address them. Rejecting this rule sends the message that the House doesn’t care if contractors getting paid with taxpayer dollars comply with federal labor and safety law. A more honest title for this bill would be, “Worker Safety Laws – No Big Deal”. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 37 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

1

0

5

DEMOCRAT

3

186

0

4

TOTAL

236

187

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Who Needs Clean Air Anyway?

Today the House considered H.J. Res. 36, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Bureau of Land Management relating to “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation. This resolution rejects a rule requiring oil and gas companies to reduce the release of methane on federal lands. Under current practice, methane gas is purposely dispersed into the air rather than collected or managed. Methane can be a valuable resource if gathered and used properly. Under this rule, more than 40 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year would be saved, reducing the negative impact on the environment. When methane gas is simply released into the air, it has a dangerous impact on our respiratory health and the environment. By rejecting this rule, oil and gas companies can just keep polluting the air. We should be calling this bill, The Clean Air is Overrated Act. I voted NO. The resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

218

11

0

10

DEMOCRAT

3

180

0

10

TOTAL

221

191

0

20

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Behind the Curtain

We have some additions to our new feature. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here. We begin where we left off:

  1. On January 30, 2017 President Trump issued an Executive Order requiring that for every federal regulation issued, two other regulations had to be repealed. This is a blunt instrument designed to reduce regulations on businesses. It completely disregards the substance and need for each regulation. Remember, there are federal regulations for everything from food safety inspections and air quality to airline safety.
  2. Late in January the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) approved a Fannie Mae/Blackstone Group deal. Blackstone will use Fannie Mae backed bonds to buy foreclosed homes, which the hedge fund will then sell or rent out for a profit. This is using taxpayer money to help a hedge fund make a profit on foreclosed homes. The deal denies working families the chance to buy one of those homes because they can’t compete with a hedge fund buying properties in bulk. It also drives up rents, mostly in poor neighborhoods.
  3. As discussed above, the Executive Order appointing Steve Bannon to the NSC.
  4. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 41, the Make Corporate Bribery Legal Again Act
  5. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 38, the Love That Dirty Water Act
  6. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 40, the bill making it easier for certain people to purchase guns.
  7. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 37, the Worker Safety Laws – No Big Deal Act
  8. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 36, the Clean Air is Overrated Act.

More details about #11-16 can be found earlier in this newsletter and on our website.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday February 6th. At this writing, a floor schedule is not available.

Mike


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

P.S. I welcome your feedback on our e-Updates. Please let me and my staff know what you think of this service by e-mailing our office.


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