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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


11,964 subscribers

February 17, 2017

A Note about Community Meetings

My office is in the process of scheduling some community meetings in our district for March and April. As details are finalized we will share them with you. I very much enjoyed talking with everyone who attended our open house in January and I look forward to continuing that dialogue with you.

Russia and the Trump Administration

I am deeply troubled by reports that members of President Trump’s campaign regularly communicated with Russian intelligence officials for a year leading up to the election. This news comes after the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had numerous illegal conversations with the Russian ambassador late last year, then lied to, among others, the Vice President of the United States, about the content of those conversations. On top of all this we now learn that the President himself knew about this illegal activity weeks before he took action. Our intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to influence the election. This is no longer about who won and who lost in November. It is about the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation. These reports demand an independent investigation.

I think it’s very telling that, so far, Republicans in Congress are resisting calls to investigate any of this. There have been comments, including from President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, that the real story is the leaks to the media, and that’s what should be investigated. In fact, in an extraordinary press conference yesterday, President Trump called news reports about regular contact with Russia during the campaign “fake news” and a “joke” while at the same time demanding an investigation into the very leaks upon which the news reports were based. Well, you can’t have it both ways. If the President really believes the news reports are false, there is no need to investigate anything because the leaks must be false too, right? One of Trump’s more interesting and contradictory quotes from the press conference was this one: “The leaks are absolutely real, the news is fake.”

I probably don’t have to remind you that Candidate Trump himself called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails in July. You may recall this quote from him: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Trump and His Taxes

There is a way to gain access to President Trump’s tax returns using an existing law. In 1924 Congress passed legislation authorizing the Chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation to obtain the tax return of any individual. The law was adopted in response to the Teapot Dome scandal. It was used in 1974 in relation to the Congressional investigation of President Nixon.

Once the tax returns are obtained by the chairs of the committees, they can then convene an Executive Session which would be closed to the public and subject to secrecy requirements. Committee members would have an opportunity to view the tax documents and vote on whether to release them to the public. Ways and Means Committee Democrats on Tuesday tried to introduce an amendment invoking the 1924 law and starting the process of reviewing the tax returns.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady opposed the amendment and on a party line vote, it failed. Every Republican on the committee just voted to keep Trump’s tax returns hidden from the public. Think about that for a moment. Congress has an opportunity to shed a light on the President’s tax returns using an existing law and Republicans on the committee of jurisdiction took a pass. They’re not even interested in viewing the returns in a confidential setting to determine for themselves whether there is anything to be concerned about. Given what we have learned about interaction with Russia and the lack of information available about the President’s business ties, this lack of curiosity is shocking and irresponsible.

Federal Land Management

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 428, the Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act. This legislation removes the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) authority to conduct land surveys for more than 100 miles along the Red River, which borders Texas and Oklahoma. Portions of this land are federally owned and the BLM has been conducting surveys to determine borders and ownership. H.R. 428 takes the BLM completely out of this process, instead giving survey authority over federal lands to the states of Texas and Oklahoma. It also authorizes $1 million in federal funds for the two states to complete the survey work, some of which has already been done. H.R. 428 basically removes the federal government from the work being done along the Red River. It eliminates the government’s authority over its own land while still requiring federal taxpayers to fund the project. Transferring this authority also causes problems for Native American tribes in the area who have been working with the BLM to preserve their rights. I voted NO. H.R. 428 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

235

0

0

3

DEMOCRAT

15

171

0

7

TOTAL

250

171

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Tying Unemployment Benefits to Drug Testing

On Wednesday the House considered H.J. Res. 42, Disapproving of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to drug testing of unemployment compensation applicants. This rule was established to comply with the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which extended emergency unemployment compensation. The Department of Labor’s rule applied specifically to professions that already required drug testing such as machine operators or truck drivers. This resolution eliminates the DOL rule, which could in turn let states subject everyone applying for unemployment compensation to drug testing. No funds are authorized for this sweeping drug testing requirement. I voted NO. The resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

232

1

0

5

DEMOCRAT

4

188

0

1

TOTAL

236

189

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Making it Harder to Save for Retirement

Also Wednesday the House considered H.J. Res. 66, Disapproving of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to savings arrangements established by states for non-governmental employees. This rule establishes a framework for states to create workplace savings plans for private sector employees who don’t have access to savings plans through their jobs. Some employers provide these opportunities but many do not. So far, Massachusetts and 7 other states have created these savings plans for their residents. H.J. Res. 66 effectively eliminates this program. I voted NO. The resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

230

3

0

5

DEMOCRAT

1

190

0

2

TOTAL

231

193

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Making it Harder to Save for Retirement, Part Two

Wednesday the House considered H.J. Res. 67, Disapproving of the rule submitted by the Department of Labor related to savings arrangements established by qualified state political subdivisions for non-governmental employees. This DOL rule is similar to the one described above except it specifically applies to large municipalities and counties. This rule allowed these entities to create workplace savings plans for employees who do not have access to retirement savings plans through their own employer. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 67 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

1

0

4

DEMOCRAT

1

190

0

2

TOTAL

234

191

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Open Season on Boo-Boo

In the iconic Yogi Bear cartoon series, Yogi and his loyal bear cub friend Boo-Boo got into much mischief at Jellystone Park. With House consideration of H.J. Res. 69, bear cubs like the fictional Boo-Boo can now be killed just to preserve more trophy animals for big game hunters in Alaska. H.J. Res. 69, providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Department of the Interior relating to “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska” was considered yesterday. This rule prohibits the recreational killing of certain animals, including bear cubs and wolf pups within Alaskan national wildlife refuges. Infant and immature members of these species have been culled in an attempt to increase the populations of game animals like elk and caribou. Eliminating this rule means that hunters are free to kill wolves and wolf cubs in their dens as well as grizzly bears and their cubs. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 69, which should be called the Killing Baby Animals Act, passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

220

10

0

7

DEMOCRAT

5

183

0

5

TOTAL

225

193

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Limiting Access to Health Care

Saving the most controversial rules “tweak” for last, the House considered H.J. Res. 43, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule submitted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting subrecipients. Title X is a federal grant program that helps community health centers and other medical facilities provide family planning and preventive health services to low income individuals and their families. This rule required states to make Title X funding available to ALL qualified health care providers, including Planned Parenthood. Title X money can be used for cancer screenings, contraceptive coverage, pregnancy testing and other services. By nullifying this rule, states can withhold Title X money from any provider that also offers abortion services. So far, 14 states have already tried to do this. It’s important to note that federal funds, including Title X monies, are already prohibited from being used for abortion services. Without this rule, some health centers in low income communities will have diminished resources. In many cases, they are the most accessible and affordable source of health care for their patients. In many communities, they are the ONLY provider. This affects both urban and rural Americans. I learned this when, years ago, I founded the House Community Health Center Caucus with another urban Democrat and two rural Republicans. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 43 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

2

0

7

DEMOCRAT

2

186

0

5

TOTAL

230

188

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Behind the Curtain

Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.

  1. On January 31, 2017 the federal government halted a regulation giving whistleblowers the ability to seek civil penalties against federal nuclear contractors who retaliate against them.
  2. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 66 Making it Harder to Save for Retirement
  3. As discussed above, H.J. Res. 67 Making it Harder to Save for Retirement Part Two
  4. As discussed above, H.J. Res 43 Limiting Access to Health Care

Behind the Curtain – UPDATES

#12. The President signed H.J. Res. 41 on February 14, 2017, ending disclosure requirements for companies involved in oil, gas or mineral extraction overseas. Now they no longer have to provide information about payments they make to foreign governments.

#13. On February 16, 2017 the President signed H.J. Res. 38, lifting restrictions on mountaintop removal mining that were put in place to protect streams and other bodies of water.

What’s Up Next

A District Work period is scheduled for next week. The next House votes will take place on Monday February 27th.

Mike


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Ethics
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.


District Offices:

110 First Street, Cambridge
Roxbury Community College Campus Library, Room 211, Boston
Stetson Hall Room 124, 6 South Main Street, Randolph

District Office Phone:

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DC Office:

1414 Longworth Building, Washington, DC 20515

DC Office Phone:

(202) 225-5111

Website and e-mail:

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