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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

March 25, 2017

London

I extend my deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones during the horrific terrorist attack near Parliament and the Westminster Bridge in London. The symbolism of the attack is clear. Parliament is the oldest democratic institution in the world. This is an assault on human freedom and the rule of law. We pray for the swift recovery of the injured and stand with the people of the United Kingdom who refuse to be intimidated by terror.

Community Meetings

A reminder that we have three community meetings coming up with details provided below:

  • Monday April 10th
    6:30 – 8:00 PM
    Mildred Avenue Community Center auditorium
    5 Mildred Avenue, Mattapan
  • Wednesday April 12th
    7:00 – 8:30 PM
    Stetson Hall
    6 S. Main Street, Randolph
  • Thursday April 13th
    6-7:30 PM
    East Boston High School auditorium
    86 White Street, East Boston

As additional meetings are added we will share the details with you. Hope to see you at one of them. If you’d like, you can RSVP on Facebook or you can watch my Somerville community meeting via Facebook Live.

An Update on Trumpdon’tcare

After many hours of uncertainty, Republican leadership announced that H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017 had been pulled from the floor. No vote was taken Friday, even after President Trump demanded one and vowed that if the bill didn’t pass Friday, he was moving on to other issues. Late Friday afternoon Speaker Ryan announced that the bill had been pulled at the President’s request. The President struggled to convince some dissenting Republicans, including conservative, libertarian, and dubious moderates. The powerful Chair of the Appropriations Committee was also skeptical. H.R. 1628 is a fatally flawed bill that would leave 24 million Americans without health coverage and will greatly increase cost for older persons.

The President’s political maneuvers have been interesting to watch. First, he had an “unnamed highly placed White House source” say that they never should have allowed Speaker Ryan to lead the effort … clearly laying the groundwork to blame him if the bill failed. Then he issued an “ultimatum” to his own party members that it would be this bill or nothing — so if the bill passed he could declare himself the master negotiator and take personal credit. It would be funny if it were not so tragic.

The last accommodation for the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” the most conservative of the House Republicans, was a retreat from the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to “essential benefits” that a health plan must offer to be eligible for public subsidies. This decision on what health care is “essential” would have been left to the states, so, a state legislature could decide, for example, that maternity care is not essential and need not be covered. It could decline to cover mental illness, substance abuse treatment, mental illness, or even emergency room treatment. Each state would have been allowed to make its own decisions, so if you moved, your health coverage could get worse.

The drama may be over for now but we cannot declare victory and move on. The House may not take up health care again next week but I fully expect that in the months ahead there will be other efforts to undermine the ACA. There may or may not be more legislative proposals, but there will certainly be regulatory actions that will undermine the ACA. Remember, after his defeat the President was quoted as saying let the ACA “explode”. That ONLY happens if his Administration allows it either by malicious action or callous inaction. We must continue to be vigilant.

Investigation Confirmed

On Monday FBI Director James Comey confirmed during a congressional hearing that law enforcement officials are indeed investigating Russian meddling into the 2016 election, including whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign was involved. It was an extraordinary and somber moment in American politics. I am relieved that Director Comey publicly acknowledged the investigation as well as its scope. The American public deserves answers, no matter how long it takes to get there.

Russian Roulette

When President Trump claimed, without a shred of evidence, that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones before the election I called for a bipartisan Special Joint Committee of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to look into all of it, including what evidence Trump has, if any, to support this very serious charge.

On Monday Director Comey declared there was no evidence whatsoever to substantiate President Trump’s outrageous allegations. Despite this, the Administration stood by those tweets, refusing to acknowledge there is no factual basis for them.

On Wednesday Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes held an impromptu press conference to essentially declare that maybe Trump was right after all. He claims intelligence agencies conducting routine legal surveillance may have picked up Trump officials. He was referring to incidental collection, which is legal. If a foreign official who is under surveillance communicates with an American citizen, the information will be picked up. This is not new, and has been reported widely.

After Rep. Nunes raced to brief the press about this, he then ran to brief the White House before giving the Ranking Democratic Member Schiff, the courtesy of a conversation. Rep. Nunes wouldn’t even provide Rep. Schiff with intercept reports and other documentation, claiming he didn’t have them. That of course raises an interesting question — did he actually see any intercept reports and if he did, where were they? There has actually been speculation that the information came from the White House itself.

On Friday Rep. Nunes abruptly cancelled the open Intelligence Committee hearing scheduled for next week to take testimony from the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. This hearing was also on the topic of Russian interference in the election.

After that outrageous action, Nunes’ spokesman then said Nunes “would have to get all the documents he requested … before he knows for sure.” I have never seen a more confusing, less professional so-called “investigation” of such a sensitive and important matter.

Chairman Nunes cannot play two roles, he is either the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee investigating some serious allegations or he is acting on behalf of President Trump as he did as a member of the Trump Transition Team. Chairman Nunes’s reckless actions have destroyed his credibility. Reasonable people can see beyond the smoke and mirrors. They recognize this for what it is — a blatant attempt to lend substance to Trump's reckless allegations of wiretapping. Don't fall for it.

Rep. Nunes’s actions undermine any hope of his independence. All this intrigue and distrust causes me to repeat my earlier call for an independent, bi-partisan committee to review the matter rather than the partisan and politically charged situation we now suffer.

Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees

This week I joined with 78 other Democratic Members of Congress in an “amicus” a friend of the court brief in the case Trump v. Hawaii, now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The revised Executive Order bans travel to the US by nationals of 6 majority-Muslim countries for 90 days and prohibits entry of refugees for 120 days. The brief emphasizes that the Constitution gives Congress authority over immigration and prohibits religious discrimination. The brief is a compelling document, citing Jefferson, Madison, and Washington’s famous letter to the Touro Synagogue promising that America gives to “bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance.”

Old Bill, New Spin

This week the House considered H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017. There is an interesting story to tell about this legislation, which you will notice received bipartisan support. H.R. 372 repeals an anti-trust exemption for health insurers provided for through the McCarran-Ferguson Act. Under this legislation, health insurance companies subject to state regulation would no longer be exempt from anti-trust laws. Similar legislation passed the House in 2010 with a vote of 406 to 19. Current House Speaker Paul Ryan, current Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and current Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price all voted against the 2010 legislation.

Republicans are now touting H.R. 372 as a way to help make health insurance more affordable. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that H.R. 372 won’t have a measurable impact on premiums. I voted YES. H.R. 372 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

235

0

0

1

DEMOCRAT

181

7

0

5

TOTAL

416

7

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

8

0

0

1

Another Attack on Essential Benefits

The House also considered H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017. This legislation loosens coverage requirements for Association Health Plans (AHPs) put in place under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA mandates that AHPs offer the same minimum level of coverage as other plans. AHPs are insurance vehicles that allow small employer groups and individuals to join forces and share a particular health care plan. H.R. 1101 limits states’ authority to regulate these plans. Limiting regulation and loosening coverage requirements places consumers and small businesses who choose AHPs at greater risk. I voted NO. H.R. 1101 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

232

0

0

4

DEMOCRAT

4

175

0

14

TOTAL

236

175

0

18

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Sudan and South Sudan

I joined my fellow co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan, Reps. Rooney and Lee, urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take immediate action to improve the United States diplomatic and humanitarian policies toward the two countries.

We raised concerns about the recent easing of sanctions and increasing trade with Sudan. We believe the government must be closely monitored to determine if these steps actually improve circumstances on the ground for the Sudanese people. We are particularly concerned about their commitment to allowing increased humanitarian access to the abused populations of the Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile regions. We also expressed our disappointment that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) rejected a U.S.-proposed resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan.

Supporting peace and justice for the victims of mass atrocities and genocide has long been a bipartisan issue supported by faith groups and human rights advocates from across the political spectrum. My colleagues and I requested regular updates and briefings and expressed a willingness to work with the Secretary to develop and implement a strong, effective strategy that reflects American values and promotes peace in Sudan and South Sudan.

To his credit, President Trump today recognized the catastrophe in South Sudan in strong language:

"The situation in and in relation to South Sudan, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13664 with respect to South Sudan."

I hope strong US action will follow.

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 March 13, 2017 the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced changes to its Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living which surveys persons living with disabilities. Moving forward HHS will no longer collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity. HHS is also eliminating that data collection from its National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. This is important because the data collection helps HHS determine which programs for older Americans and persons living with disabilities are working best, if they are reaching enough people and where improvements can be made. By eliminating this information, HHS will have a diminished ability to evaluate whether programming is effective and truly available to the LGBTQ community.
  2. On March 17, 2017 we learned that the Department of Justice switched sides in a case involving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency. The CFPB found that a home loan company was taking illegal kickbacks from insurance companies and overcharging its mortgage borrowers. The CFPB pursued the company, demanding they relinquish the money obtained illegally. The company in turn sued the CFPB seeking to nullify the agency's findings. One of the company's claims is that the CFPB is unconstitutional. Last week the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief supporting the company's claim that the CFPB is unconstitutional. President Trump cannot fire the CFPB director at will but can fire the director for cause - i.e. for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office." That may explain why the DOJ is now basically arguing in court that the CFPB is unconstitutional. If the DOJ prevails, we can expect a lot less consumer protection when it comes to student loans, payday lending, mortgage scams, Wells Fargo type fraud, auto lending discrimination, credit card and debit card fees and so much more.
  3. On March 20, 2017 we learned that first daughter Ivanka Trump was getting a White House office with security clearance, access to classified information and government issued communications devices to go along with it. However, Ivanka will not actually be a government employee, which means she won’t need Senate confirmation or have to be sworn in. This raises questions about application of anti-nepotism laws and conflicts of interest because she has not completely stepped away from either the Trump business empire or her own fashion business. By not making Ivanka an official employee even though that is what she effectively is, she won't have to abide by ethics rules that apply to other government employees.
  4. On March 21, 2017 the Trump Administration delayed a rule requiring airlines to report data on damaged and missing wheelchairs. The delayed rule also required airlines to report more meaningful data on missing and mishandled baggage. Airlines currently report just the number of mishandled bags per passenger, so the numbers can be misleading if a lot of passengers don't check bags. Since many airlines now charge for checked baggage, the amount of carry-on luggage has increased. The new rule would require airlines to report both the number of mishandled bags as well as how many bags checked overall. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2018. It has now been delayed at least a year.
  5. On March 21, 2017 the Trump Administration delayed a rule requiring commuter and intercity passenger railroads to develop and implement a system safety program. This is a structured and proactive program to identify then mitigate or eliminate safety risks on a railroad. This rule was scheduled to go into effect on March 21, 2017. The rule has been delayed until May 22, 2017.
  6. On February 23, 2017 the FCC voted to remove reporting requirements for internet providers with 250,000 subscribers or less. The carriers no longer have to report on data caps, fees, and their network performance/management practices. This data is vital for informing policymakers on a carrier’s practices related to net neutrality.
  7. Right after the election, Trump tapped Carl Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, as a special advisor on regulatory reform. Icahn’s charge is to target for elimination whatever the Administration considers to be excessive federal regulation. However, just like Ivanka, Icahn is not technically a government employee and is not divesting himself from any business interests. On the contrary, he's still actively trading. Last month, he bought a stake in Bristol Myers Squibb, a giant pharmaceutical company regulated by any number of federal agencies – the Food and Drug Administration, Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to name just a few. None of these agencies have been declared off-limits to Icahn in his government role. The arrangement raises a host of potential conflicts of interest as well as the potential for insider trading as he obtains information in his government role that could affect any of the companies he's currently invested in or could seek to invest in the future. CVR Energy, Tropicana Entertainment, AIG, PayPal, HerbaLife, Xerox, Allergan and Hertz are just a few of the public companies in Icahn’s portfolio. Many of his other ownership stakes are held in opaque holding companies that make unclear the full extent of his portfolio.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday March 27th.

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

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DC Office Phone:

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