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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

March 31, 2017

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.

Your Internet Searches Are Going on Sale

This week the House considered S.J. Res. 34, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relating to Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services. This legislation nullifies the following FCC rule: Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Service.

The practical impact of cancelling this rule is significant and deeply disturbing. Once the President signs this measure, internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to collect and sell our personal data without telling us or asking permission. This includes browsing history, personal information about us and our families, financial information, app usage and so much more. Just think about all the information you and your family members search for on the internet. You might not care if your ISP shares the news that you searched for a new home or a living room set or the updated recycling schedule for your community. What if your child is ill and you are concerned about her symptoms or the side effects of a prescribed medication? Or your mother has been diagnosed with a disease and you want to learn more about it? All of this information will now be available without your consent and you can’t do anything about it. I really cannot understand why anyone would think this is a good idea. I am so concerned about this issue that I spoke twice on the floor (see below for links). I voted NO. S.J. Res. 34 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

215

15

0

6

DEMOCRAT

0

190

0

3

TOTAL

215

205

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

VIDEO CLIPS: As of this morning more than 2,500,000 have viewed the video clips of my Floor Speeches on Internet Privacy. Most of those views have come on commercial sites such as Now This, Young Turks and ATTN. If you want to watch them, they are posted on our Facebook page.

PETITION: I started a petition with Rep. Mike Doyle asking the President to veto S.J. Res. 34 - don't let internet providers spy on us and sell our online data.

The Russia Plot Thickens

Last week Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes briefed the press, then the White House, then the press again before communicating with Ranking Democratic Member Schiff about Trump Administration officials being subjected to “incidental collection” during legal surveillance. There was speculation that Rep. Nunes actually got this information from the White House itself.

Well it turns out, there was something to that speculation. It was reported yesterday that two White House officials provided Rep. Nunes with the classified information, which he viewed on White House grounds. Rep. Nunes won’t confirm that, but previously described his source as a “whistleblower”. He also claimed he went to the White House because he needed a secure environment to study the reports. I guess Rep. Nunes forgot he is the chair of the Intelligence Committee with access to secure facilities on Capitol Hill. There is no need to seek a secure room at the White House. Moreover, Members of Congress cannot simply stroll onto White House grounds without advance notice. Someone granted Nunes access.

Rep. Nunes also abruptly cancelled a public Intelligence Committee hearing to question former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on the topic of Russian interference in the election. Turns out there’s more to that too.

Concerns were reportedly raised about Yates’ testimony, with the Justice Department arguing her testimony likely fell under either attorney-client privilege or presidential communications privilege and therefore could not be shared with the committee. Yates and her lawyer disagreed, informing White House Counsel Donald McGahn that she would proceed with her testimony unless they heard back. That same day, Nunes cancelled the hearing.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer is claiming the White House did not respond to the communication from Yates’ lawyer because they didn’t have a problem with her testifying before the committee.

Timing is, of course, everything. Remember, Nunes cancelled the hearing the same day White House counsel received the letter from Yates’ attorney. No hearing, no need to respond to the letter.

I don’t see how any reasonable person can still believe Rep. Nunes is able to conduct a serious bipartisan investigation into Russian actions, including possible coordination with Trump associates. As I have been saying for a few weeks now, the American people deserve an independent, bi-partisan investigation and Rep. Nunes should have nothing to do with it.

Build that Wall, Not That Train Station

The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR), expiring on April 28th. By that deadline Congress must pass legislation funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. President Trump would like to use this opportunity to start work on that wall along the Mexican border he has long promised to build. During the campaign of course, he also promised Mexico would pay for it. Interestingly, Interior Secretary Zinke actually suggested this week that parts of the wall may have to be built IN Mexico.

The Trump Administration has proposed $18 billion in cuts during this fiscal year with that money redirected to the wall. Here is some of what he is proposing to cut:

  • $1.5 billion from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which represents a whopping half of their budget for this fiscal year.
  • $1.2 billion from National Institutes of Health research grants
  • $500 million from the TIGER transportation grant program
  • $372 million in home heating assistance for qualified families

By the end of April, the 2017 fiscal year will be more than half over. So what exactly would that mean for the CDBG program? Does it shut down for the rest of the year? This program was started by Richard Nixon (no liberal by any measure) and money goes to cities and towns for initiatives like affordable housing, park rehabilitation and small business assistance. Those TIGER grants help communities fund larger transportation initiatives. Ruggles Station was rehabilitated with a TIGER grant.

The good news is that Republicans in Congress have not yet embraced these cuts and there is bipartisan ambivalence about using taxpayer money to build a giant wall. However, this list of cuts shines a bright light on the new President’s priorities. He cares more about spending billions on a wall than he does about scientific research.

Making Sure the EPA is Ineffective

The House on Wednesday considered H.R. 1430, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017. This legislation prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from conducting any work on rules, from inception to completion, unless all of the scientific and technical research used to develop the rule is publicly available, can be reviewed by outside entities and can be replicated. Universities and research institutions are regularly consulted by the EPA for peer-reviewed research. In many cases, that research includes sensitive personal information, including details related to an individual’s health. The disclosure requirements in H.R. 1430 potentially make that information publicly available because the legislation gives the EPA Administrator the authority to release it to anyone. There is also a cost issue associated with this bill. Although $1 million is authorized to cover the costs associated with H.R. 1430, the Congressional Budget Office analyzed a similar bill and determined it would cost the EPA $1 billion over 4 years to comply. I voted NO. H.R. 1430 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

225

7

0

4

DEMOCRAT

3

187

0

3

TOTAL

228

194

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

A Seat for the Flat Earth Society

The House yesterday considered H.R. 1431, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017. This legislation imposes additional requirements for the EPA when choosing Science Advisory Board (SAB) members. The board must represent “balanced” views of scientific matters, including views that are not consistent with actual scientific evidence. It is fair to ask proponents of this legislation if they would require that SAB members be equally divided between those who accept climate change is real and those who don’t. Should there be one seat for those who believe the earth is round and another for those who believe it is flat? H.R. 1431 also permits up to 90% of all board members to be scientists working in the private sector. This would give big business an outsized role in determining the direction of the EPA. The legislation mandates that all SAB decisions are consistent with the positions of all board members. It further requires the board to accept public comments on all of their decisions and respond to every one although no additional funding is provided to assist the SAB in accomplishing these additional responsibilities. I voted NO. H.R. 1431 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

227

5

0

4

DEMOCRAT

2

188

0

3

TOTAL

229

193

0

7

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 March 23, 2017 the General Services Administration (GSA) ruled that President Trump is not benefitting from government property and therefore is not in violation of his D.C. hotel lease. This determination comes after Trump family members met with the GSA to address conflicts of interest related to the Old Post Office Building, which is now Trump Hotel. The GSA is satisfied that Trump will not benefit from the hotel while in office because his interest will be held in trust and he won’t receive any distributions until he leaves office. What a shock that a governmental agency would clear their boss, the President, from any suspicion. It reminds me of the famous quote from the classic movie Casablanca, when Captain Renault declares himself to be SHOCKED, SHOCKED to find that gambling was going on in the casino.

    This is just nonsense. The hotel is within walking distance of the White House. Even if Trump is not benefitting financially from the hotel today, he will be as soon as he leaves office. Anyone wishing to influence or curry favor with the Trump administration, including foreign governments, has an easy way of showing they have helped contribute to the success of the hotel and the Trump brand. Additionally, the hotel is valued at $200 million. $170 million of this was financed by Deutsche Bank which is under investigation by federal regulators. Those regulators will now be appointed by Trump. Labor disputes with hotel employees may end up before the National Labor Relations Board. Those members will be also be appointed by Trump.
  2. On March 24, 2017 President Trump signed the Keystone XL Pipeline Permit. Previously, the President established a short 60 day window to review the permit even though the State Department has said the impact of the project could not be fully considered until the route through Kansas was selected, which still hasn’t happened. The President signed this permit without seriously considering all the issues, including environmental impact along the pipeline route.
  3. On March 28, 2017 President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which was an effort to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. The order also rolls back many Obama Administration efforts to protect the environment and plan for climate change. For instance it rescinds guidance issued requiring agencies to incorporate climate change into National Environmental Policy Act reviews, and would reopen previously off limits public lands to coal mining. The Clean Power Plan is perhaps the biggest item in the order. The EPA acted only after determining, based on scientific evidence, that greenhouse gas emissions are a public health threat. With this EO, the Administration will have to now argue against that science.
  4. S.J. Res 34, the loss of internet privacy as described above
  5. H.R. 1430, that hinders the EPA as described above
  6. H.R. 1431, the Flat Earth Society bill as described above

UPDATE: 15. On March 27, 2017 the President signed H.J. Res. 37, freeing companies seeking federal contracts from the obligation to provide information about any federal labor or safety violations on their records. Now, companies do not have to be transparent about any violations they may have had and what they did to address them.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday April 3rd. The House is expected to consider H.R. 1343, the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act.

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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