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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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June 9, 2017

Comey’s Testimony

There is much to reflect on in former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony yesterday. Comey reiterated there is no doubt that the Russians interfered in the recent election and that it was an “active measures campaign”. He warned us they’ll be back to do it again. He testified that the Russians did this “with purpose, they did it with sophistication, they did it with overwhelming technical efforts. . .” This underscores with broad bright lines the need for an independent commission to supplement the work that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is doing. An independent commission can be entrusted with a broader mission to look at our electoral system and recommend ways to strengthen it so we are not vulnerable to foreign interference in the future. Russia actively intervened in the 2016 election to influence the electorate. That is not speculation, it is fact. As Americans, we simply must insist upon an exhaustive review. Interference of this nature undermines the very foundation of our democracy.

Former FBI Director Comey shared vivid details about his interactions with the President and there is so much to be concerned about. I am disturbed that Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him and that he cleared the Oval Office to tell Comey privately he “hoped” the FBI would let the Flynn investigation go. Comey testified he felt the President was directing him to take action during that meeting. I think it’s clear to anyone who’s ever had a boss why Comey would feel this way. Comey also testified that he wrote detailed memos about his interactions with Trump because he was concerned the President would lie about the substance of their meetings. The President’s response to all this? He’s calling Comey a liar and a leaker.

All of this is under investigation by Special Counsel Mueller, as it should be. After Comey’s testimony, that investigation very likely now includes whether the President obstructed justice when he tried to get the FBI to shut down an investigation, fired the FBI Director, lied about his reasons for doing so, and then later admitted it was because of “the Russia thing”.

Nine Times No on Trump’s Tax Returns

On Wednesday I offered a Privileged Resolution to force a vote on whether the House should examine President Trump’s tax returns. Every President since Gerald Ford, Democrat and Republican, has released his returns. Congress has a responsibility to examine the returns for potential conflicts of interest, and the American people have a right to know that their President is not violating the Constitution.

Wednesday’s vote was the ninth time the House has gone on record voting against making President Trump’s tax returns available for review by Congress. Democrats are pushing for a vote on H.R. 305, legislation to require every President, including the current occupant of the Oval Office, to publicly release their tax returns. We have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on this legislation. Currently, 191 Members have signed it but we need a majority of House Members to advance H.R. 305. We have also been highlighting a 1924 law passed by Congress 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. 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, an Executive Session closed to the public and subject to secrecy requirements would be convened. Committee members would view the tax documents and vote on whether to release them to the public.

Wednesday’s vote was to Table Appeal of the Ruling of the Chair. A Privileged Resolution, which is what I offered Wednesday, requires a vote within two legislative days. My resolution was ruled out of order by the Chair. The vote we took was to protest the ruling of the Chair. A YES vote means the Chair’s decision to rule my resolution out of order stands and no vote on my resolution is required. A NO vote overturns the ruling of the chair and requires a vote on my resolution. Simply put, voting YES is voting to keep Trump’s tax returns under wraps and voting NO would advance efforts to examine them. We usually limit vote charts to final passage of bills under regular order but we’re making an exception. I spoke on the floor just before the vote. Republican Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C) voted PRESENT and Republican Rep. Walter Jones (N.C) voted NO. I voted NO and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

227

1

1

8

DEMOCRAT

1

185

0

7

TOTAL

228

186

1

15

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Cutting Corners on Border Security Hiring

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 2213, the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act of 2017. This legislation gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to hire veterans and law enforcement personnel without first requiring them to take a polygraph test. Currently all potential hires must take a polygraph test as part of the application process. Making the hiring process for Customs and Border Patrol agents less rigorous would allow DHS to speed it up. The Trump Administration has included additional personnel as part of its larger approach to border security and deportation. This legislation makes it easier for the Administration to accomplish their border security goals but may compromise the quality of the force. I voted NO. H.R. 2213 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

0

0

6

DEMOCRAT

51

137

0

5

TOTAL

282

137

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

2

7

0

0

Wrong CHOICE Act

Yesterday the House completed consideration of H.R. 10, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which repeals the most important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation became law after the 2008 financial crisis to protect the U.S. economy from another worldwide financial collapse that facilitated the worst recession since the Great Depression. H.R. 10, or the Wrong CHOICE Act, deregulates the largest financial institutions in the world, makes it harder for state and federal regulators to pursue bad actors, and brings back the Wild West environment that Wall Street enjoyed before the 2008 financial crisis.

I have many, many problems with this bill. It destroys the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which has recovered billions of dollars for consumers harmed by fraudulent mortgage servicing, student loans, payday lending, discriminatory auto lending, and abusive debt collection practices. To date, almost 30 million consumers have been assisted by the CFPB. H.R. 10 eliminates almost all of the CFPB’s authority to oversee financial institutions, ends the independent funding process for the CFPB and gives the President the authority to fire the CFPB Director any time he wants and for any reason.

H.R. 10 repeals the Volcker rule which exists to prevent commercial banks from gambling with federally insured deposits. It weakens the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) which was established to help identify and manage financial risks so they do not destabilize the economy. It weakens the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by watering down rules relating to credit rating agencies and shareholder rights. It repeals the Department of Labor's fiduciary duty rule, which simply requires people who hold themselves out as financial advisors to act in their client's best interests.

Instead of heeding the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis, the Wrong CHOICE Act would take us back to its darkest days. It is opposed by dozens of advocacy groups, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Fair Housing Alliance to the Consumer Federation of America and the AARP. I spoke on the floor about H.R. 10.

I voted NO. H.R. 10 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

1

0

3

DEMOCRAT

0

185

0

8

TOTAL

233

186

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss

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

  1. The Trump Administration issued a new policy regarding responding to information requests from Members of Congress. Supported by a May 1st Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion, federal agencies have been instructed to disregard information requests from Members of Congress unless they are from or supported by Committee or Subcommittee Chairs. Keep in mind that Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate. Based on this policy, any time a Democrat asks for information the request has to be backed by Republican committee/subcommittee leadership. This significantly limits the ability of Democrats to get answers to questions for their constituents and for themselves.
  2. On May 31, 2017 the Trump Administration announced ethics waivers for 17 White House staffers, including Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. President Obama issued 17 ethics waivers during his entire Presidency. These waivers exempt the employees from certain requirements, including prohibitions on communicating with former employers or clients. It raises serious conflict of interest questions.
  3. On May 23, 2017 the Office of Management and Budget approved a more extensive questionnaire for visa applicants that asks for all social media handles, emails, and telephone numbers for the last five years, as well as biographical information for the past 15 years. This additional scrutiny is part of an effort to tighten vetting of U.S. visitors and give more authority to consular officials to request private information. While the new questions are voluntary anyone who does not answer them may experience a delay or a denial of their visa application. This expanded questionnaire grants extensive new power to consular officials who have the sole authority to determine who is ultimately granted a visa.
  4. In a June 5, 2017 memo Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would halt the practice of reaching settlement agreements directing payouts to “third-party organizations” that were not directly involved in the lawsuits. Such settlements have gone to the National Urban League, Habitat for Humanity and the Legal Services Corporation. The purpose of the settlement agreements with the federal government is to assist those who were injured by the harmful conduct of the company in the first place. The Pipeline Safety Trust, which is the only non-profit focused on pipeline safety, was created by a settlement like this in a criminal case resulting from a pipeline explosion in Washington State.
  5. H.R. 10 as described above.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes will take place on Monday June 12th. At this writing a list of legislation to be considered is not available.

Mike


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

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