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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 16, 2017

A Sobering Morning

Early Wednesday, the calm of a late spring morning was shattered by bullets aimed at the Republican softball team’s practice for yesterday’s annual charity congressional game. Rep. Steve Scalise, Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey, congressional staffer Zack Barth and lobbyist Matt Mika were all wounded in the attack. Some are still hospitalized with serious injuries. I am keeping them in my thoughts and sending my best wishes for speedy recoveries. I also want to extend my deepest appreciation to the Capitol Police officers and local first responders. Their heroism was on full display Wednesday.

I realize it’s stating the obvious that as a country we are deeply divided. On issues large and small it seems harder and harder to find common ground. But it is during moments like these that we are not Democrats, Republicans or Independents — we are one community with a love for our country and our fellow citizens. We may disagree on how to offer healthcare or housing and we may support different candidates, but the vast majority of us do so with respect. I see that every day in my district and in the halls of Congress, and I hope you see that with your families and in your communities.

The Latest on the Investigation

As we were finalizing this newsletter, President Trump tweeted the following Friday morning: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” In 140 characters, the President seems to confirm that he is in fact being investigated by Special Counsel Mueller. It was a pretty stunning admission. The New York Times reported this week that the general counsel’s office of the Trump Transition directed transition staff to preserve all documents related to Russia. We also learned from the Washington Post that the Special Counsel is investigating son-in-law (and White House staffer) Jared Kushner’s business activity with respect to Russia. The probe appears to be widening.

The Sessions Testimony

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, raising more questions than he answered. The AG declined to respond to numerous inquiries posed by Senators, asserting it would be “inappropriate” to do so. He basically claimed that since executive privilege might at some point be invoked by President Trump, there were many lines of questioning he could not participate in. He also offered an interesting explanation for why he recused himself from the whole Russia investigation. AG Sessions asserted that, according to existing Justice Department regulations, he had no choice because when a campaign you were involved in is the subject of an investigation, recusal is required. As the congressional investigations and Special Counsel Mueller’s work advances, I hope we get answers to some of the questions the AG refused to address this week.

Creating Barriers to Health Care Tax Credits

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act. This legislation amends the Affordable Care Act as well as the American Health Care Act (or Trumpcare), making it harder for people who qualify for health insurance tax credits to receive them. Trumpcare hasn’t even passed the Senate, let alone become law. H.R. 2581 requires that Social Security Number (SSN) be provided by applicants so officials can first verify they are eligible to receive the tax credits. Current law requires applicants to submit either a SSN or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). This legislation lengthens the process and increases barriers to obtaining the tax credit for people who are eligible to receive them. I voted NO. H.R. 2581 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

1

0

5

DEMOCRAT

7

183

0

3

TOTAL

238

184

0

8

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

8

0

0

A Compromise on Employee Performance at the VA

On Tuesday the House considered S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This legislation represents a compromise between Democrats and Republicans that gives the Veterans Affairs Secretary additional authority to address employee performance issues while still preserving important employee protections. S. 1094 reduces the timeline for terminating an employee once a determination of poor performance has been established. The employee still has the right to appeal the determination with either the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) or through the VA’s Master Agreement grievance process. I voted YES S. 104 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

1

0

5

DEMOCRAT

137

54

0

2

TOTAL

368

55

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

8

1

0

0

And One More Bill Amending Trumpcare

Yesterday the House also considered H.R. 2579, the Broader Options for Americans Act. This legislation amends the aspects of Trumpcare having to do with COBRA — the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985. COBRA was established to give employees access to health insurance if they lose their job. It directs employers to make health insurance available to certain eligible employees for up to 18 months after they leave their job. The employee must pay for this health insurance, it is not subsidized by the company. COBRA is expensive, particularly in light of the fact that people who are utilizing it don’t have jobs. Trumpcare doesn’t allow health tax credits to be used to help defray the cost of COBRA. H.R. 2579 would amend this aspect of Trumpcare so the tax credits could be used. The issue I have with this legislation is not the policy itself. The problem I have is the House is amending a bill that has not become law. Any problems that Republicans had with Trumpcare should have been addressed through the regular amendment process. I voted NO. H.R. 2579 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

226

0

0

11

DEMOCRAT

41

144

0

8

TOTAL

267

144

0

19

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

8

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. In June of 2017 the Department of Labor narrowed the definition of “employees” and joint “employers”. The Obama Administration defined employees in a way that ensured workers could not be considered freelancers and that joint employers were responsible for actions of their businesses. For example, a large corporation could exercise great control over their franchisees, but still try to avoid responsibility for an issue at one of them by insisting that franchises are separate entities. Freelance employees must pay higher taxes, do not have labor rights, and don't receive benefits such as healthcare. By narrowing these definitions, workers could get misclassified and consequently be treated as freelancers, losing access to certain benefits and protections.
  2. In June 2017 the Trump Administration announced it would end the Family Case Management Program. This program helps vulnerable women and their children who have arrived here illegally seeking asylum. The program is simply a humanitarian way to house at-risk families while they wait for their case to be resolved. With the end of this program, these families will be forced back to crowded detention centers as their asylum request is considered. The end of this program is one more example of the Trump Administration’s callous approach to immigrants.
  3. On June 14, 2017 the Trump Administration announced that the Department of Education would review two rules relating to for-profit colleges, scheduled to take effect on July 1st. The rules were drafted after some for-profit colleges, including Corinthian College and ITT Technical Institutes, collapsed. Students were left with debt and without degrees. The rules would have given education officials the authority to consider a range of factors, including lawsuits and reports from accrediting agencies, in deciding whether a higher education institution would remain eligible for federal financial aid. The “gainful employment mandate” was also a factor that officials could consider. This means that officials can review the employment circumstances of graduates to determine if they are making enough money to pay off their student loans. The rules also gave student borrowers an expedited path to ease their student loan debt if their college had acted unlawfully.
  4. On June 12, 2017 The National Women's Law Center filed suit against the Trump Administration’s Department of Education to compel them to release data on federal enforcement efforts with respect to Title IX. This statute directs how schools handle cases of campus assault and sexual harassment. In the recently filed complaint, the Center argues that the Department of Education is withholding information that is rightly public record under the Freedom of Information Act. These records could shed light on how the Trump Administration will manage Title IX enforcement. This is particularly important because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not indicated how she intends to handle guidance the Obama Administration issued to schools on sexual harassment. It would be within her authority to withdraw them.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes will take place on Tuesday June 20th. The House is expected to consider H.R. 2843, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act and H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.

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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