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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


12,456 subscribers

June 23, 2017

Sorry for the Length

I feel compelled to offer an apology for the length of this Newsletter. There is a lot going on, and I don’t want to miss anything just to keep this brief.

Suing the President

I joined 200 Members of Congress in filing a lawsuit against President Trump, asserting he is violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution because he is still receiving financial and other benefits from foreign entities without seeking congressional approval as required. Here is the relevant provision: “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under (the United States), shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.” (Article 1, section 9)

President Trump has refused to divest from his vast global network of business interests, instead choosing to turn over management of the Trump Organization to his sons. He is still profiting from these business interests, at his hotels, golf courses, office buildings and other venues.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington has hosted foreign states, including the Embassy of Kuwait which held its National Day Celebration at the hotel in February. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is owned by the Chinese government, leases space in Trump Tower. The Chinese government, just last week, gave preliminary approval to the Trump Organization for 9 new trademarks it once rejected.

House Democrats have asked the President to document the emoluments and presents he has received from all foreign governments and their agents. To date, he has ignored our request. The Constitution is clear. Presidents must seek and receive congressional approval before accepting any payments from foreign officials or entities, otherwise they are in violation of the Emoluments Clause. Filing this lawsuit is a way to get at the facts, since the President refuses to shed light on his business dealings or respond to our requests for information. The Framers of the Constitution established the Emoluments Clause to ensure that federal officials, including the President, are acting in the best interests of the country and are not being improperly influenced by foreign governments.

An Update on “Mean” Trumpdon’tcare, Senate Version

It’s a song title and a mathematical term. It’s also a word that President Trump used last week to describe the House passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), which he celebrated in the Rose Garden in May. The President called that legislation “mean” and said he hopes the Senate health care bill has more “heart”. Well, yesterday Senate Republicans finally unveiled their legislative proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” is just as mean as the House bill and doesn’t have any heart.

I am still reviewing it but, like the House bill, the Senate bill eliminates the employer mandate. 177 million Americans get their health coverage through their employer who would now be under no obligation to offer it. Like the House bill, the Senate bill lets states seek waivers from the “essential health benefits” requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which mandates that insurance companies cover essential services such as pregnancy, emergency room visits, mental health care, pediatric services, rehabilitation and much more. The Senate bill allows insurers to charge Americans aged 50-64 up to five times more than younger persons for the same coverage. Like the House bill, it cuts taxes for the wealthy and slashes billions of dollars from Medicaid. The Medicaid program serves 20% of all Americans, including most nursing home residents. Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their health coverage if this bill becomes law. In fact, my initial view of the Senate bill is that it sounds just like the House bill.

Four Republican Senators have already publicly stated that they oppose this legislation because they think it’s actually too generous. The Congressional Budget Office has not scored the bill yet, but I don’t expect it to do any better than the House bill.

Reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration

This week the Transportation Committee released the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) reauthorization bill. This is a long overdue update of legislation funding the programs, policies and administration of the FAA. The legislation includes some provisions of mine that relate directly to airport noise. The first provision has to do with RNAV or “area navigational system” departure procedures. RNAV is being used by the FAA to narrowly direct airplanes over very specific flight paths. The unfortunate result of this is that some neighborhoods are experiencing an increase in flights over their homes. My provision requires the FAA to consider “dispersing” flights to address noise concerns if the community and airport request it. Dispersal is a navigational tool that air traffic controllers can use to send flights over a broader area if they find that too many flights are using a specific path at any given time. It cannot end the pain, but it can spread that pain out more fairly

Another provision involves the way the FAA measures noise under flight paths. Currently, airports are required to offer various forms of mitigation to neighborhoods that experience noise levels above 65 DNL. DNL is an average noise level, measured over 24 hours, with higher weights given to noise in the overnight and early morning hours. My provision requires the FAA to review noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports and report on whether the current 65 DNL standard should be updated or changed entirely. The limit was first set in the 1970’s. The science behind noise exposure has no doubt gotten more sophisticated since then, and the FAA should at least consider whether the limit should be updated.

Each of these is a significant step that will require the FAA to take a closer look at how RNAV and other policies are impacting the people who live below flight paths. Reasonable people understand that Logan Airport isn’t going anywhere and some airplane noise is an unavoidable part of urban living. This doesn’t mean however, that some communities should be unfairly burdened by airplane noise.

Please note that the FAA reauthorization legislation does have some problematic provisions. I expect many House members, myself included, will have trouble supporting the bill in its current form and I have no doubt many Members will wish to offer amendments. I am working with my committee colleagues to try and get some of the more troubling provisions addressed. I am hopeful these disagreements can be resolved before the bill comes to the floor for a vote.

I think, in this partisan environment, it’s important to point out that Republicans on the committee were willing to include some Democratic provisions even though they know that some of us may still vote against the bill. I applaud the effort of Chairman Shuster and appreciate his willingness to work with Democrats. I am hopeful that my concerns can be addressed and I can support the bill.

Regardless of what happens to the bill on the floor, the FAA now knows that the provisions I outlined above are widely supported by the bipartisan leadership of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. While the legislative process moves forward I will keep up my ongoing dialogue with the FAA, making the case that they can and must do more to address noise concerns in the communities surrounding Logan.

More Weakening of Environmental Policy

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act. This legislation amends the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 which oversees how our public lands are managed. Supporters claim that H.R. 1873 is necessary to prevent forest fires caused by electricity transmission lines that come into contact with overgrown vegetation. Current law already permits utility companies to conduct emergency work on overgrown vegetation on federal rights of way (ROW) to minimize the risk of a fire. H.R. 1873 allows utility companies to create voluntary vegetation management plans that include inspection protocol and maintenance on federal lands. Once approved, these management plans would be excluded from oversight under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This legislation is unnecessary and it weakens environmental oversight. I voted NO. H.R. 1873 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

0

0

7

DEMOCRAT

69

118

0

6

TOTAL

300

118

0

13

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

8

0

0

The Environment be Damned – Just Build that Dam

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act. This legislation amends the permitting process for building new dams which is overseen by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). H.R. 1654 effectively speeds up the permitting process by imposing unreasonable deadlines on other agencies who must also review new dam construction. These agencies are responsible for environmental reviews of the proposed dam project to measure its impact on the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. This legislation weakens the regulatory process and disregards the potential environmental impact of new dams. I voted NO. H.R. 1654 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

225

5

0

8

DEMOCRAT

8

175

0

10

TOTAL

223

180

0

18

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

TANF Program

On Friday the House considered H.R. 2842, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act. This legislation authorizes $100 million for an initiative within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Act (TANF) program. The money would help fund jobs for individuals receiving TANF in an effort to move them away from assistance and permanently into the workforce. While I remain concerned that the President has proposed to cut TANF by $1.8 billion, this legislation seems appropriately focused on letting states come up with different ways to get TANF participants into the workforce. I voted YES. H.R. 2842 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

214

13

0

11

DEMOCRAT

163

21

0

9

TOTAL

377

34

0

20

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

8

0

0

1

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. A troubling pattern is emerging with respect to White House press briefings and we think it’s worth attention. On Monday June 19th White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held the regular press briefing off camera and prohibited audio recording of it. The press briefings have also gotten shorter and less frequent. Spicer’s answers to questions, when he does take them, often consist of vague non-answers. On Tuesday, during an on-camera briefing (the first in 8 days) he was asked if Trump believes that Russia did in fact interfere in our election, a conclusion that 16 intelligence agencies have already reached. Spicer’s response? “I have not sat down and talked with him about that specific thing.” Sorry, but this answer simply defies belief. The White House has a responsibility to the American people to be accessible and answer questions about the work they are doing. This doesn’t mean they must know the answer to every question and it doesn’t mean they must hold formal briefings every single day. They have an obligation though, to do better. The journalists in the briefing room represent our window into the White House. The Trump Administration is slowly but surely closing that window.
  2. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management published a notice in the Federal Register on June 15, 2017 indefinitely delaying a rule limiting methane emissions on federal lands. Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases. In May, the Senate rejected by one vote a move to invalidate this rule after the House passed it in February. Since efforts to limit methane emissions failed legislatively, Trump is moving forward administratively.
  3. On June 16, 2017 the Solicitor General reversed course to side with employers over employees in a case before the Supreme Court: NLRB v. Murphy Oil. The case considers whether arbitration agreements with individual employees that prevent them from pursuing work-related claims on a collective or class basis constitute an unfair labor practice and, as such, are prohibited. The Obama Administration supported the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), arguing such agreements are not legal because the National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ ability to participate in joint actions regarding the terms or conditions of their employment. The NLRB concluded that Murphy Oil USA, a gas station operator, unlawfully required employees at its Alabama facility to sign an arbitration agreement waiving their right to pursue class actions. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the NLRB ruling and found in favor of Murphy Oil. It is now before the Supreme Court. The Administration’s reversal in Murphy Oil is a victory for companies who deny workers and consumers their right to have disputes settled in a court of law in a transparent proceeding where the results are grounded in the law and decided by an impartial judge and jury.
  4. On June 19, 2017 President Trump nominated Jim Clinger to chair the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC is an independent agency of the U.S. government that protects the bank deposits of American families and businesses against loss if an FDIC-insured institution fails. FDIC insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis enhanced the FDIC’s authority and tasked it with carefully winding down failing institutions to minimize the risk of failure to the economy as a whole as well as other financial institutions. Clinger is a former committee staffer for House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). The House passed Hensarling's bill to repeal the Wall Street Reform Act on a party line vote on June 8th. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Clinger will be in a position to shape the priorities of the FDIC.
  5. On June 16, 2017 the New York Times reported that late last year, the Russian government renewed 6 expiring trademarks for Trump hotel and other business initiatives that the organization never started. The Trump Organization requested the renewal of these trademarks. This news is curious and seems to be inconsistent with the President’s repeated claims that he doesn’t have any business interests in Russia. The timing is also curious because four of those renewals were registered on Election Day 2016.
  6. In response to a February 3, 2017 Executive Order issued by President Trump, the Treasury Department on June 19th published a report offering recommendations on ways to loosen federal regulations on financial services. Some of the recommendations include: (1) pursuant to Dodd Frank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve oversee a process requiring big banks to create "living wills.” These are basically plans showing how the big banks would handle another severe market downturn without adversely impacting the rest of the economy. The FDIC has consistently taken a more critical view of the banks' submissions than the Federal Reserve. The FDIC has also been more likely to recommend consequences for banks who don’t produce satisfactory living wills. Trump's Treasury recommends removing the FDIC from this process. (2) Treasury recommends that every single bank, no matter how big they are or how much risky activity they engage in, be allowed to opt out of the Volcker Rule as long as they hold onto a certain amount of capital. The Volcker Rule prohibits banks from gambling with federally insured deposits. The problem with this recommendation is that if an institution is free to take on as much risk as it wants, whatever capital buffer exists could disappear fast. (3) The report includes many recommendations that would weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This is the ONLY federal agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers from risky or abusive financial products and practices. Some of Treasury’s recommendations include making the CFPB director removable at the will of the President instead of "for good cause" as required by current law; hide the consumer complaint database from the public which so far has tracked over one million complaints submitted by consumers in every state; repeal CFPB's supervisory authority over financial institutions, and lift the current cap on points and fees so that lenders can potentially gouge their mortgage customers as so many did during the financial crisis. These changes would require Congressional action, but given that the Republican-led House has already voted to gut Dodd Frank, it certainly seems likely they would support the Administration’s recommendations. Treasury’s report is also illustrative of the Administration’s approach to financial regulation and consumer protection.

Behind the Curtain – UPDATES

  1. On May 10, 2017 the Senate rejected H.J. Res. 36 which the House passed on February 2, 2017. Passage would have invalidated the rule requiring oil and gas companies to limit the release of methane on federal lands.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes will take place on Monday June 26th. 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

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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