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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

June 30, 2017

Syria

On Monday night the White House released a statement indicating it had intelligence suggesting that the Assad-led Syrian government was preparing another chemical attack against its citizens. The statement also issued a clear and direct threat to the Assad regime, declaring that his government would “pay a heavy price” if such an attack were to take place.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and I filed H.R. 1923 in April, legislation prohibiting the President from further use of military force against Syria unless and until authorized by Congress. We are reaching out to our colleagues to request support for this bipartisan measure. Our legislation does not presume to suggest how anyone should vote on the issue – Members should vote their conscience. We simply believe that President Trump must observe the Constitution and seek Congressional approval before he takes any further military action in Syria.

While we are gravely disturbed at the thought of the Assad regime potentially launching another chemical attack, we are also concerned about the “heavy price” the Trump Administration promises to inflict in a highly unstable part of the world. Any American military response to the Syrian government would be considered an act of war carried out by the United States. According to the U.S. Constitution, no President can unilaterally make war, and an intentional military strike against a sovereign government, no matter how horrendous that government may be, is most certainly an act of war. Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution is very clear that ONLY, “The Congress shall have Power … To declare war.”

Health Care Update

Despite publicly stating that a vote on the Senate health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, would take place this week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday he would delay that vote. At this writing, there aren’t enough votes to pass the Senate bill. Still, McConnell vowed to release revised legislation as early as today and push for a vote by the end of July. As I noted last week, the Senate bill is just as bad as the House bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the Senate bill Monday and determined that 22 million fewer people would be covered if the Senate bill becomes law. I am watching all developments closely and will keep you informed throughout this legislative process.

The Protecting Access to Care Act is Really the Blocking Access to the Courts Act

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Health Care Act of 2017. I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that the title of this legislation is misleading. It doesn’t protect access to health care. Instead, H.R. 1215 makes it harder for patients and families who have been injured or lost a loved one due to medical negligence to seek justice through our legal system. It establishes a three year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, which is shorter than what most states currently allow. This legislation also infringes on states’ rights by preempting certain state laws. In fact, it forces federal rules for medical malpractice on every state. H.R. 1215 also prohibits a plaintiff from naming both a health care provider and a drug company in the same suit. The New England Compounding cases could not have advanced if this bill were law. The practical effect of H.R. 1215 is to create immunity from lawsuits for health care companies. The bill is broadly drawn so its definition of health care provider would also include insurance companies, biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical corporations, medical device manufacturers, compounding pharmacies and even for-profit nursing homes, making it far more expansive than any existing state medical malpractice law. I voted NO. H.R. 1215 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

218

19

0

4

DEMOCRAT

0

191

0

2

TOTAL

218

210

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Another Legislative Effort to Target Immigrants

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 3003, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This legislation is simply one more way for the Trump Administration to advance anti-immigrant policies. It codifies and expands the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) authority to issue “detainers” which will make it easier to transfer immigrant detainees into federal custody. DHS is also granted the authority to hold detainees in custody for longer periods and weakens the probable cause standard for detaining them. It requires all state and local law enforcement to actively participate in immigration enforcement actions in violation of the Tenth Amendment’s “commandeering” principle. This aggressive approach would essentially mean that our state and local police would be required to determine someone’s immigration status in every circumstance. So if an undocumented immigrant is a victim of a crime or a witness to it, their status must be checked. Victims of domestic violence would have their status checked while seeking a restraining order.

This legislation prohibits communities from establishing “trust policies”. These policies have been created to establish trust between law enforcement and their communities so people feel safe coming forward in the situations detailed above. H.R. 3003 seeks to bar critical federal law enforcement funds from states and cities that the Trump Administration determines are not fully compliant with federal enforcement policies. Simply put, this legislation would force cities and states to choose between detaining people in violation of the Constitution or be punished for protecting ALL citizens, regardless of status. I voted NO. H.R. 3003 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

225

7

0

8

DEMOCRAT

3

188

0

2

TOTAL

228

195

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Slamming the Golden Door

On Thursday the House also considered H.R. 3004, Kate’s Law. The man who murdered the young woman for whom this law is named had felony convictions and was deported more than once. Current law already addresses this set of circumstances. H.R. 3004 exploits a tragedy to make bad policy. This legislation, like H.R. 3003, seeks to expand the Trump Administration’s authority over immigration policy. The first step in Trump’s sweeping deportation plan, it is an enforcement-only bill that grants the federal government expanded authority to prosecute people who have entered the country illegally. To be clear, under current federal law, individuals who enter the country illegally or who try to, can already be prosecuted. What H.R. 3004 does is create a draconian enforcement scheme without establishing commonsense exceptions. For example, if someone arrives at the border seeking asylum or as a victim of human trafficking and voluntarily reports to border officials, they can be prosecuted and subject to a lengthy prison sentence under this legislation. Imagine how Lady Liberty would feel about that. This legislation would be a direct violation of U.S. treaty obligations. I voted NO. H.R. 3004 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

1

0

6

DEMOCRAT

24

166

0

3

TOTAL

257

167

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

2

7

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. On June 26, 2017 Lynne Patton started her job as head of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Region II office, overseeing housing programs in New York and New Jersey. That regional office is responsible for distributing billions of federal dollars in affordable housing programs. Patton has no housing experience. She was an event planner for Trump’s celebrity golf tournaments and other upscale events. She also planned Eric Trump’s wedding. Despite this complete lack of relevant job experience Trump first hired her as a White House Liaison at HUD in February and now he has given her responsibility over the largest regional HUD office in the country.
  2. According to June 2017 press reports, President Trump is making millions off an affordable housing complex in Brooklyn. The almost 6,000 unit apartment complex, known as Starrett City, is the largest federally subsidized affordable housing complex in the country. Trump's father was a limited partner when it was constructed in 1974, which passed on to his children when he died. Trump's 4% interest was placed in a trust once he became President. Trump's budget proposes only a relatively minor cut to the Project Based Rental Assistance program, a HUD subsidy to private landlords through which Starrett City gets its affordable housing funds. In stark contrast, Trump’s budget proposes steep cuts to most other HUD programs. We know through Trump's financial disclosure that he made over $5 million through his Starrett City investment between January 2016 and mid-April 2017. Starrett City has received more than $490 million in federal rent subsidies since 2013. Almost $38 million of that money has come since Trump became President. To put it plainly – President Trump owns a percentage of a building complex receiving federal housing subsidies while many HUD programs are being cut. Moreover, Starrett City’s maintenance ratings from HUD have fallen considerably. Those housing subsidies and the complex’s federal ratings are determined by an Executive branch agency that Trump oversees as President. This is a conflict of interest, plain and simple.
  3. In June 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hired A. Wayne Johnson, the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services, a private student loan company, to oversee the Federal Student Aid program. This raises conflict of interest questions due to his role in private loan servicing. There is also concern that Johnson will take an approach more aligned with the private loans business model which could diminish some borrower protections.
  4. In June 2017 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to reduce the EPA workforce by about 1,200 employees. This would be done through buyouts and early retirement. The EPA hopes to have this process complete by September. Trump’s budget proposal contains a 31% cut in funding which would almost certainly result in even more job loss. This will leave the agency with far fewer resources and employees to carry out the responsibilities of the EPA. It is one more troubling example of the cavalier approach that this Administration is taking to the health of our planet.
  5. On June 28, 2017 the EPA announced it was rescinding the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This follows a February Executive Order (BtC #27) requiring the EPA to start repealing "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) which provided clarity on what bodies of water are subject to protections under the Clean Water Act. The EPA proposed a two-step plan for redefining "WOTUS" so it reflects the plurality opinion of Justice Scalia in Rapanos v. United States. Scalia's opinion suggests that WOTUS should only cover permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water, rather than small waterways such as wetlands and streams. Those smaller waterways are covered under the 2015 definition. Through the EO and now the EPA’s actions this week, the federal government won’t have the authority to regulate pollution in certain waterways because they don’t qualify under the EPA’s new definition. This will surely impact drinking water in many communities all across the country since 117 million Americans currently get their drinking water from small streams.

What’s Up Next

A District Work period has been scheduled. The next House votes are expected to take place on Tuesday July 11th.

A Publishing Note

We anticipate publishing our next e-update on Friday July 14th. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for your interest.

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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