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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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July 28, 2017

Legislative Maneuvering on Health Care

As I am sure you know by now, the Senate rejected the Health Care Freedom Act, the so-called “skinny repeal”, in a dramatic early morning vote. Three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no. The full bill text wasn’t even available for review until close to midnight yesterday. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated it would increase premiums by 20% and cause 16 million people to lose insurance coverage. The “skinny repeal” ends the individual mandate as well as the requirement that companies of a certain size offer health care coverage to their employees. The legislation also would have defunded Planned Parenthood for one year.

Earlier Thursday, House members got word that votes might extend into the weekend, a clear signal that Speaker Ryan wanted the House on standby in case “skinny repeal” passed the Senate. Ironically, some Republicans were concerned about this. They wanted assurances that the House would NOT just pass the Senate bill but would instead proceed to a conference committee. This health care bill is so bad even some Senators voting FOR it didn’t want it to become law.

This complicated legislative and parliamentary process began Tuesday with a vote to begin debate. Vice President Pence broke the 50-50 tie. With that formality out of the way, next up was an amended version of the Senate’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The CBO hasn’t even completed its analysis of the impact of this legislation. Because Senate leadership did not wait for the CBO score before calling a vote, 60 votes were necessary for passage instead of a simple majority. Still 43 Republicans voted for it, without knowing exactly what it would mean for their constituents. That measure was defeated 57-43.

On Wednesday the Senate took up a straight repeal of the ACA. The CBO has concluded that this approach will result in 32 million Americans losing their health care coverage. That too went down to defeat by a vote of 45-55.

While I am relieved that the Senate could not make progress on repealing the ACA, I am not celebrating. President Trump already tweeted: “. . As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!” There are a number of ways the Administration can undermine the ACA and I think they will try. It’s disappointing and troubling for many reasons but most importantly, it will hurt many people.

Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to improve the ACA. We know it’s not perfect, that’s an impossible standard. Now that Senate efforts have failed there may finally be a willingness to come to the table and legislate.

Don’t Get Discouraged and Stay Vigilant

This week was particularly dizzying in terms of questionable tweets and breaking news. President Trump attacked his Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter, seemingly trying to get him to quit. He called Sessions “beleaguered” and fumed that he had a “very WEAK position on Hillary Clinton crimes”. Once again, the man who won the election is openly talking about a criminal investigation of the woman who lost it. Sessions is clearly being pressured to resign. If he doesn’t, Trump could fire him during the August recess. Then, using a recess appointment, Trump could name Sessions’ replacement, who would not need Senate confirmation and could serve through the end of next year. Of course, a new Attorney General who had not recused him or herself from the Russia investigation could fire Special Counsel Mueller. On Thursday Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said “there will be holy hell to pay” if Trump fires Sessions. Well, given what we have seen from Trump so far, I fear Graham’s sharp words won’t have any impact.

Late Wednesday and into Thursday new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci went on his own twitter tirade claiming that someone “leaked” his financial disclosure (which is a public document) and he was going to the FBI. He also accused White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of being the leaker, comparing their relationship to the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.

Scaramucci’s profane rants to a New Yorker reporter were just jaw dropping. Since most of it can’t be printed in this family newsletter, I’ll leave it at that. Scaramucci went after Steve Bannon too. I want to be clear, I am no fan of any of these men but the American people deserve a White House that doesn’t operate like bad reality television.

While all of this was grabbing the spotlight, the Senate was voting to take health care away from 32 million Americans. The Trump Administration was deliberately and systematically attacking the LGBTQ community by arguing in a legal brief that the 1964 Civil Rights Act offers no protection from discrimination for employees on the basis of sexual orientation. The House was moving forward on appropriations bills without a budget resolution. For more on all of that, keep reading.

The tweets, the tirades and the intrigue in the White House are all a distraction from the bad policies that the Administration is working to implement. Maybe all these distractions are unintentional — but maybe they’re not. Well it’s not working with me and I know it’s not working with you. Stay vigilant and keep speaking out.

A Better Deal

With so much turmoil in the Trump Administration and concern over what this President’s policies will mean for the American people, it’s easy to get caught up in the news of the hour or the tweet of the moment. While we must continue to be vigilant and speak out against policies that we know will hurt people, Democrats must also propose a way forward. We are committed to helping ease the economic burden so many are feeling. Democrats are calling it “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future”. Our plan aims to produce 10 million more jobs in 5 years through a combination of tax credits, job training and apprenticeships. We will work to lower prescription drug costs by using Medicare to negotiate lower prices. We will scrutinize corporate monopolies and mergers for the impact they will have on competition and pricing. All of this will help working families struggling to make ends meet and provide the promised better future for their children.

None of these policies or priorities are new to Democrats and we need more meat added to them over the next few months. I agree that Democrats have long needed a more succinct way to express who we are, but I reject the suggestion by some that we are lost. There are always family disagreements about the path forward and how quickly we should travel that path – but the basic policy differences have always been clear to me. We just need to try to make them clearer to the average American.

The Opposite of Consumer Protection

On Tuesday the House considered H.J. Res. 111, Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to “Arbitration Agreements”. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), mandated a study of the impact that forced arbitration has on consumers. Policies of forced arbitration require consumers to agree that they will enter into arbitration instead of suing or joining a class action lawsuit if problems arise with financial products. So, before a consumer is approved for a credit card or a student loan or other financial product, they must relinquish their rights to sue.

The CFPB completed its study showing that forced arbitration adversely affects consumers and issued a rule prohibiting financial institutions from imposing it as a condition of access to their products. The rule was published in the Federal Register just last week. House Republicans are rushing this resolution without debate or committee review. Republicans are again using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to thwart regulatory action. Moreover, by taking this approach, the rule can never be considered again, even under a different administration. One of the problems with forced arbitration is that many consumers don’t even realize they have agreed to it and if they do object, the financial institution can simply refuse to do business with that customer. Big corporations insist on this in order to avoid expensive litigation. Wells Fargo is a good example of this practice at work for big banks. It opened millions of accounts without the knowledge or consent of the customers whose names were on those accounts. When some tried to sue, their cases were dismissed because of the forced arbitration clause in their contract. I spoke twice on the floor about this. I voted NO. H.J. Res. 111 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

1

0

7

DEMOCRAT

0

189

0

5

TOTAL

231

190

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

A Broken Budget Process

For much of the week the House considered H.R. 3219, the Making America Secure Appropriations Act. This legislation contains 4 of the 12 appropriations bill necessary to fund the federal government for fiscal year 2018, which begins on October 1st. H.R. 3219 includes Defense, Legislative Branch, Energy and Water, and Military-Construction-Veterans Affairs. Not a single one of these appropriations bills was considered under regular legislative order and the House hasn’t even passed a budget resolution. Taken together, they come in higher than allowed under the Budget Control Act (BCA), which remains in effect. This means that every department and program covered in this bill could be cut by 13% because it has to adhere to the numbers agreed to in the BCA. If not, then the domestic programs would have to be cut even more dramatically in order to offset the higher than allowed spending in the military budgets.

H.R. 3219 also includes $1.6 billion to begin construction of President Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. Of course, we all remember Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. As is often the case, appropriations bills are used for important policy positions. H.R. 3219 initially included an amendment requiring Congress to repeal the 2001 use of force authorization which has been used, under Republican and Democratic administrations, for more than 15 years of war in many places. It would have required a new AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) to more explicitly cover ongoing military conflicts in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Despite the fact that the amendment passed with bipartisan support, House leadership removed it from the legislation without debate. I voted NO. H.R. 3219 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

230

5

0

4

DEMOCRAT

5

187

0

2

TOTAL

235

192

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Russia Sanctions

On Tuesday the House passed H.R. 3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act under suspension of the rules. We don’t typically include suspension bills in these reports but this one is worth noting. H.R. 3364 advances sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. The sanctions against Russia have to do with Ukraine and with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The legislation specifically prohibits President Trump from waiving these sanctions. This is unprecedented. In past administrations Congress trusted Presidents of both parties to adjust sanctions “in the national interest” as circumstances changed. This week, Congress insisted the Executive could make no changes without Legislative approval. The Senate also overwhelmingly passed this legislation. The President has not decided yet if he will sign it. In fact, officials have hinted he may veto it. As you can see, it passed the House by a veto-proof majority. H.R. 3364 makes it harder for Trump to go easy on Russia. I voted YES. H.R. 3364 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

229

3

0

7

DEMOCRAT

190

0

0

4

TOTAL

419

3

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Taking Care of our Veterans

On Friday the House considered S. 114, the Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act. This legislation authorizes more than $2 billion for the Veterans Choice Program. The money is used for veterans’ medical care as well as for veterans’ medical facilities and staff. I voted YES. S. 114 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

0

11

DEMOCRAT

186

0

0

8

TOTAL

414

0

19

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Intelligence Authorization

The House also considered H.R. 3180, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. I think it’s important to adequately fund our intelligence operations and I support many of the provisions in this legislation. However, too many aspects of it were excessively funded which will come at the expense of other priorities. I voted NO. H.R. 3180 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

223

6

0

10

DEMOCRAT

157

29

0

8

TOTAL

380

35

0

18

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

6

3

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 July 19, 2017 the Department of Justice announced it was reviving the adoptive forfeiture program which was shut down by the Obama administration. This program gives local law enforcement the authority to confiscate cash and property from people who are simply suspected of a crime. The federal government doesn’t have to wait for a conviction or even for the person to be formally charged. Local law enforcement can keep up to 80 percent of what they confiscate. 20 percent goes to the federal government. By restarting this program local law enforcement agencies can seize the property of people who haven't even been charged with a crime. The median value of these seizures is only $9,000, so there is no evidence to suggest that the adoptive forfeiture program is disrupting large crime rings. Instead, investigations have discovered that these policies place a greater burden on low income individuals. They empower law enforcement officials to take the resources of private citizens who too often cannot afford it and who haven’t even been charged with a crime.
  2. According to July 2017 news reports, the Department of Health and Human Services cut over $200 million in teen pregnancy prevention grants. Dozens of teen pregnancy prevention centers were notified by the Office of Adolescent Health that their grant funding, which was scheduled to be available through June of 2020, will instead be cut off in June 2018. These facilities provide a range of services such as sex education programs and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these centers were also using the grant funding to conduct research projects. Because the funding has been cut off, the research cannot be completed.
  3. In a series of tweets on July 26, 2017 President Trump announced that the United States will not "accept or allow" transgender people in the military, stating that American forces “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory”. Thousands of transgender Americans are already serving their country with honor and distinction. This does nothing to strengthen our armed forces. It is a cruel and hateful policy rolled out with little thought, an all too common approach with this Administration. In fact, despite Trump’s claims in the tweets that he had consulted with generals and the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military leaders weren’t aware on this. The Joint Chiefs announced they will not take any action on the basis of a “tweet”.
  4. On the same day President Trump was banning transgender people from serving in the military, the Department of Justice was filing an amicus brief in a case before a New York appeals court asserting that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” doesn’t apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation. The DOJ is hiding behind Congress, arguing that it’s up to legislators to update the law. Until then, the federal government, in a court filing, is telling the world it’s basically okay for employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I just don’t see any other way to interpret this action by the DOJ. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency, is taking the opposite approach in a brief it filed for this case. The EEOC argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination, applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

What’s Up Next

A District Work Period has been scheduled.

Mike


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

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