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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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October 13, 2017

Community Meetings

Just a reminder that I’ll be in Chelsea on Tuesday October 17th from 6:30-8:00 PM for a community meeting. It will take place in the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home’s Martin Auditorium at 91 Crest Avenue. We will also be in Allston-Brighton on Monday October 30th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM. The meeting will take place at Brighton Marine Health Center in the R.E. Hawes Building’s Conference Room 1, located on 77 Warren Street. We will broadcast both meetings via Facebook live if you are interested but cannot join us in person.

Sabotage with a Pen

Even though he has majorities in both the House and the Senate, President Trump was unable to pass legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Instead, on Thursday he sought to undermine and destroy the ACA through Executive Order. While urging an end to the “employer mandate” which requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health coverage at group rates, Trump advanced Association Health Plans (AHPs) where small businesses or other entities could buy health insurance. He claims this will lower premiums. Maybe it will, but not surprisingly, Trump is oversimplifying and leaving out some crucial facts.

AHPs could be a reasonable addition to the overall health care discussion. The problem here is that the AHPs Trump will allow would be under no obligation to cover essential benefits as required by the ACA. Essential benefits include everything from pre-natal and postpartum care to mental health and substance abuse treatment. There would also be no obligation to cover pre-existing conditions. This includes anything from asthma and high blood pressure to a previous cancer diagnosis.

Younger healthier people may opt for lower premiums and less coverage but if they are faced with accident or illness that coverage won’t be enough. Older people or those with disabilities or chronic conditions would be forced into more expensive plans.

President Trump also announced late yesterday that the Administration would stop the payments to health insurance companies that help low-income individuals afford coverage. In rejecting this Cost-Sharing Reduction Program (CSR), Trump is again seeking to sabotage the ACA because he has been so ineffective legislatively. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that stopping these payments will increase health insurance premiums by 20% for many Americans next year alone and increase the federal deficit by $6 billion in 2018. Some companies may also stop participating in the insurance marketplaces because of the volatility. Interestingly, most of this negative impact will occur in the states that voted for Trump!

This morning Trump tweeted: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” So the President takes a hammer to health care for millions of Americans, including many who voted for him, then calls on Democrats to “fix” it. To me — this is the height of hypocrisy and irony!

Making America Small Again

Today, Trump refused to certify that Iran is living up to their side of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. That is the agreement supported by the ENTIRE WORLD that moved Iran away from building nuclear weapons. This refusal does not itself break the agreement and no one expects Iran will start building nuclear bombs soon. The rest of the world — including ALL of our allies like Britain, France and Germany, and all of our adversaries like Russia and China — have stated their belief that Iran is living up to the deal and their intention to stay true to the agreement.

However, Trump does open the door for Congress to take action that might undermine the agreement further and, thereby, challenge Iran to either submit to Trump’s unilateral demands or start building bombs. Time will tell if Congress will act foolishly and endanger the world.

Trump’s action also undermines America’s role in the world. Little by little Trump has thumbed his nose at virtually every other country, including our closest allies, and withdrawn from the position we have earned as leader of the free world. His reckless and unilateral actions have grave consequences. Much of the world will come to believe they do not need the USA, cannot trust the USA to stay true to its word, and have, therefore, no good reason to cooperate with us or pay attention to our concerns. How can anyone see this as a good result?

I expect to have more to say on this matter as events unfold.

More Outrageous Tweets

Although I believe President Trump’s daily Tweets are primarily intended to distract us from more important business, some of his recent statements I think demand a response.

Trump is mad at NBC News for reporting he called for a vast increase in the United States’ nuclear arsenal during a summer White House meeting. This is the gathering that prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to reportedly call the President a “moron” based on his lack of knowledge and understanding about nuclear weapons in today’s world. One of his Tweets called out the network and raised the possibility of revoking its broadcast license.

This is an outrageous attack on the First Amendment by a sitting President. I am occasionally angered by the media and I think they deserve to be called out when they are wrong or misleading – but every American must accept that the press has a vital role to play in our democracy. Trump took an oath to uphold the Constitution and whether he likes it or not, he has an obligation not only to support, but to champion a free press. Empty threats that clearly violate basic rights protected by the Constitution undermine the Office of the President and offend basic American values.

Trump was busy Thursday morning. His threats to essentially abandon Puerto Rico, devastated by Hurricane Maria, are cruel, unconscionable and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. 3.4 million American citizens are struggling to rebuild their lives. Far too many still lack access to clean water and electricity. Medical supplies are scarce and many roads still not operational. In yet another fit of Twitter pique, Trump rants that the United States can’t stay and help “forever” when it’s been just three weeks. This is both a moral failure and an appalling lack of leadership. I wish I could tell you I’m surprised.

Disaster Aid

Yesterday the House passed the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2266, Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act. It provides emergency aid for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and additional relief for other areas devastated by the recent hurricanes. H.R. 2266 also includes aid for California where residents are battling deadly wildfires. It’s not enough, and our fellow citizens will need our support for many months, but it is a necessary down payment. I voted YES. H.R. 2266 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

164

69

0

6

DEMOCRAT

189

0

0

5

TOTAL

353

69

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Whistleblower Protection

Yesterday the House considered S. 585, the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. This legislation increases protections for federal whistle blowers by requiring agency leaders to strengthen disciplinary action when it is determined that supervisors have retaliated against them. I voted YES. S. 585 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

232

0

0

7

DEMOCRAT

188

0

0

6

TOTAL

420

0

0

13

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

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. According to October 2017 news reports, the Department of Justice overruled decades of precedent in January, making it possible for President Trump to hire his daughter and son-in-law. Memos from the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Obama make clear that under a 1967 nepotism law, Presidents cannot appoint their family members to any paid or unpaid positions. The Trump Administration’s Justice Department basically threw out all previous legal guidance on nepotism, making it possible for Trump to hire daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared, which he did.
  2. On October 5, 2017 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) disagreed with the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) decision to allow Equifax to serve as an interim fraud prevention contractor for the federal government. Equifax holds the current contract but another company recently won the bid. Equifax is protesting the loss of the contract and the IRS is now reviewing the process. The GAO maintains that the IRS could have given the interim contract to the company it chose over Equifax as it reviewed the contract awarding process. I am sure you recall that Equifax has been in the news quite a bit lately for a data breach that exposed 145 million consumers’ personal information to hackers. Yet the IRS apparently doesn’t see the problem with allowing Equifax to continue doing fraud prevention work for the federal government. The GAO argues that the law gives the IRS the authority to award a contract to the winning bidder even if the current contractor is challenging the process under certain circumstances. Certainly, awarding a company that mishandled the personal data of 145 million customers with a fraud prevention contract qualifies. UPDATE: As this newsletter was going through the final editing process, news broke that the IRS finally suspended Equifax’s government contract.
  3. During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 4, 2017, Michael Dourson, who is President Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, refused to definitively state that he would recuse himself from all matters that would conflict with former employment. While this is concerning from an ethical standpoint, it is even more concerning because Dourson founded Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) where he routinely issued reports favorable to chemical companies. Some of those reports were paid for by chemical companies and TERA regularly issued findings asserting that safety standards for certain pesticides and chemicals should be much lower than current federal and state regulations. It is expected that Dourson will be confirmed by the full Senate, putting him in charge of an office that is involved with protecting the public from pesticide.
  4. On October 6, 2017 Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued guidance that greatly expands interpretation of the protections granted religious groups and others when their beliefs are at odds with government regulation. He wrote: “To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government action, including employment, contracting and programming.” Given this Administration’s previous actions, it’s not hard to see an abuse of this directive that discriminates against the LGBTQ community and others. If an employer does not believe in same sex marriage, the AG has basically given that employer license to reject a candidate solely on that basis.
  5. On October 9, 2017 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Administrator Scott Pruitt would take steps to repeal the Clean Power Plan, an Obama Administration rule intended to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Abandoning this policy shows a cynical disregard for the reality of global warming. It also has health consequences. During the previous Administration, the EPA estimated that the Clean Power Plan could prevent thousands of deaths and reduce asthma attacks in children.
  6. In October 2017, the sabotaging of the ACA, as described above.

What’s Up Next

A district work period will take place. The next House votes are scheduled for Monday October 23rd.

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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