October 20, 2017
Thanks to everyone who came to our community meeting in Chelsea Tuesday night and to the 2,000+ who watched on Facebook Live. We’ll be in Allston-Brighton on Monday October 30th from 6:30 – 8:00 PM at Brighton Marine Health Center. Our meeting will take place in the R.E. Hawes Building’s Conference Room 1, located on 77 Warren Street. You can watch the Chelsea meeting here. We’ll broadcast Allston-Brighton via Facebook Live if you are interested but cannot join us in person.
Yesterday Massachusetts announced an extra 18% increase in Connector health insurance rates as a result of President Trump’s reckless cuts to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which he proudly trumpeted last week. Every other state will have no choice but to take similar action, which is exactly what we warned about.
By slashing the Cost Sharing Reduction program (CSR), Trump has effectively increased insurance costs and undermined the health care system. He will also cost the federal government more than the amounts he cuts because most of those whose subsidies will be cut will now become eligible for a more expensive federal tax credit! As I noted last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that stopping these CSR payments will increase health insurance premiums by 20% for many Americans next year alone and increase the federal deficit by $6 billion in 2018. All this just so he can claim to be fulfilling a campaign promise. By the way, every poll in the last year shows us that this is NOT the result America wants! Our constituents want quality health care for more reasonable costs.
I will keep fighting alongside the entire Massachusetts delegation. Perhaps a few more Republicans in Congress will join us now that they see the real results of their policies.
I addressed the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in Boston this week, sharing my thoughts with the attendees on many issues, including President Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure plan. While there is a clear need for infrastructure improvements throughout the country, there is still no plan or even an outline from the Administration. Given all the difficulty that Trump and Republicans in Congress have had on health care and tax reform and so much more, I really don’t see progress on this in the foreseeable future. I also urged union members to be active on the issues that matter to them and their families. A lot of the priorities that unions have championed are at risk with the Trump Administration and I encouraged them to be vigilant.
It warmed my heart that the loudest applause came when I told the audience America can and must do better in Puerto Rico. In fact, those remarks were met with a standing ovation from the union members, not in reaction to preserving hard-fought gains or protecting their own interests, but as an emphatic statement that we do not leave our fellow citizens behind when they are so clearly in need.
St. Peter’s School
I had the pleasure this week of meeting with students and staff at St. Peter’s School in Cambridge. The school educates children from kindergarten through grade 8 and also provides after school programming and extracurricular activities. I met with the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students as well as their teachers for a discussion about my work in Washington. I talked with them about some of the reasons I got into public service, the need for true engagement with our fellow citizens and the importance of being respectful when disagreeing with someone.
I am always impressed with the seriousness of the questions asked and the knowledge that students display about our government. I learned a lot about the issues that most interest them and enjoyed spending time with the St. Peter’s School community.
Consul General of Ireland
I met Wednesday with the Consul General of Ireland in Boston, Fionnuala Quinlan. The Consulate General of Ireland supports the Irish community in New England. It also promotes investment and tourism in Ireland. Staffers offer a variety of services including visa assistance and help with citizenship issues. We had a broad discussion about the importance of the strong ties between the United States and Ireland. Ms. Quinlan is interested in history and wanted to know more about the experiences of immigrant families, both Irish and Italian, in Massachusetts in the last century. It was a pleasure to talk with her.
I regularly meet with state transportation officials for updates on local projects as well as to report on developments at the federal level. I received an update on the I-90 Allston Interchange Improvement Project. I also received updates from the state about Tobin Bridge deck work, plans to replace the Chelsea Viaduct, the North Washington Street Bridge project and the ongoing Longfellow Bridge renovation. There is, obviously, quite a bit of current and planned infrastructure work in the Greater Boston area. Completing all of these projects will take years but I am glad to see that MassDOT is moving forward proactively rather than waiting until repair situations become urgent.
I joined over one hundred Members of Congress in a letter to President Trump expressing “our deep disappointment” that he set Fiscal Year 2019 refugee admissions at the shockingly low figure of 45,000. By expressing our “deep disappointment” we were, of course, being courteous, and this was a formal letter, not a tweet. We are in fact, appalled and ashamed as Americans and called on him to reset the limit at 110,000, which was last year’s figure.
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis. 65.5 million people, more than half of them children, have been displaced by war and persecution. All of us who signed the letter believe the United States has a moral obligation, which we share with other democracies, to offer asylum to the oppressed. Many of our allies have accepted a far greater responsibility for resettlement. We should take leadership in this, as a nation of immigrants and a beacon of hope. Refugees are carefully vetted through inter-agency background checks and thorough investigation by both the Departments of State and Homeland Security. We should not forget that refugees from Nazism and Fascism helped win the war against the Axis. There is never a good reason to slam the Golden Door on the world’s most vulnerable people.
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.
- According to October 2017 news reports, White House advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner did not disclose his ownership stake in Cadre, a real estate investment firm, on his financial disclosure form. Kushner founded this company with his brother so it’s hard to imagine how he could have forgotten to list it. By not disclosing his role at Cadre, Kushner maintained ownership in the company during a period of time when it was raising millions of dollars from private investors. Kushner has left relevant details out of his filings before. This latest news is one more item on the list of ethical issues surrounding Kushner and certainly indicates an attitude that the rules don't apply to him or his family.
- According to September 2017 documentation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has greatly weakened its guidance on acceptable levels of radiation exposure. The EPA’s new guidelines allow for a level of radiation basically equal to 5,000 chest x-rays or ten times the amount of radiation contamination previously acceptable. This is a concerning rollback with no basis in health or science.
- Bloomberg News reported in October of 2017 that the Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General is reviewing whether acting chief of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Keith Noreika, is in violation of the rules in place for special government employees. Under the rules, Noreika cannot hold his position more than 130 days because he was hired as a “special government employee.” The Trump Administration used this designation to hire Noreika, a former bank lawyer, without going through the Senate confirmation process. Noreika is claiming that the 130 day requirement applies only to working days so he still has time. The IG is reviewing whether he should have left by September 12th. The timing is significant because Noreika voted on September 29th to de-designate AIG as a systemically important financial institution, which gave the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) the two thirds vote it needed to de-designate AIG. As we reported in Behind the Curtain #167, AIG played a big role in the 2008 economic crisis and downgrading its status allows it to escape more rigorous federal oversight.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Monday October 23rd. At this writing, the list of legislation scheduled to be considered next week is not available.