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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 27, 2017

Community Meetings

Just a reminder that I’ll be hosting a community meeting 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. We held a meeting in Chelsea earlier this month. If you’re interested, you can watch the meeting here. We’ll also broadcast Allston-Brighton via Facebook Live if you are interested but cannot join us in person.

Budget Blues

Yesterday the House passed H. Con. Res. 71, a Concurrent Resolution Establishing the Congressional Budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2018 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2019 through 2027. This is the Senate-passed budget resolution. Like the House budget resolution, it paves the way for the passage of tax cuts through reconciliation, which requires 50 Senate votes with Vice President Pence casting the deciding vote. Instead of establishing a conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions, the House is simply passing the Senate’s work because that helps them get to the debate on taxes more quickly.

There is still not much detail on what exactly this tax package will include. More information is apparently coming next week. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) has taken the information that is available and concluded people earning more than $900,000 a year will receive about 80% of all the tax relief. Taxes will increase for a third of those earning between $50,000 and $150,000 a year. Overall, the TCP estimates that the tax plan will add about $2.4 trillion to the deficit.

This budget resolution cuts $5 trillion from non-defense spending over ten years. So what would this mean? $200 billion in transportation funding is eliminated. The Pell Grants that so many college students rely on to help ease their tuition burden are slashed by over $100 billion. Head Start loses $3 billion and 25,000 children then lose access to it. This budget cuts Medicare by almost $500 billion over ten years and Medicaid by $1 trillion. Of course, the budget also repeals the Affordable Care Act. Virtually every domestic program you can think of loses out to tax cuts for the top 1% including affordable housing, scientific research, home heating assistance, nutrition assistance and so much more.

This is a heartless and irresponsible budget and the so-called tax “reform” is nothing more than a gift to the wealthiest among us. I voted NO. H. Con. Res. 71 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

216

20

0

3

DEMOCRAT

0

192

0

2

TOTAL

216

212

0

5

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Rescind Civil Penalties for Corporations

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 732, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017. This legislation weakens the ability of the Department of Justice as well as other federal agencies to take action against illegal conduct by prohibiting settlement agreements that award funds to entities not specifically part of the litigation in question. This undermines the ability of enforcement agencies to direct financial relief to appropriate parties. Under current law, the federal government can enter into agreements with defendants that require settlement funds be sent to parties harmed by the unlawful action. This approach is used when those affected are not readily identifiable as individuals, for example as an environmental violation found throughout a broad regional area or a workplace safety issue where the impact on employee health is not immediately known. These “settlement donations” can also be used for programs or initiatives that help address the problems that are a result of the unlawful activity. I voted NO. H.R. 732 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

0

0

7

DEMOCRAT

7

183

0

4

TOTAL

238

183

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Giving Industry More Ways to Delay Regulations

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 469, the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017. This legislation weakens the authority of the federal government to enforce statutory deadlines by imposing additional procedural requirements on agencies and the courts. It discourages the use of consent decrees and settlements as enforcement tools. H.R. 469 gives industry an outsized role in settlement suits by allowing them to delay resolution and raise objections. It requires federal agencies to open settlement agreements and consent decrees up for public comment and requires the agencies to respond to every one. This creates more work for agencies without providing them with additional resources. Ultimately, this legislation is designed to delay agency implementation of measures that have already been approved by Congress. This will result in delays of many health and environmental protections as well as other important initiatives.

H.R. 469 also infringes on an individual’s right to privacy by requiring the Treasury Department to make publicly available the personal information of everyone who has received payment from a Judgement Fund. This is a troubling invasion of privacy. I voted NO. H.R. 469 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

232

0

0

6

DEMOCRAT

2

187

0

5

TOTAL

234

187

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

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 an October 2017 Politico report, the Trump Administration is moving appointees requiring Senate confirmation into their jobs before they’ve actually been confirmed. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act prohibits nominees from serving in an acting capacity while awaiting Senate action. This appears to be happening, for example, at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and at the State Department. The Administration nominated Susan Bodine to oversee the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. While she awaits confirmation, Bodine is already working with EPA Secretary Pruitt on enforcement issues. This certainly appears to violate the intention of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Mary Waters is Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary of State, Legislative Affairs. While she awaits Senate confirmation Waters is essentially already doing her job as well.
  2. According to October 2017 news reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has eliminated numerous climate change resources from its online offerings. This includes sections covering the observed impact of climate change as well as guidance for states and municipalities on handling weather extremes and resources for reducing emissions. EPA officials insist that the pages and the information available through them have just been archived. That argument rings hollow because this particular website used to bear the title: “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments”. Now it is simply called “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments”. This web site scrubbing is more glaring evidence that the Trump Administration is dismissive of well-established scientific evidence on climate change. It is particularly damaging because the missing resources on this particular website are specifically tailored to local communities who simply don’t have the resources to address climate change on their own.
  3. On October 24, 2017 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the “main studio rule” which required radio and television owners to have a physical presence in the geographic areas that their broadcast licenses covered. Eliminating the “main studio rule” will most certainly diminish local voices. News coverage can now originate from ownership’s headquarters, where a national news broadcast could replace local news. This increases the likelihood that viewers and listeners will be subject to a broad national message rather than informed local and regional coverage.
  4. On October 24, 2017 the Senate made official what the House advanced in July when it voted to block a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Consumer Bureau) rule limiting arbitration agreements. Pre-dispute binding arbitration clauses are a common feature of contracts today. We consumers must often agree to give up our right to sue a company for any future violation before we can participate in today’s modern economy. It is unlikely that you will be able to purchase a cell phone, open a bank account, take out a student loan or even place a loved one in a nursing home without forgoing your right to sue the company providing such products and services, regardless of the injury you may experience or the egregiousness of the company’s practices.

    To correct this injustice, the Consumer Bureau issued a rule that would have reinstated the right of consumers to join together in class-action lawsuits, often the only way to get a big company to change its practices and make millions of consumers whole. As soon as the rule was published in the Federal Register this summer, House Republicans rushed to block it using an obscure law known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which allows Congress to overturn an agency’s regulations within 60 days and prevents the agency from ever considering the issue again without express Congressional authorization. This week, Senate Republicans completed this outrageous assault on consumer rights. They too voted to block the rule, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. Wall Street considers this a huge win, and it is for them. A company like Wells Fargo that thinks acceptable business practice includes opening up millions of deposit accounts and credit cards without their customers’ authorization has less to fear now. As does a company like Equifax that failed to properly secure the sensitive personal data of over 145 million Americans and then included a forced arbitration clause in the fine print of the credit monitoring product it offered those same consumers in the wake of the breach. We’ll leave you with this quote as reported by the New York Times: “Tonight’s vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer bureau, said in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”
  5. The Senate budget resolution, H. Con. Res 71, as described above.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Tuesday October 31st. The House is expected to consider legislation extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Programs.

Mike


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

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