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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


12,456 subscribers

November 3, 2017

New York

I extend my deepest condolences to those who lost their precious loved ones in New York City and I wish the injured a speedy recovery. No terrorist will weaken our spirit or diminish our determination to protect our freedoms. I appreciate the hard work of our first responders whose quick actions helped end this horrific attack.

A Disappointing Response

I am deeply disappointed in President Trump’s response to the terrorist attack in New York. Within a day, Trump was lashing out on Twitter at Senator Chuck Schumer. Then, during a Cabinet meeting in the White House, he referred to our criminal justice system as a “joke” and a “laughingstock”. He’s also demanding changes to immigration programs as well as more extreme vetting. Compared with the White House insistence that it wasn’t “appropriate” to talk about gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, his response is particularly troubling.

The Shoes Start Dropping

Monday morning brought reports that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and assistant Rick Gates had been indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States. While these developments dominated discussion, many of us heard a name new in this context: George Papadopoulos. He is the Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who, in a “Statement of the Offense” made public Monday, admitted lying to the FBI about his interactions with individuals he believed had ties to the Russian government. Mr. Mueller’s investigation is moving with deliberation and uncovering critical facts. It is more important than ever that we allow him to complete his investigation and follow these facts wherever they may lead.

Cut, Cut, Cut? More like Debt, Debt, Debt

Yesterday Congressional Republicans released the long-awaited details of their tax plan. I won’t call it “reform” because it isn’t and President Trump’s proposed title, the Cut, Cut, Cut bill, really only applies to the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations. This proposal adds $1.5 TRILLION to the deficit over ten years. The Republican answer for this explosion of debt is that cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations will ultimately benefit the middle class. This approach was called “voodoo economics” in the 1980’s by George H.W. Bush to describe Ronald Reagan’s tax plan. The argument made is that the savings enjoyed by corporations and the wealthiest would trickle down to everyone else. Well, it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

While there are certainly some provisions in this plan that I would support, I don’t get to vote on every individual item. I must consider the overall impact of the entire package. Many of us will try to amend the bill but it is highly unlikely enough amendments will be adopted to make the overall bill worthy of support.

Here are some details about this plan, as of yesterday. It establishes 4 income tax brackets of 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%. It doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples but it eliminates personal exemptions. The corporate tax rate will be lowered from 35% to 20%. Multinational corporations with money abroad will be allowed to bring that revenue back at the low tax rate of 12% instead of the 35% statutory rate. The estate tax is also phased out.

One of the biggest concerns many of us have, including Republicans in states like New York and New Jersey, are changes made to mortgage interest deductions and state and local tax deductions. Under current tax law, homeowners can deduct mortgage interest payments from their federal taxes for loans up to $1 million. Under this proposal, that figure is reduced to $500,000 for new loans. I don’t have to tell you that houses cost a great deal more in Massachusetts than in Alabama. The median cost of a home in the Greater Boston area is more than $500,000.

Under this proposal, state income taxes, medical expenses and property losses will no longer be allowed as deductions. Current tax law permits teachers who use their own money to buy school supplies for their classrooms to take a $250 deduction. Republicans eliminated that too. Student loan interest deductions are also gone and higher education credits are consolidated into a single credit which will reduce their benefit. The proposal includes a new tax on college endowments. The American Council on Education estimates that this tax bill would increase the cost of attending college by more than $65 billion in the next decade. It’s hard to see how this tax proposal would benefit the middle class.

This plan weakens the Johnson amendment which is the provision of current law that prohibits churches and certain nonprofits from supporting political candidates. The changes made will effectively allow them to endorse political candidates. The bill also gives new legal rights to a fetus by recognizing an unborn child as an individual. This is a step toward establishing personhood from the moment of conception.

The tax proposal repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). A few pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns were leaked earlier this year. Based on that information, we know he had to pay an additional $31 million in taxes as a result of the AMT that year alone. It’s long past time for the President to release his tax returns so the public can fully understand just how much money he will save if this tax proposal becomes law. The American people have a right to know exactly how this bill benefits him.

House Republicans are planning a committee vote on this plan next week and want to bring it to the full House for a vote by Thanksgiving. President Trump wants to sign the bill by Christmas. This is by design, but the accelerated timeframe leaves little room for analysis or review. It’s worth noting, given the speed with which the House is approaching this legislation that the bill itself is 429 pages and its summary document is 82 pages.

A Misguided Approach to Managing Wildfires

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. Proponents claim this legislation lowers the risk of wildfires by utilizing certain forest management initiatives. In fact, H.R. 2936 repeals or limits important environmental regulations that apply to forest management and does nothing to address the underlying causes of wildfires. The legislation limits review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act. It also limits judicial review of specific categories of forest management activities. I voted NO. H.R. 2936 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

222

9

0

7

DEMOCRAT

10

179

0

5

TOTAL

232

188

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Medicare

Yesterday the House considered H.R. 849, the Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act. This legislation repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This board is responsible for developing proposals to control Medicare spending. IPAB isn’t operational yet and isn’t expected to go into effect until at least 2021. It is one of the aspects of the ACA that I have been concerned about from the beginning. I was proud to vote in favor of the ACA (Obamacare). It wasn’t a perfect bill, and that is an impossible standard. I worked to change some provisions of the ACA that I was concerned about before that March 2010 vote. Since that day, I have worked hard to ensure that the ACA was implemented as intended, to protect it from its opponents and search for ways to improve it if politically possible.

H.R. 849 is one way I believe the ACA can be improved. As noted, it eliminates the IPAB. I have long been opposed to this board, which has had different names along the way to passage. This is an independent body with members appointed by the President with the power to enact significant changes to Medicare and Medicaid without Congressional approval. I never thought this board was necessary to make the ACA successful and have always feared the unfettered power assigned to it.

I wrote several times in this newsletter about some concerns I had with the ACA as the 2010 House vote approached. At the time, IPAB was known as “Super IMAC” or the Super Independent Medicare Advisory Council. It would have the authority to set Medicare policies and reimbursements.

At the time I wrote: “the elected representatives of the people impacted would no longer have a say in accepting, rejecting or amending any [changes to Medicare or Medicaid] – the entire decision would be up to Presidential appointees. Moreover, I ask people who are happy to entrust these decisions to persons appointed by President Obama to remember that there will be other Presidents, with, perhaps, very different levels of commitment to medical care.”

That sentence from 2010 seems sadly prophetic in light of today’s White House. I voted YES, to repeal IPAB. H.R. 849 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

0

0

7

DEMOCRAT

76

111

0

7

TOTAL

307

111

0

14

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

4

5

0

0

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Today the House considered H.R. 3922, the Community Health and Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act. You may recall that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs) expired at the end of September because Congress took no action to extend programming funding. This legislation provides funding, by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a favorite pastime of Republican lawmakers. It cuts the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund by more than $6 billion over ten years. The prevention fund is 12% of the entire budget for the Centers for Disease Control and is used for numerous public health initiatives. Some of these include managing the opioid crisis and increasing access to vaccines. These funds are also used for diabetes and heart disease prevention programs, as well as many other public health efforts. H.R. 3922 raises Medicare premiums for some and decreases the grace period for paying ACA marketplace premiums from 90 days to 30. This places lower income individuals at risk of losing access to health care for a year if they encounter hardship and cannot make a payment within 30 days. This is needlessly cruel. I voted NO. H.R. 3922 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

227

3

0

8

DEMOCRAT

15

171

0

8

TOTAL

242

174

0

16

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. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) appears to be changing its approach to companies that enter into settlement agreements to remedy wrongdoing. Under the Obama Administration, companies were required to acknowledge responsibility when entering into these agreements with the SEC. This was not a requirement in every instance. Rather, the SEC required an admission of responsibility from either an individual or corporation in approximately 2% of all settlement agreements. Now, the SEC is eliminating even that small percentage. This is partly due to the fact that the SEC budget keeps getting cut, reducing its investigative and enforcement ability. The Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans don’t seem to be interested in giving an agency responsible for policing the market and holding bad actors accountable with the resources it needs. Now, SEC leadership can simply say: sorry, we don’t have enough money to do our job so we’re reducing our enforcement efforts. This is exactly the wrong way to go. Companies and individual executives don’t have to own up to any wrongdoing. They can just pay a fine and chalk it up as a cost of doing business.
  2. Foreign Policy reported in October 2017 that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson closed the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Office. This is the office responsible for managing issues related to sanctions policy. The news comes as we learn that the Trump Administration missed an October 1st deadline to issue penalties against Russia. Now, the Policy Planning Office will take over the responsibilities of the defunct sanctions policy office. Staff in the planning office have historically played an advisory role and did not oversee any programming at the State Department. By missing this important deadline and closing the sanctions office, the Administration is exhibiting a troubling lack of commitment to the requirements of the Russia sanctions legislation overwhelmingly approved by Congress. It also calls into question their ability to manage sanctions policy at all.
  3. According to an October 2017 FiveThirtyEight report, the first “Crime in the United States Report” issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under the Trump Administration includes significantly less data than previous reports. The FBI collects information from law enforcement agencies all over the country and uses it to compile an annual report that provides a window into crime trends and activity throughout the country. FiveThirtyEight’s analysis found that the 2016 report contains almost 70% less data tables than the 2015 report. Greatly reducing the amount of information available in this annual report makes it more difficulty to identify and address crime trends. In the past, an FBI Advisory Policy Board ultimately determined what data remained in the report and what should be removed. Now the FBI’s public affairs office has that responsibility. It certainly raises the question of how decisions are being made about the data in the report. It cloaks information that was previously available and makes it more difficult to study crime trends or propose policy.
  4. As noted below, on November 2, 2017 President Trump signed into law a resolution that blocks the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule prohibiting financial services companies from preventing consumers from filing class action lawsuits. We recently learned that the Trump Organization also uses forced arbitration clauses to prevent its employees from suing. This applies to all their employees, including landscapers and housekeepers, who must give up their right to litigation through arbitration agreements if they want to work for the Trump Organization. The policy itself is a bad one - it prevents individuals from choosing for themselves how to seek a remedy. By signing this policy into law, Trump is also highlighting in bold bright colors the specific conflict of interest that he has with respect to this. Trump has refused to divest his interests in his companies. To put it bluntly, less lawsuits for the Trump Organization equals more profit for Trump.

Behind the Curtain – UPDATES

  1. On November 2, 2017 President Trump signed H.J. Res. 111 into law, which prevents the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Consumer Bureau)’s rule limiting arbitration agreements.
  2. On November 1, 2017 Sam Clovis, who was President Trump's nominee for the Agriculture Department’s Chief Scientist position, withdrew his name from consideration after getting caught up in Mueller's Russia investigation. Clovis is reportedly the high level campaign official that George Papadopolous spoke to about communicating with Russian officials. You may recall that, despite being nominated for a scientific position, Clovis does not appear to have any actual scientific experience. Clovis also holds very troubling views on homosexuality. CNN reported in August of 2017 that just 5 years ago, Clovis was insisting homosexuality is a choice and LGBTQ individuals shouldn’t have the right of equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. He further argued that by legalizing same sex marriage, it was logical to project that pedophilia could be legalized. Clovis was a talk radio host and CNN reviewed his broadcasts as well as other primary source material as part of their report.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday November 6th. The House is expected to consider the Save Local Business Act and the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act.

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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Roxbury Community College Campus Library, Room 211, Boston
Stetson Hall Room 124, 6 South Main Street, Randolph

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DC Office Phone:

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