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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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December 15, 2017

Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted yesterday to repeal net neutrality rules, despite overwhelming opposition and clear evidence that the FCC comment system is compromised. In fact, my wife Barbara’s identity was used to post remarks supportive of repeal (the opposite of her position). We learned about this when Boston 25 news brought it to our attention. Despite demands from me and numerous Attorneys General, including Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, to delay the vote and investigate the fake comments, the FCC proceeded as planned. Posting bogus comments is a shocking abuse of a process for citizen input that is essential to open government.

Net neutrality rules require internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon FIOS to treat all internet content the same. It has to be delivered at the same speed – providers cannot create “fast lanes” that would cost more money to deliver content quicker. Internet speeds must be “neutral”. With yesterday’s vote, the FCC demolished that principle. In practical terms, what that means is a giant corporation with deep pockets can pay more money to speed its website and the products it promotes, to you. A small business, or a new business just starting out, would not have the extra resources to do the same. Their website delivery would be slowed. This will apply to everything we do on the internet, including using apps.

All hope is not lost yet. For now, some of the biggest ISPs have stated they will not create fast lanes. I am also supporting legislation in the House that would essentially invalidate yesterday’s vote. H.R. 4585, the Save Net Neutrality Act, would prohibit the FCC from using the information gathered from its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) beginning on May 18th because it has been established that many of the comments are fake. Because the FCC can’t consider any of them, they would have to start the process over. This would delay repeal of net neutrality while more permanent solutions are explored. Work is also underway in the House and Senate to prohibit the FCC from repealing net neutrality through the Congressional Review Act, which I strongly support.

More Deregulation for the Big Players Masquerading as Help for the Little Guy

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 3971, the Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2017. This legislation makes more mortgage lenders eligible for an exemption from a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule requiring the establishment of escrow for mortgages of a certain size. Under current rules mortgage brokers must create an escrow account tied to a consumer’s mortgage that is used to cover property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Borrowers contribute to the escrow account through their monthly mortgage payments. Escrow accounts help borrowers manage the additional expenses of homeownership – taxes and insurance - so they are not faced with enormous bills. Under current law, financial institutions with less than $2 billion in assets are exempt from the escrow requirements. H.R. 3971 greatly expands that exemption, from $2 billion in assets to $25 billion. I voted NO. H.R. 3971 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

234

1

0

3

DEMOCRAT

60

128

0

5

TOTAL

294

129

0

8

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

2

6

0

1

Weakening the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Part One

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1638, the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act. This legislation weakens the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran Nuclear Agreement. It requires the Treasury Secretary to broadly report on the assets of Iran’s senior political and military leaders, regardless of whether they were ever subject to sanctions. This legislation passed the House in 2016 and President Obama issued a veto threat because it could undermine the JCPOA. The investigators who are responsible for overseeing the sanctions program would also be responsible for researching and preparing the asset reports — without the additional resources to support that expanded workload. I voted NO. H.R. 1638 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

233

3

0

2

DEMOCRAT

56

132

0

5

TOTAL

289

135

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

7

0

1

Weakening the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Part Two

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 4324, the Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act. This legislation is also an attempt to weaken the JCPOA, by compromising one of its conditions. Through the JCPOA, the United States has agreed to lift restrictions on the sale of U.S. commercial planes to Iran for civilian purposes. H.R. 4324 expands certification requirements for approving the sales that go well beyond what has already been agreed to in the JCPOA. Under the legislation, the Treasury Secretary must consider factors that are not related to nuclear issues and are not part of the deal. This is one more way to put in jeopardy the obligations that the U.S. has already agreed to in the JCPOA. I voted NO. H.R. 4324 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

229

4

0

5

DEMOCRAT

23

163

0

7

TOTAL

252

167

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Exempting Companies from Privacy Notifications

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 2396, the Privacy Notification Technical Clarification Act. This legislation lessens privacy notice requirements for financial institutions by expanding the circumstances under which they are exempt from issuing notifications to their customers explaining how their data is shared with third-parties. It would allow repeat offenders like Wells Fargo and Ally Financial to sell for profit your personal non-public information to any third party they please without having to first get your consent. I voted NO. H.R. 2396 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

231

2

0

5

DEMOCRAT

44

144

0

5

TOTAL

275

146

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

1

7

0

1

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 news reports, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) ended the fiscal year with far fewer enforcement actions than in previous years, with 49 completed actions. Last fiscal year, 68 enforcement actions were completed. This also resulted in a significant drop in fines, from $1.29 billion in FY 2016 to $413 million in FY 2017. This is a pattern we have seen with other agencies under the Trump Administration. There was also a drop in fines at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for FY 2017.We will see how FY 2018 develops but so far, we are seeing a clear pattern of seeming to ease up on businesses and corporations.
  2. According to news reports, the Pentagon is spending a handsome sum to rent space in Trump Tower - $130,000 a month. While there is a need for the military to maintain space close to the President, these rental costs far exceed market rate, even in Manhattan’s luxury inventory for similar properties. Once again, we have an example of the Trump Administration not being prudent with taxpayer dollars.
  3. According to December 2017 news reports, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are taking immigrants into custody in New York City when they appear in local courts for a variety of reasons, from a traffic violation to a family court matter. This is a troubling development and emblematic of the Trump Administration’s crackdown on all aspects of immigration.
  4. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been trying to regulate portable generators for almost 20 years due to concern over carbon monoxide emissions, which can be deadly. Because it has no scent, carbon monoxide is not easily detectable. Generators are widely used during extended power outages caused by natural disasters, such as hurricanes. In the fall of 2016, the CPSC succeeded in advancing a rule that would require generator manufacturers to reduce carbon monoxide emissions. Once Trump took office, he appointed as acting chair of the CPSC former Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, who does not support the new rule. Implementation has essentially been halted.
  5. Once Buerkle assumed her position as acting CPSC chair, she appointed Patricia Hanz general counsel of the commission. Hanz was once assistant general counsel to engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton. One of the company’s most lucrative endeavors is portable generators. Hanz also served as Vice President of an association supporting portable generator manufacturers. The appointment of Buerkle and choice of Hanz make it exceedingly unlikely that the carbon monoxide regulations will ever go into effect. These conflicts of interest are evident to anyone yet this Administration is dismissive of them.

Behind the Curtain – UPDATES

  1. The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules, as detailed above.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday December 18th. The House is expected to consider the Republican tax bill as well as legislation to fund the federal government beyond December 22nd.

Mike


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

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