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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

December 22, 2017

Green Line Extension

The Green Line Extension (GLX) reached another important milestone this week when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formally approved the GLX’s updated project financing plan. This gives the state access to the $1 billion in previously secured federal funds. The environmental, economic and transit benefits of the GLX are much closer to being realized.

The Republican Tax Bill

On Tuesday the House considered the Conference Report on H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It passed in the House and Senate on Tuesday, but the House was forced to vote again Wednesday because three provisions in the legislation violated Senate procedural rules.

The Joint Committee on Taxation has concluded that this legislation will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 TRILLION over ten years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) took interest into account when analyzing the package and they place the impact on the deficit at $1.7 TRILLION. This legislation is beyond irresponsible.

Remember, Speaker Ryan has already proposed cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending next year, citing the deficit he helped balloon as the reason why.

So what do the American people get in exchange for this tax package? Not much. Corporate tax cuts are made permanent but individual tax cuts will expire – they are NOT permanent. While there is so much to be concerned about with this legislation, that detail alone tells us exactly who Republicans were most focused on when drafting it.

This tax package primarily benefits corporations and the top 1% of earners. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has concluded that 86 million middle income families won’t get a tax cut — their taxes will go up. The center has also determined that fully 83% of the tax cuts in this package will go to the top 1%.

Because Congressional Republicans have failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they found a way to sabotage it by inserting a provision in this legislation that does away with the individual mandate. The CBO has already concluded that this will result in more than 13 million Americans losing health care and premiums for others increasing by about 10%.

I voted NO. The Conference Report passed and Wednesday’s vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

224

12

0

3

DEMOCRAT

0

189

0

4

TOTAL

224

201

0

7

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

A Gift to Big Banks

On Tuesday the House also considered H.R. 3312, the Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act of 2017. This legislation is yet another Republican effort to gut a key component of the Dodd-Frank Act. That legislation requires big banks to be classified as Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs) if they have more than $50 billion in assets. The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) oversees the SIFI designations. Under current law, the Federal Reserve has the authority to review all banks classified as SIFIs to identify any potential risks to the financial system. H.R. 3312 severely limits the ability of financial regulators to oversee big banks. It does away with the $50 billion threshold which requires banks to register as SIFIs which subjects them to additional regulatory scrutiny. H.R. 3312 would only apply the SIFI designation to banks that have also been designated as Global Systemically Important Banks or G-SIBs. As of late 2015, only 8 U.S. banks were classified as G-SIBs. The legislation greatly reduces regulatory oversight of the banking industry. I voted NO. H.R. 3312 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

229

2

0

7

DEMOCRAT

59

128

0

6

TOTAL

288

130

0

13

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

7

0

2

A Helping Hand to Corporations

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 4015, the Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act of 2017. This legislation is designed to stop shareholders like state, local and union pension funds, from getting independent advice before voting at corporate shareholder meetings. Proxy advisory firms are hired by large shareholders (like pension funds) to help them navigate the maze of corporate meetings. H.R. 4015 requires the proxy advisory firms to first provide their recommendations and analysis to company management before they can pass anything along to their clients, the shareholders that actually hired them. Pension funds and mutual funds invest our retirement dollars in thousands of different companies every year. We have a right to expect that advice to be independent and not filtered through the interests of corporate boards. Do the CEOs of Wells Fargo and Equifax really need more control over you and your money? I spoke on the floor in opposition to this legislation, which you can watch below. I voted NO. H.R. 4015 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

226

6

0

6

DEMOCRAT

12

176

0

5

TOTAL

238

182

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Delaying Important Spending Decisions (Again)

On Thursday the House considered legislation to fund the federal government through January 19, 2018. The House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 1370 just delays important funding decisions for a few more weeks. Republican leadership has focused exclusively on tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy while neglecting funding issues. I voted NO. The continuing resolution passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

2

0

8

DEMOCRAT

0

186

0

7

TOTAL

228

188

0

15

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

Francisco Rodriguez Released from ICE Detention

Many of you may be familiar with this terrible story. Francisco Rodriguez, an immigrant from El Salvador, applied for political asylum twice over the years. An immigration judge found he had not established “well-founded fear of persecution,” although someone close to him had been murdered. While his asylum appeal was pending, he and his wife became parents of a U.S. citizen child, and, as was common in the past under Administrations of both parties, he was permitted to remain here and to work legally. He was employed by MIT and a member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Earlier this year he was told he would not be permitted to remain in the United States. He is one of many persons, principal or sole supporters of U.S. citizen children, who now face deportation, even though they have committed no crime. The SEIU and MIT, whose President is himself the son of World War II refugees, asked the Massachusetts delegation for help. Senators Markey and Warren and I repeatedly appealed on behalf of Francisco Rodriguez, but this victory was won in the courts by excellent pro bono lawyers. A Motion to Reopen his asylum case was filed and denied, and when he had exhausted his administrative appeals his resourceful and determined counsel got his case before a federal court. They obtained further review of his asylum case and Mr. Rodriguez’s release from detention. This is just one glaring example of the Trump administration’s compassionless immigration policy. Thankfully engaged citizens and independent judges have ensured that Francisco Rodriguez will be able to celebrate Christmas with his family.

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. In November 2017 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would ease oversight of rules governing glider kit trucks. Glider kits are used to rebuild old truck engines. This is a less costly alternative but one that comes with environmental consequences. Regulations approved during the Obama Administration require trucks to meet stricter emissions standards and included trucks with rebuilt engines under those rules. The Trump Administration now contends that rebuilt engines aren’t new engines so they do not need to meet the higher emission standards. This is one of the many ways the Trump Administration has rolled back environmental initiatives.
  2. According to December 2017 news reports, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spent over $14,000 to book government helicopters so he could travel more quickly to events in the Washington, D.C. area. Zinke is already under investigation by the Interior Department’s Inspector General for other questionable trips using government funded planes. This is one more glaring example of a disregard for taxpayer dollars.
  3. A December analysis by the New York Times illustrates a troubling drop in enforcement activity by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when compared to the two previous administrations. The EPA is pursuing far fewer cases and collecting less money in fines for violations. The New York Times review of internal EPA documentation shows that the reversal of course on enforcement is partially the result of changes in policy. The documents reviewed also reveal that EPA enforcement officers have been stripped of some important tools. For example, officers must now obtain permission from EPA headquarters before ordering certain routine environmental testing. These tests provide necessary documentation that help investigators pursue cases against polluters. Officials could deny requests for testing and the additional bureaucratic requirements will certainly delay processing cases. This is a clear threat to the environment. Hundreds of EPA employees have left the agency since Trump took office, making it even more difficult to exercise appropriate oversight. The long-term impacts of the systematic undermining of the EPA will be devastating and not easy to reverse.
  4. In December of 2017 the Department of Transportation announced it would stop efforts to implement a rule requiring airlines to disclose baggage and other fees when a consumer purchases an airline ticket. The rule (which is now dead) simply required airlines to make sure consumers knew how much money they were spending on an airline ticket up front. I have filed legislation in the past requiring fee disclosure because consumers have the right to know what they’re paying for. I was pleased when the DOT moved forward on this basic consumer action without waiting for a legislative solution and am disappointed in this reversal.
  5. In December of 2017 the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration directed various Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies to avoid using seven specific words while drafting budget documents: vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based and science-based. This announcement generated outrage from advocacy groups, the scientific community and others. It is unclear why this directive was issued but there has been concern it is linked to project funding and the impact that the use of these words could have on the federal budget. Think about that for a minute. There is a concern that the use of a word like diversity or fetus will endanger project funding? And what harm is there in evidence- or science-based policy? This is a chilling development.
  6. In December of 2017 the Department of Labor proposed a rule giving restaurant employers the right to collect all the tips employees earn and share them with staff who do not typically receive them, such as a chef or dishwasher. The proposed rule will NOT require restaurants to distribute tips to an employee if they are making at least the federal minimum wage. So, a manager could collect tips from servers and bartenders but would not have to redistribute them to an employee if they make minimum wage, even if that employee earned the tip in the first place. To put it bluntly, this rule allows employers to steal tips left for their employees.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Wednesday January 3rd.

Programming Note

Congressman Capuano’s e-update will return in January. We wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

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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DC Office Phone:

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