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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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February 9, 2018

More Shutdown Drama and a Disappointing Deal

Early this morning the House passed legislation establishing a budget for the federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018 as well as Fiscal Year 2019. Unlike most institutions, the budget is NOT the same as appropriations. The budget is a framework or a blueprint while appropriations represent actual spending. To illustrate the difference between the two, think of the roof on your home as an example. You may know you need a new roof and you may plan on spending $10,000 to replace it. That is different than knowing you have $10,000 in your checking account to use on that roof. So the two year budget is the plan but Congress still has to write the check.

Congress did allow a check to be written through March 23rd of this year — through a Continuing Resolution (CR). This is the fifth CR this year, which is highly unusual. By appropriating only enough money through March 23rd, Congress now has six weeks to appropriate sufficient funding for the rest of the fiscal year. At that time, if there is no compromise, the federal government will face another possible shutdown and possibly another CR.

This is no way to run a serious undertaking and is a clear failure of the majority to do its job.

While there are certainly many provisions I support in this legislation, in the final analysis I could not vote for it. The difference between the defense and nondefense portions of the budget is too stark. The legislation raised caps on defense spending by $164 billion and on nondefense spending by $130 billion. As I have long maintained, these two categories of funding should be treated as equally as is feasible. I don’t think that balance came close to being accomplished here. Notably, this legislation also adds $320 billion to the deficit — on top of the $1.5 trillion already added as a result of the tax bill.

I’m also concerned that this agreement is silent on Dreamers. While some Congressional Republicans do seem willing to resolve this issue, my main concern lies with the President. Just this week, Trump declared: “I’d love to see a shutdown” and “let’s have a shutdown” if an immigration agreement cannot be reached. He’s not just talking about assuring the future of young people brought here as small children. He’s talking about also building a wall, greatly restricting immigration and significantly altering policy — and he’s using the Dreamers as leverage. The next CR expires in a few weeks. A shutdown remains a possibility, something the President said he’d “love” if he doesn’t get his way. In fact, the federal government did shut down again overnight because Senator Rand Paul held up the Senate vote to protest the $320 billion the agreement adds to the deficit. I voted NO. This legislation passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

167

67

0

4

DEMOCRAT

73

119

0

1

TOTAL

240

186

0

5

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

3

6

0

0

The End to Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 772, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. This legislation amends nutritional disclosure requirements mandated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Under that law, restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose how many calories are in their menu items. H.R. 772 delays this requirement and gives restaurants more flexibility in how they comply with it. If an establishment primarily receives orders from customers online or over the phone, the legislation exempts them from posting calorie counts in their facility. Instead, they only have to make the information available online. I voted NO. H.R. 722 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

234

1

0

2

DEMOCRAT

32

156

1

4

TOTAL

266

157

1

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

3

6

0

0

Lose the Freedom to Make a Fair Mortgage Choice Act

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1153, the Mortgage Choice Act. With this legislation, House Republicans are once again attempting to weaken the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Under Dodd-Frank mortgage lenders are required to assess whether a borrower has the ability to pay back the loans they are requesting. This is called the “ability to repay” rule. That rule also caps points and fees on mortgage add-on products such as title insurance and escrow fees, limiting them to no more than 3% of the amount being borrowed. H.R. 1153 would lift the cap on title companies and other service providers that are affiliated with the mortgage lender, taking us back to the crisis days when countless homebuyers fell victim to high fees generated through steering and collusion. This bill is a giant step backwards for homebuyers. I voted NO. H.R. 1153 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

0

0

9

DEMOCRAT

52

131

0

10

TOTAL

280

131

0

19

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

0

1

The Let’s Incentivize Banks to Take on More Debt Act

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 4771, the Small Bank Holding Company Relief Act. This legislation directs the Federal Reserve Board to raise the small bank holding company threshold from $1 billion to $3 billion. This is the amount of debt a bank is allowed to take on. The threshold was just increased from $500 million to $1 billion in 2014 and there has not been enough time to fully assess the impact of that change on the industry. Tripling the threshold to $3 billion will lead to banks taking on more debt. It could also lead to more bank consolidation, with smaller community banks being taken over by larger institutions because now they can carry more debt. I voted NO. H.R. 4771 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

230

0

0

7

DEMOCRAT

50

139

0

4

TOTAL

280

139

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

8

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 January 2018 news reports, tourism has declined during the Trump Administration. The U.S. Travel Association analyzed Commerce Department data and concluded that the decline resulted in the loss of 400,000 jobs and over $4 billion in potential spending. Given Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, continued push for a travel ban and heartless immigration policies, it’s not a surprise that foreign tourists are looking elsewhere for their leisure travel. Foreign student enrollment has declined too, depriving US colleges and universities of tuition used, in no small part, to fund financial aid for deserving American students. This also deprives us of many of the world’s “best and brightest” who have long dreamed of studying here, and greatly contribute to our economy and society.
  2. According to a January 2018 Washington Post report, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson is turning his position into a bit of a family affair. Last summer his son, Ben Carson, Jr., put together a listening tour in Baltimore highlighting federal housing projects. Carson’s son has numerous business interests in the area and HUD officials raised concerns about his involvement in the official event. The HUD Secretary rejected those concerns and let his son go ahead with planning, including inviting a number of prominent local business people. Carson Jr. reportedly also had an interest in inviting Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Administrator Seema Verma on the tour. While she did not attend, CMS did later award a $485,000 no bid consulting contract to Myriddian. The CEO of Myriddian is none other than Merlynn Carson, daughter in law of the HUD Secretary. Her husband, Ben Carson Jr., is a board member.
  3. In January of 2018 President Trump imposed a 30% tariff on solar panels. Those tariffs went into effect this week. The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association raised concerns, pointing out that the tariff will result in higher costs for consumers and result in 23,000 job losses. The solar panel industry currently employs five times more people than the coal industry. Trump’s move has more to do with his indifference toward renewable energy, not concerns about fair trade.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Tuesday February 13th. At this writing, a legislative schedule is not available.

Mike


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

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