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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 16, 2018

No Words

I truly don’t know what to write anymore. It’s impossible to offer any words that come close to expressing the sorrow and anger I feel after another school massacre. I cannot even begin to imagine the agony that the families who lost precious loved ones are experiencing. I pray for them and my heart breaks for them. But that isn’t enough. There is something gravely wrong with our gun laws when an 18 year old who cannot legally buy a beer can lawfully purchase a military grade lethal weapon. The shooter used an AR 15 assault rifle. No one needs a gun like that for hunting or to protect their home. What will it take for Republicans in Congress to tighten gun laws? They refuse to consider renewing the assault weapons ban, closing gun show loopholes, expanding background checks or preventing people on the Terrorist Watch List from buying a gun.

What have Republicans pushed instead? In December of 2017 the House passed legislation requiring states to let people carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the United States if they meet requirements in their own state. So if an Alabama resident can carry a concealed weapon in Alabama they can carry it in every other state regardless of restrictions in place there. 12 states don’t even require their residents to have a permit if they want to carry a concealed gun.

President Trump tweeted yesterday: “so many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed. . .” In February of 2017 Trump signed a law preventing the Social Security Administration from sharing with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of people with medically documented mental disabilities so severe that they require a representative to oversee their benefits. With his pen, Trump made it easier for people who are “mentally disturbed” – his words – to get a gun. Keep in mind, the federal government doesn’t think these individuals can manage their own Social Security checks but Trump kept them off a list that would simply have brought greater scrutiny if they wanted to buy a gun. This was one of our very first Behind the Curtain entries, #14. It’s easy to see with these two legislative actions that this Congress and this President want to go backwards on gun reform.

I refuse to give up hope that maybe, just maybe, this is the tragedy that will finally bring real reform. I felt compelled to spend some of my time in the Transportation Committee to speak on the lack of action on this issue during an unrelated hearing. You can view my comments here:

Infrastructure

After more than a year of promises, President Trump finally released his infrastructure plan on Monday. It wasn’t worth the wait. Although he claims it’s a $200 billion plan, budget cuts to current funding for infrastructure programs such as New Starts and Amtrak decrease overall infrastructure spending. This plan also shifts more of the funding burden to states and communities, further undermines environmental regulations and reduces necessary oversight by dramatically speeding up the permitting process. One notable detail that the plan neglects is perhaps the most important one – where is the money coming from? Trump’s proposal requires that the $200 billion be offset but doesn’t specify exactly what programs should be cut to do it. This plan is also being sold as a $1.5 trillion plan but it really isn’t one. That number assumes over $1 trillion in nonfederal infrastructure spending will suddenly materialize. It won’t.

Trump’s plan would use half of that $200 billion to create an Incentives Program. Projects generating the most revenue would be prioritized. The definition of “infrastructure” is broadly defined so it includes much more than roads, bridges and transit. The Incentives Program will also be open to water projects, broadband, power generation and much more. There is nothing inherently wrong with federal investment in any of these areas if the projects make sense. The problem here is there really isn’t a focus on transportation. In every corner of this country there is a road, bridge or transit line in need of investment. Trump’s plan would also sell off federal assets to make money. Some of the assets listed for possible privatization include Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport as well as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Improved infrastructure benefits the economy, environment and our quality of life. It’s long past time for a serious legislative commitment to transit infrastructure.

The Trump Budget

On the same day Trump released his infrastructure plan, he also released the Fiscal Year 2019 budget. Notably, a partial analysis of that document reveals more than $168 billion in infrastructure cuts over ten years, which puts a big dent in the $200 billion proposed separately.

In fact, Trump’s budget ends the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, zeroes out funding for new transit projects in the New Starts program and makes deep cuts to Amtrak. The TIGER program helped fund the Ruggles Station revitalization and New Starts is helping fund the Green Line Extension. With this budget, no new programs can be considered for funding because there is no money set aside for new applications. Does this sound like an administration committed to infrastructure investment?

The Trump budget is heartless, mean-spirited and fiscally irresponsible. It will result in an almost $1 trillion deficit for FY 2019 which will grow to more than $7 trillion in ten years.

The Trump budget systematically attacks programs that help support middle class families. The President is still going after health care. His budget slashes $1.4 trillion from Medicaid and undermines the Affordable Care Act by once again allowing insurance companies to charge more or deny coverage completely to people with pre-existing conditions.

Remember, a pre-existing condition can be a previous cancer diagnosis or a heart transplant – or it can be a food allergy. While the person with the heart transplant may need more ongoing medical care than the person with a food allergy, what happens if that person is exposed and goes into anaphylactic shock? That will require more than an epi pen. Now, he or she is dealing with emergency room bills, ambulance costs and possibly hospitalization charges. If Trump has his way, an insurance company could simply refuse to cover any of it. Trump’s budget also allows insurance companies to charge older people much more for the same health care coverage they offer to a 25 year old.

Despite promises to protect Social Security, the Trump budget cuts it by as much as $65 billion. The Social Services Block Grant, which funds programs like Meals on Wheels, is eliminated. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is also eliminated. This money helps low income households afford heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Without this vital program, lives are needlessly put at risk.

This budget cuts the Environmental Protection Agency, Section 8 housing and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is just a sampling of the programs and departments that are targeted.

Make no mistake – this is all related to the massive tax cuts passed in December that are primarily benefitting corporations and the very wealthy.

The Protecting Payday Lenders’ Access to Predatory Loans Act

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 3299, the Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act. This legislation seeks to reverse the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals 2015 decision in Madden v. Midland Funding. The court held that just because a nationally chartered bank has a right to protection from state usury laws under the National Bank Act, that protection does not apply to nonbank entities who purchase the bank’s debt. H.R. 3299 would use the National Bank Act as a loophole to allow debt collectors, payday lenders, or other unscrupulous actors who assume a bank’s debt to charge exorbitant interest rates that they would not be able to charge if they were to make the loan directly. I voted NO. H.R. 3299 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

229

1

0

7

DEMOCRAT

16

170

0

7

TOTAL

254

171

0

14

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

The Undermining Investor Protection and Transparency Act

On Wednesday the House also considered H.R. 3978, the TRID Improvement Act of 2017. This legislation is a combination of six financial services bills, most of which are designed to deregulate our securities markets and weaken important investor protections. H.R. 3978 makes it harder for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to review the electronic books and records of high frequency traders which weakens its ability to monitor the markets. SEC oversight is especially necessary when the market experiences unusual gyrations. The legislation also repeals independent auditor review requirements for companies that have less than $50 million in revenue and less than $700 million in stock held publicly. These are not small mom and pop businesses. Congress created these requirements in 2002 after the spectacular accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom. There’s a reason why independent auditing of large corporations is a good thing – it makes it harder for them to hide the bad stuff. In general, this bill package unnecessarily undermines the stability of our securities markets, the regulators’ ability to police the markets, and the common sense investor protections that guard against fraud and corporate malfeasance. I voted NO. H.R. 3978 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

228

1

0

8

DEMOCRAT

43

144

0

6

TOTAL

271

145

0

14

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

The Relief from ADA Compliance Act

Yesterday the House considered H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. This legislation amends the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making it more difficult for persons with disabilities to take legal action against owners of public facilities who do not make their properties accessible. H.R. 620 imposes overly burdensome requirements before someone can seek a legal remedy which will delay resolution of discrimination claims. The legislation also weakens the incentive for businesses to comply with the ADA because it throws up so many roadblocks for people with disabilities and it doesn’t actually require compliance – just “substantial progress” towards compliance, a term which the bill leaves undefined. The ADA is a critical component of our nation’s civil rights laws. It is a 28 year old statute that prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications against people with disabilities. Instead of doing all we can to strengthen the ADA and ensure that its promise is being realized across the country, this bill takes us in the opposite direction. I voted NO. H.R. 620 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

213

19

0

5

DEMOCRAT

12

173

0

8

TOTAL

225

192

0

13

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 February 2018 news reports, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed far fewer fines on polluters than the previous administration. $1.6 billion in penalties were issued in 2017 compared to $5.7 billion in 2016. Does anyone really think problems with polluters declined that much in a year? These data show that requiring companies to follow the rules around pollution is not a priority, sending the clear message that companies don’t need to make it a priority either.
  2. According to February 2018 news reports, the Trump Administration is deemphasizing “guidance documents” which are used across the federal government to support laws covering everything from healthcare to the environment and consumer protection. A guidance document can offer more detail on what Medicare covers or how health insurance companies should comply with certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now, the Department of Justice won’t use these guidance documents when determining if an entity has violated a law. This is great news for big corporations and defense lawyers because guidance documents have been powerful tools in detecting violations. Every aspect of the federal government is impacted by this decision to disregard guidance documents. Medicare uses them to combat fraud. The EPA uses them to enforce environmental laws. We’ve been reporting for more than a year on all the ways the Trump Administration is diminishing consumer, worker and environmental protection laws. This is one more approach they will use.
  3. In February of 2018 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ended its investigation of Equifax, whose data breach impacted more than 145 million consumers. This is not because Equifax is suddenly in the clear or the investigation is complete. CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney isn’t interested in investigating Equifax. He opted not to issue subpoenas and didn’t interview any witnesses about the data breach. He’s also turned down offers of assistance with this case from other regulators. This is more bad news for the average consumer. Companies like Equifax know the CFPB is more like the Corporate Financial Protection Bureau under Mulvaney.

What’s Up Next

A District Work Period has been scheduled. The next House votes will take place on Monday February 26th.

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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