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Congressman Capuano's
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts

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June 15, 2018


On Wednesday I questioned Joe Otting, President Trump’s appointee to the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. His office is responsible for, among other items, fairness in lending and making sure that banks are complying with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The CRA helps ensure that financial institutions are investing in low income communities. It is also supposed to make certain that banks are not discriminating in their lending. So imagine my surprise when I asked Mr. Otting what I considered a straightforward question about discrimination. His answer left me speechless. Otting actually told me that he has NEVER observed discrimination of any kind in the United States – not racial, ethnic, socio-economic or gender discrimination. This is a bizarre and disturbing answer from a federal financial regulator whose job description includes protecting against lending discrimination. I am still stunned by Otting’s answer. I was planning to ask him why 91% of banks pass their Community Reinvestment Act tests when banks continue to discriminate in lending to minorities. I can’t imagine how he would have answered that because he can’t even admit that discrimination exists. If you’re interested you can watch our exchange here.

A Cruel and Vindictive Policy

The Trump Administration continues to separate parents and children at the Mexican border. Constituents are contacting us to express anguish and outrage, and I am proud to represent so many good people appalled by this policy. H. Res 927 which I co-sponsored last week, now has 150 supporters in the House, but that is not enough. We are continuing to push more Members to support this resolution and stand with us against this inhumane policy. I have joined many of my colleagues in a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee asking that no funds be provided to the Department of Homeland Security for this purpose, and I anticipate further legislation will be introduced next week.

Here is an update on the numbers of families affected. In May, the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for caring for the children, announced they had 10,773 in custody, which is up 21 percent from the 8,886 at the end of April. This number includes “unaccompanied minors,” older children who attempt to cross the border themselves. Increasingly, however, there are younger children forcibly separated from their parents, whose trauma is almost unimaginable. HHS now says their shelters are at nearly full capacity, 95%. Children may have to be housed on military bases if the policy is not reversed. At a recent Senate Judiciary Hearing, a Customs and Border Protection official testified that 638 parents traveling with 658 children had been “processed for prosecution” between May 6 and May 19, 2018. That means that more than 600 families have been torn apart in less than two weeks. I will continue to do all in my power to stop this and continue seeking allies in the fight, possibly some Members who have pledged to support “family values.”

Spotlight on Constituent Services

This week I am introducing a new feature about an important responsibility of my office, constituent service. From time to time in this newsletter, we will present a case, careful to protect the identity of the person or family involved, in which we worked with a federal agency to help resolve an issue. We work with the Veterans’ Administration, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Housing – HUD and local Housing Authorities, the Department of Education and with all branches of the Department of Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection.

The first story we’d like to share comes from a constituent, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Egypt. He is a fellow at one of our great universities and sponsored his father for a green card. The family were Copts, Egyptian Christians, and the father, who is a widower not in good health, was living close to the Sinai border, in a rural area where Christians were often attacked. My office wrote to the US Embassy in Cairo urging that the immigrant visa interview be promptly scheduled. We received a courteous reply, but no interview date. Shortly thereafter, on Palm Sunday, terrorists bombed the cathedral in Alexandria. We appealed once more. A few weeks later, Christian villagers were slaughtered on the Upper Nile. I felt we had been patient too long. I wrote to the Secretary of State with this message: I know the President of Egypt appeared at the Cathedral and appealed for religious peace, but it is clear Egyptian authorities cannot protect their Christian citizens. My constituent’s father must be brought to safety without further delay. An interview was scheduled within the week, and I have had the pleasure of meeting father and son, and welcoming the older gentleman to Massachusetts.

Singapore Summit

For the sake of peace in the region and the denuclearization of North Korea, I am trying to hope for the best. However, President Trump’s record on international affairs is not an indicator that success is coming. After the shocking end of the G-7 summit in Canada, when Trump’s churlish behavior alienated our democratic allies, he flew to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, known for nuclear brinksmanship and murdering North Korean people, including his own relatives. Trump and Kim shook hands in an international spotlight and signed a statement endorsing “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. Trump also committed the United States to “security guarantees” which seems to include cancelling joint military exercises with South Korea, whose government was not, apparently, consulted or even notified in advance. Sanctions appear to remain in place. The joint declaration was short and imprecise.

I and others in Congress will watch closely as this new cooperation unfolds, paying close attention to both words and actions. The Korean War ended with an armistice, and it would certainly represent progress to have the conflict resolved with a peace treaty. It’s important to point out the obvious here. Treaties are based on lengthy negotiations and set forth many explicit agreements. Moreover, treaties must be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. I think any reasonable person would welcome successful efforts to end nuclear proliferation. If the Singapore Summit brings the world closer to that goal, then that is significant, but nothing was said about existing enriched uranium, centrifuges, missile delivery systems for nuclear warheads, or inspections of any facilities.

Stable peace in East Asia will require more than a brief meeting between Trump and Kim. Both men are famously erratic. Either could turn on the other tomorrow. Both have shown their willingness to abruptly abandon agreements. Other nations must also be party to lasting peace. The United States has protected not only South Korea but also Japan and the Philippines with a “nuclear umbrella” throughout the Cold War. China is an increasingly aggressive regional power and the traditional protector of North Korea. Diplomacy is not simple and the Trump Administration does not yet have an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. There is much remaining to be done, in concert with democratic allies and in realistic engagement with all regional powers. This is or could be a beginning. But it’s too early to tell.

Reducing Illegal Drug Shipments

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 5788, the Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act of 2018. This legislation requires the U.S. Postal Service to gather electronic information from foreign postal services about the content and recipient of a package before it is shipped. The information will then be shared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of an initiative to reduce the flow of illegal drugs into the country. I voted YES. H.R. 5788 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















The Raiding, Instead of Fully Funding, the Housing Voucher Program Act

On Thursday the House also considered H.R. 5735, the Transitional Housing for Recovery in Viable Environments Demonstration Program Act. This legislation takes 10,000 Section 8 housing vouchers and makes them available to select non-profit organizations to provide supportive housing for individuals who are recovering from a substance use disorder. While this looks like a well-intentioned initiative, H.R. 5735 ignores the fact that thousands of eligible families are and have been waiting, many for years, for housing assistance. Instead of paying for new vouchers this bill removes 10,000 existing vouchers and allocates them exclusively for one vulnerable population over others. The bill also attaches time limits and work requirements to the vouchers. The bill cruelly picks winners and losers instead of doing the right thing and funding the voucher program to a level sufficient to provide assistance to all who qualify. I voted NO. H.R. 5735 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Reclassifying Drugs but Leaving Science Behind

Today the House considered H.R. 2851, the Stop Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017. This legislation reclassifies 13 fentanyl analogues, amending the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). H.R. 2851 gives the Attorney General broad new powers over imposing penalties associated with these drugs. The last thing this AG needs is more power. The legislation also does away with the scientific and medical analysis of controlled substances as required under the CSA. I voted NO. H.R. 2851 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















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 June 2018 media reports Energy Department Administrator Rick Perry likes his flights upgraded just as much as Scott Pruitt. The federal government spent $51,000 more on airfare than it would have if Perry flew coach, which was available on 12 of his flights. Instead officials signed off on either premium or first-class fares, increasing cost to taxpayers by tens of thousands of dollars.
  2. In June 2018 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) chief Mick Mulvaney did away with the bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board. The purpose of the board is to serve as a liaison with consumer groups as they seek to utilize the CFPB to address unfair practices by financial firms. Mulvaney is openly disdainful of the CFPB. When he was in Congress he filed legislation to get rid of it. He’s found plenty of ways to weaken it from the inside – scaling back its functions, reducing its budget and limiting public access to some of its work. The now dissolved Consumer Advisory Board was working on some critically important consumer issues including illegal debt collection and mortgage foreclosure issues.
  3. In June of 2018 President Trump’s Department of Justice announced it wouldn’t be defending sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that are being challenged in court. It is established practice that the federal government defend challenges to existing federal laws. Not anymore. Some of the provisions the government won’t defend include requiring insurance companies to offer coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. This is one more way that the Trump Administration is working to sabotage the ACA.
  4. The Trump Administration has been systematically eliminating and weakening environmental regulations that impact our air, water and land. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would abandon evaluating secondary chemical exposure through the air, water and land, limiting its analysis to direct exposure. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that this is a flawed approach that will yield incomplete data which could mask the true risks of certain chemical exposures. As a result of this policy change, some chemicals could be classified as having a lower risk than they actually pose.
  5. In June of 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that victims of domestic violence and people fleeing gang violence are not eligible for asylum, reversing a policy that permitted these individuals to seek asylum if their home government would not or could not prosecute such crimes. It is a shameful and immoral reversal that endangers lives.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Tuesday June 19th. The House is expected to consider immigration legislation.


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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