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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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March 2, 2018

RCC Office Update

I wanted to give you an update on my Roxbury Community College (RCC) office. As you may know, a pipe burst this winter in the building where our RCC office is located. As a result, school facility officials have restricted access to the building and our office until repairs are complete over safety concerns. Our permanent office is located near RCC President Dr. Valerie Roberson, who has also been forced to temporarily relocate. During this temporary dislocation, my staff holds regular office hours on the campus, with hours posted on our website. If a posted time is not convenient, please contact us and staff will set up an alternative meeting. Our continued apologies for the inconvenience.

Wage Equity

I was shocked this week when Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell admitted during a Financial Services Committee hearing he has basically no interest whatsoever in obtaining data that would shed light on the troubling wage gaps, related to both race and gender, that exist in our economy.

Powell’s remarks came in response to my questions about a new British law requiring companies with over 250 employees to report salary and bonus differences between men and women. Barclays Bank, the first company to publish data, revealed women are paid almost 50% less overall than men. The Obama Administration drafted a similar rule through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to require companies with over 100 employees to report wage data broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. It never went into effect because the Trump Administration decided it would be too much trouble for businesses (Behind the Curtain #147).

In 2016, the Council of Economic Advisors estimated that the U.S. Economy is $2 trillion bigger today than it would have been if women had not increased their participation and hours in the labor force. Imagine what that number could be if women were paid the same as men, not to mention the positive impact on U.S. workers and their families. One study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that “the most important driver of the rise in aggregate labor force participation in the US over the past 30 years was the dramatic increase in labor force participation by women.” Other research has concluded that gender parity in the U.S. could lead to $4.3 trillion of additional GDP by 2025, 19% higher than if current trends in pay disparities continue.

Whether it agrees or disagrees with the research conducted to date, this is an issue that should deeply concern the Federal Reserve whose responsibility it is to oversee the economy and promote the goal of maximum employment. In fact the Federal Reserve Board even has a “Prices and Wages” division responsible for developing and presenting economic and financial data and analysis for the use of the Board, the Federal Open Market Committee, and other Federal Reserve System officials.

A huge step forward in bringing equality to the labor force participation of women and minorities would be to gather basic data on the wage gap. The Federal Reserve supervises over 7,000 financial institutions including some of the largest in the world. Yet Chairman Powell dismissed the importance of obtaining this information. It is troubling that Chairman Powell shows no interest in the data, he is apparently unwilling to use the tools at his disposal to shed some light on this persistent problem. Several members of the Financial Services Committee will be joining our efforts to follow up on this issue with him.

Increasing Risk for Big Banks

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 4296, to place requirements on operational risk capital requirements for banking organizations established by an appropriate federal banking agency. This legislation loosens rules on “operational risk capital” which is the amount of money and assets the largest banks must have on hand as protection against risk. Only about 10 U.S. banks are big enough to require this. The amount of operational risk capital a bank must hold is currently calculated by taking into account the bank’s past history as well as current circumstances. H.R. 4296 would allow banks to disregard prior conduct and experiences when determining how much operational risk capital they must have on hand. Factoring in a bank’s past behavior, which could include poor management or illegal activities is clearly relevant to a bank’s overall risk. This legislation weakens an important safeguard for the economy if a “too big to fail” bank runs into trouble. I voted NO. H.R. 4296 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:





















Strengthening Enforcement of Online Sex Trafficking

On Tuesday the House also considered H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. This legislation gives law enforcement additional tools to combat online sex trafficking. H.R. 1865 expands current prohibitions against sex trafficking by explicitly making it a federal crime to use or operate a website to promote prostitution. The legislation also gives victims of sex trafficking or prostitution the right to seek civil damages from the website operator. I voted YES. H.R. 1865 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. The Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues to weaken or terminate policies that specifically protect LGBTQ employees and patients. Health care workers who do not wish to treat LGBTQ patients are protected under a new “religious liberty division.” Existing transgender staff protections have either been rolled back or simply ignored. The agency’s strategic plan, required by federal law, included no references to LGBTQ health. This is a marked departure from previous strategic plans which did include this information. This is a concerning development because the strategic plan sets forth the principles on which HHS staffers operate the agency. It reflects the agency’s priorities and expresses its mission. Notably, persons known to hold negative views on LGBTQ issues have been appointed to senior roles in the department. For example Shannon Royce, who directs HHS’ Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has in the past worked with organizations that opposed same-sex marriage and supported “conversion therapy”. Charmaine Yoest, who is the HHS Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, has opposed same-sex marriage and stated in the past that she believes same-sex couples should be prohibited from adopting children. These personnel choices and policy actions represent a troubling pattern.
  2. According to February 2018 news reports, Matthew Masterson, who chairs the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is being removed from his post by Speaker Ryan. While it is certainly Ryan’s prerogative to name a new chair, the timing is certainly curious. Masterson has been leading efforts to help states shield their voting systems from cyberattacks, including those originating in Russia. Primaries in some states are weeks away but Ryan thought now was a good time to go in a different direction? It indicates a lack of concern about the security of our voting systems despite the conclusions of the intelligence community that Russia actively meddled in the 2016 election. While there is no evidence of votes being changed, U.S. security officials have determined that Russian hackers made inroads in 21 states. This underscores the importance of the need for paper ballots in every election, on which I have always insisted. A system that requires a voter to feed their ballot into an optical scanner creates an electronic record for more efficiency but the paper ballot is preserved should a recount be necessary.
  3. According to February 2018 news reports, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson ordered a $31,000 dining set for his office. Congressional approval is required to "furnish or redecorate the office of a department head" for anything over $5000, something Carson did not bother to obtain. Helen Foster, HUD’s former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) has filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging she was fired because she raised questions about the purchase. According to the complaint, Foster was told by a supervisor that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair.” This is a stark illustration of the Trump Administration's priorities, wasting taxpayer dollars on perks for themselves while slashing the HUD budget for some of our most vulnerable residents – the poor, homeless, elderly and persons with disabilities. UPDATE: as this newsletter was being edited and after fierce criticism, Carson said he would not accept the table.
  4. According to February 2018 news reports, two U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists left the Department of the Interior after Secretary Zinke demanded they share confidential data with him about the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska before it was publicly available. The scientists maintained they could not release the data because it would run counter to the USGC’s scientific integrity policy. According to Section 3c of the policy: "Particularly sensitive results, however, such as energy and mineral resource assessments and mineral commodity reports that typically have significant economic implications are not disclosed or shared in advance of public release because pre-release in these cases could result in unfair advantage or the perception of unfair advantage." Zinke's office insisted he had the right to review any information he wanted. One of the scientists who quit also pointed out that the USGS has consistently kept this information confidential within the department until public release because it has economic value and giving selective access to the information isn’t appropriate.

What’s Up Next

The next House votes are scheduled for Monday March 5th. At this writing a legislative schedule is not available.


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

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