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An update from the office of
U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
8th Congressional District of Massachusetts

Congressman Capuano's
E-UPDATE

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December 21, 2005

Recent House Votes

The House adjourned at dawn on Monday the 19th, after voting throughout the night on a number of measures, including the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations Conference Report and the Budget Reconciliation Bill. At this writing, the Senate is still in session and it is unclear when they will adjourn or if the House will have to return before the end of the year.

Surveillance

President Bush recently acknowledged that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct electronic surveillance of international phone calls and e-mails, including surveillance of American citizens, without a court order. I am deeply concerned about these revelations and the constitutional questions they raise. Much of the documentation surrounding this issue of surveillance is classified, but the President has insisted that the Constitution grants him the authority to order surveillance without a warrant. He further claims that when Congress authorized the use of force in 2001 against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, they also implicitly authorized these actions. I completely reject such assertions and will pursue the matter in the coming months. Many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle share my concerns.

H.R. 3199: PATRIOT Act

The NSA surveillance revelations complicated Senate passage of the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization. Last week, the House passed H.R. 3199: the USA PATRIOT Act and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act: I voted against the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 because I was concerned about the impact that some of the more controversial provisions would have on our civil liberties. H.R. 3199 makes 14 of these provisions permanent and extends 2 others for 4 years. Many of the provisions included in the USA PATRIOT Act improved the capabilities of our law enforcement and intelligence communities. However, I believe that as we grant the government new powers and respond to new technologies, we must also ensure that our valued civil liberties are protected. One example of a problematic section extended in the bill is Section 215, which relates to the seizure of "Business Records". This section allows the FBI to obtain any record, including library, bookstore, and medical records, after meeting a minimal threshold to show a possible connection to a terror investigation. H.R. 3199 falls far short of achieving the delicate balance between security and liberty that I believe is essential.

I voted NO. At this writing, the bill is being blocked by a bi-partisan group of Senators, raising the possibility that certain provisions in the Act will expire at the end of the year. The entire House vote is detailed below:

 

YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

207

18

0

6

DEMOCRAT

44

155

0

3

INDEPENDENT

0

1

0

0

TOTAL

251

174

0

9

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

0

10

0

0


H.R. 3010: Labor Health, Human Services and Education Appropriations

On Wednesday the House passed H.R. 3010, the Conference Report for Labor, Health, Human Services and Education Appropriations. You may recall that in November, this conference report went down to a surprising defeat. As one of the appropriations bills that funds government agencies and programs, it is considered a "must-pass" bill. Republicans made minor changes to the bill to secure a few needed votes and brought it to the floor again. This time, it passed. H.R. 3010 cuts funding by $1.5 billion over the previous fiscal year, shortchanging critical education, health care and human service programs. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is frozen at last yearŐs level, despite the fact that energy costs have skyrocketed and more people will need assistance heating their homes this year. The bill underfunds special education programs, freezes after-school programs for the fourth year in a row and cuts funding for Head Start. It contains the lowest increase in NIH in 36 years, and as a result, research funding will not keep pace with inflation. The bill also contains virtually no new funding for existing Community Health Centers. It slashes job-training programs and freezes student financial aid programs like Perkins Loans, College Work Study and the Pell Grant. If an anticipated 1% across-the-board cut to all discretionary spending is passed later this week, many programs whose funding was frozen or increased just slightly will be cut. The bill must also pass the Senate, and it is not clear when that will happen.

I voted NO. The entire House vote is recorded below:

 

YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

125

12

0

4

DEMOCRAT

0

200

0

2

INDEPENDENT

0

1

0

0

TOTAL

215

213

0

6

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

0

10

0

0


H.R. 4437: Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act

The House considered H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. This legislation is not comprehensive immigration reform. It increases mandatory detention, expedited removal and criminal penalties for civil immigration violations for all aliens, including undocumented children. It also makes unlawful presence in the United States a federal felony punishable by imprisonment as well as an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. This bill simply adds more bureaucracy to an already overly burdened system. It weakens due process protections through limits on judicial review, expanded use of expedited removal and decreased refugee protection.

I found some portions of this bill acceptable. However, the overall bill only addresses half the problem — issues surrounding punishment. The bill does nothing to address the question of how we should address the complicated issues surrounding legal immigration. Our country is built on thoughtful policies to encourage legal immigration. This bill is merely punitive, and I fear that its passage makes much-needed comprehensive reform less likely.

I voted NO. The entire House vote is recorded below:

 

YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

203

17

0

11

DEMOCRAT

36

164

0

2

INDEPENDENT

0

1

0

0

TOTAL

239

182

0

13

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

0

10

0

0


H.R. 2863: Department of Defense Appropriations

At dawn on Monday the 19th, the House finally passed H.R. 2863: the Conference Report for the Department of Defense Appropriations. There are a number of provisions in this conference report that concern me. However, H.R. 2863 also contains funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), hurricane relief and flu preparedness. On balance, I decided to support this bill and voted YES. The entire vote is recorded below:

 

YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

202

16

2

11

DEMOCRAT

106

89

0

7

INDEPENDENT

0

1

0

0

TOTAL

308

106

2

18

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

4

5

0

1


S. 1932: Budget Spending Reconciliation

The House then passed S. 1932, the Conference Report for 2006 Budget Spending Reconciliation. This legislation cuts mandatory spending by $39.7 billion over 5 years, yet does nothing to trim the deficit because Republicans have proposed $105 billion in tax cuts. This bill reduces funding for a number of programs such as student loans, child support enforcement and Medicaid.

I voted NO. The entire House vote is recorded below:

 

YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

212

9

0

10

DEMOCRAT

0

196

0

6

INDEPENDENT

0

1

0

0

TOTAL

212

206

0

16

 

 

 

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS

0

10

0

0


Young Witness Assistance Grants

My legislation establishing a grant program for young witness assistance initiatives passed Saturday December 17th. It was included in the Conference Report for the Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (H.R. 3402).

We continue to hear stories about young people who are harassed and even harmed because they are willing to speak out about a crime. With the recent rise in violent crime, it is critical that the federal government provide state and local authorities with additional resources to assist young people who try to do the right thing. States and municipalities cannot do it alone. Grants may be used to develop and administer a variety of witness assistance programs including counseling services for young witnesses dealing with the trauma of observing a violent crime, pre- and post-trial assistance for young witnesses and their families; and protective services for young witnesses and their families when a serious threat of harm from the perpetrators or their associates is made.


Logan Runway

I recently contacted Massport and the Federal Aviation Administration to urge that they immediately cease construction of runway 14/32 until safety issues surrounding it are resolved. Logan recently recorded its 17th runway incursion in 14 months. Just last month, FAA Administration Blakey told a congressional subcommittee that one of the reasons for the increase in runway incidents at Logan is the ongoing construction associated with the new runway. In light of this, it is hard to understand why construction continues. Passenger safety should be given the highest priority at all times and continuing work on a project that the FAA has identified as a problem is simply stunning to me. An advanced radar system is scheduled for installation at Logan and this will help address some of the issues. However, it has not yet been installed and apparently will not be fully operational for another two to three years. This timeframe is completely unacceptable. Installation of this new radar system should be given the highest priority, especially in light of this most recent incident. Until that system is fully in place, construction of runway 14/32 should cease.


What's Up For Next Week

At this writing, it is unclear when the House will return for votes. If the Senate does not complete action on appropriations conference reports, the House may return next week for votes.


Congressman Mike Capuano
8th District, Massachusetts
House Committee on Financial Services
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

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and
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