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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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July 25, 2008

Housing

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 3221: American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act. This is the comprehensive bill Congress voted on earlier to help ease the troubled housing market, but with additional measures to resolve recent concerns. H.R. 3221 expands the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) program so people in danger of losing their homes can refinance their mortgages at a more affordable level. In exchange, homeowners must pay an exit fee when they sell their home and lenders are required to take a loss on the loan. The bill also targets communities struggling with high rates of foreclosures. It provides $4 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds for rehabilitating vacant homes in order to end the ripple effects of foreclosure which can devastate neighborhoods. This bill creates an independent regulator to oversee the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and establishes a permanent affordable housing trust fund with GSE resources, not taxpayer dollars.

Given recent speculation about the GSEs' health, Rep. Barney Frank led an effort to increase Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's existing lines of credit and allow the Treasury Department to purchase stock in the companies. As the GSEs are an essential part of our housing industry, and as these provisions are temporary, I am convinced this was a necessary addition to the bill. With Rep. Frank overseeing these broader issues, it allowed me to focus more on regional needs. For example, the bill increases the GSE and FHA loan limits for single-family homes. In order to accommodate communities with a large supply of multi-family housing, like the Greater Boston area, it also increases these limits for two, three and four-family homes, a provision I've worked on for years.

I voted YES. H.R. 3221 passed in the House, and the Senate is expected to consider it this weekend. The entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
DEMOCRAT

227

3

0

6

REPUBLICAN

45

149

0

5

TOTAL

272

152

0

11

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

10

0

0

0

Transportation

On Thursday, my legislation (H.R. 409) requiring mandatory inspection of all highway tunnels passed as an amendment to H.R. 3999: The National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act. You may recall that my bill first passed the House in January but has not yet passed in the Senate. After the tragic July 2006 death of Milena Del Valle from a falling ceiling panel in a Big Dig tunnel, many questions were raised about inspection procedures. Currently there are no national requirements for inspecting highway tunnels. Instead, this responsibility lies with the tunnel owners, who have authority over how their tunnels should be inspected. At a minimum, tunnel owners must follow the requirements included in their bonding agreements relating to the structure.

My amendment directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish minimum inspection requirements for tunnels, the maximum amount of time permitted between inspections, and the manner in which inspections will be carried out. The Secretary will also establish a national certification program for highway tunnel inspectors and implement a training program. Our highway tunnels deserve the same scrutiny as our nation's bridges. The increased scrutiny on tunnels required by my amendment will give us more information about our infrastructure and will help identify issues before they impact the safety of the traveling public.

The amendment was attached to H.R. 3999, which directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a priority list of all federal-aid highway bridges in need of replacement or rehabilitation. It also directs states to develop a five year plan for addressing all highway bridges in need of repair. The legislation updates national bridge inspection standards and expands the national bridge inspection training program. It authorizes $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2009 for the repair of structurally deficient bridges. H.R 3999 now moves to the Senate. I voted YES. The legislation passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
DEMOCRAT

230

0

0

5

REPUBLICAN

137

55

0

7

TOTAL

367

55

0

12

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

10

0

0

0

Energy

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 6578: Consumer Energy Supply Act of 2008. This legislation calls for selling or exchanging close to 10% of light crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and replacing it with a lower quality crude oil. This could help to bring down gas prices by increasing the supply of high quality oil on the market. The SPR is currently over 97% full and H.R. 6578 requires that the reserve be kept 90% full. The SPR has been tapped in the past, by former Presidents Bush and Clinton, as well as President Bush, and each time there has been an impact on prices. I voted YES. H.R. 6578 was considered under the suspension of the rules, which requires a 2/3 affirmative vote rather than a simple majority for passage. Although a majority of Members voted YES, the bill did not garner the 2/3 vote necessary for passage. The entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
DEMOCRAT

231

0

0

5

REPUBLICAN

37

157

0

10

TOTAL

268

157

0

10

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

10

0

0

0

HIV/AIDS

The House also considered H.R. 5501: Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008. This legislation authorizes $48 billion over 5 years, targeted toward preventing 12 million new HIV infections and increasing treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS. The legislation helps targeted developing countries increase access to counseling, testing and treatment for their citizens, with a particular emphasis on mothers infected with HIV in an effort to reduce transmission from mother to child. H.R. 5501 also helps countries increase access to treatment and counseling for children with HIV. $9 billion of the funding is for malaria and tuberculosis programs, which claim over 2.6 million lives a year. I voted YES. H.R. 5501 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
DEMOCRAT

228

1

0

7

REPUBLICAN

75

114

0

10

TOTAL

303

115

0

17

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

10

0

0

0

What's Up Next

Next week, the House is scheduled to consider the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs FY 09 Appropriations bill.


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

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and
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