Rep. Capuano on this weeks work in the Capitol.

Rep. Capuano (D-MA) writes:

Insurance Industry Regulation

On Wednesday (Dec 7, 2016) the House considered H.R. 5143, the Transparent Insurance Standards Act of 2016. This legislation, like last week’s Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act of 2016 is yet another attempt to weaken the Dodd Frank Financial Regulatory Reform Act. H.R. 5143 targets reforms implemented for the insurance industry. You may recall that during the financial crisis in 2008, the insurance company American International Group (AIG) practically fell apart. This was a key factor in the economic crisis that ensued. The Dodd Frank Act increased oversight of the insurance industry by establishing a framework to identify insurance industry risks. It created the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) to coordinate some of this activity and develop appropriate policies relative to international insurance matters. The FIO is also responsible for working with state insurance regulators so their views are taken into account, particularly when it comes to international insurance policies. H.R. 5143 weakens the Dodd Frank Act by essentially requiring that the Treasury Department have support from all state and territory insurance commissioners when entering into international insurance agreements. This is simply an impossible standard to meet, weakening the authority of the Treasury Department and the FIO.  The Administration has stated that this legislation will be vetoed.

H.R. 5143 passed 239/170. Rep. Reed voted AYE.

Continuing Resolution

Yesterday the House considered the Fiscal Year 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) which funds the federal government through April 28, 2017. At that time, a third extension will be necessary for the rest of the fiscal year. This simply delays important spending decisions and makes it difficult for federal agencies to engage in long term planning.

Because the CR extends last year’s budget, it doesn’t include funding provided through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) which passed earlier this year. This includes money to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) on commuter railroads as well as funds for highways and transit projects. The legislation contains a waiver for General James Mattis, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. A waiver is necessary because Defense Secretaries must be out of the military for seven years and this is not the case with General Mattis. The waiver clears the way for the Senate to consider this nomination. A continuing resolution is not the appropriate vehicle for such a serious matter. It was done only once before in our history, when President Truman asked General George C. Marshall, who had already served as Secretary of State, to take over the Department of Defense in the early days of the Korean War. General Mattis may well be a good choice, but there should have been a debate about an issue that affects civilian control over the military.

The legislation passed 326/96. Rep. Reed voted AYE.

Water Infrastructure

Yesterday the House considered S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. This is a compromise version of the reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). S. 612 supports water resources development projects under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers. This legislation contains a provision I’ve advanced that increases the federal share of deeper dredging projects from 50 to 75%. This applies to the Boston Harbor dredging work already authorized, reducing local cost by at least $14 million.

Unfortunately the legislation contained several troubling provisions, including dozens of pages added at the last minute directing water use in Southern California. This will have an environmental as well as economic impact, placing fisheries at risk and endangering fishery jobs. S. 612 also exempts “forest management” projects from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which will allow thousands of acres of National Forest to be cut down. This bill even approves funds for a development project in Texas so that a waterfront park and sports fields can be built. The bill passed by the House ensured that funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be used specifically for dredging projects. S. 612 doesn’t address this issue at all so that money can’t be accessed.

S. 612 passed 360/61. Rep. Reed voted AYE.

Tom Reed seldom explains his votes. Most likely, he votes as the party whip suggests.

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