"U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), who voted against the Patriot Act, rallied protesters by calling the law the worst attack on freedom since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts."
September 10, 2003
The Patriot Act and Verizon
I am sure you are aware that Verizon has reportedly been ordered by the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) to turn over, "on an ongoing daily basis", information about every customer telephone number, including landline, cell and business numbers. That information reportedly includes all numbers dialed and all calls received within the United States as well as between the United States and other countries.
As I write this newsletter, the news is filled with reports that a similar program called PRISM is in place for every major internet and email provider. The government claims they have not accessed the content of phone calls, but it seems they ARE accessing the content of emails such as videos, websites visited and more. According to reports, the PRISM program is not at this time being used on U.S. citizens.
Even if you can accept the government collecting the number and length of every call you make, are you really comfortable with them having the ability to catalogue all the YouTube videos you watch, the Netflix movies you download, or the web pages you visit? It seems that our own government has access to every phone call, email and internet search for all Americans at every minute of every day.
Like most Americans, I am absolutely outraged. But, if you're a long time subscriber to these newsletters, you probably already knew that. You also probably know that I voted against passage of the so-called "Patriot Act" and every reauthorization since it first passed in 2001.
Before I go any further, I feel compelled to remind you that I was an early and strong supporter of President Obama. I am still amongst the strongest Obama supporters in the House of Representatives. Nonetheless, I cannot remain silent out of some sort of misplaced loyalty to President or party when I believe that basic American rights have been intentionally trampled.
I know we live in a dangerous world and there is work to do to prevent terrorists from harming us. But we must find a balance between giving law enforcement the tools they need to track and indentify terrorists and protecting the very liberties upon which our great country was founded.
This data collection has reportedly been going on for 7 years. The length of time that this has been going on and the staggering amount of data collected on every Verizon customer amounts to an incredible overreach. Even if you're not a Verizon customer, there is clearly reason for concern. Who really believes that Verizon is the only telecommunications company required to turn over this data?
I have always believed that we must give law enforcement the tools they need to pursue criminals. However, we can do that and still protect civil liberties.
It is time for those of us who support President Obama to speak up. I believe he is a good man and has been a good President. However, I think his Administration has allowed their concern for our safety to lead them down the wrong path. If we remain silent, those who have always wished him to fail on every point stand a better chance of winning the hearts and minds of America and we will all be worse off for it. It is possible to support President Obama and yet disagree with him on certain issues -- this is one of those times.
Officer Sean Collier
On Tuesday I filed the "Officer Sean Collier Campus Police Recognition Act of 2013" in memory of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who was murdered on the evening of April 18th, by those responsible for the tragic bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The legislation would add campus police officers to the Department of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program. This federal program provides financial assistance to police officers, firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty. If they are killed, the program provides benefits to eligible family members. My bill would add campus police officers to the list of public safety personnel eligible to receive benefits under this existing federal program. The change would be retroactive to April 15, 2013 -- the day of the bombings.
Officer Collier was a hero who lost his life while doing a job he loved, serving and protecting the MIT community as a member of campus law enforcement. This bill is a small way to honor his memory.
As you know, in addition to Officer Collier, three others lost their lives as a result of the bombings on Marathon Monday: Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi. We continue to hold them and their families in our hearts.
Too Big To Fail
This week I also filed The Subsidy Reserve Act of 2013. The Dodd- Frank financial regulatory reform bill addressed the notion of "too big to fail" financial institutions by requiring living wills and establishing an orderly process to unwind failing banks without devastating our financial system. The impression lingers, however, that the government would bail out "too big to fail" firms. Because of that perception, these big firms currently enjoy much lower financing costs, which put community banks and other smaller financial institutions at a disadvantage.
Congress should address this impression, whether real or perceived, because it creates an impact on financing costs for banks. My legislation will take a "belt and suspenders" approach: maintaining Dodd-Frank provisions while creating new ones. My proposal requires financial entities with assets over $500 billion to maintain a subsidy reserve account on its balance sheet. The Office of Financial Research would establish the methodology for calculating the amount required to be reserved from year to year. Entities must add to the reserve account each year and the funds would be separate from any other capital requirements. Shareholders would then have a choice: (1) let the reserves grow, creating a well funded pool of capital available only to cover large losses, thereby negating any possible need for future government bailouts, or (2) access the funds only after divesting and breaking apart the company. The choice would be totally up to each institution and their shareholders -- stay big while protecting taxpayers OR shrink your institution and access those funds, you cannot do both.
The idea behind the subsidy reserve is to require our largest financial entities, the ones perceived as "too big to fail", to set aside funds each year as a cushion. They could not access these funds for executive compensation, to pay dividends or for anything else. According to a September 30, 2012 analysis from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, only a handful of firms have assets in excess of $500 billion. They include Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs Group, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.
There are a number of benefits to a subsidy reserve approach. Structural reform of "too big to fail" entities would be achieved without overt government intervention. Competitive equality would be restored when it comes to accessing funding. Ultimately, the number of firms perceived as "too big to fail" would be reduced, either because they have voluntarily downsized, or they are better capitalized and thus less risky.
Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriations
The House this week began consideration of fiscal year 2014 appropriations. Before proceeding to those bills, the House first voted to "deem and pass" the Republican budget authored by Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan. This is basically a game of "let's pretend". The House and the Senate both passed budgets but Republicans won't appoint Members to a conference committee. As you know, the purpose of a conference committee is to work out the differences between House and Senate bills so that they can be passed by Congress and sent to the President.
Instead, House Republicans decided to pretend that the Ryan budget passed so work on appropriations could begin. In the House, this game of "let's pretend" is called "deem and pass".
Once that business was taken care of, the House considered H.R. 2216: making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs and related agencies. This bill provides funding for military construction, including family housing. It increases funding over the previous fiscal year for Veterans Administration medical care, including traumatic brain injury and mental health care. H.R. 2216 also increases funding for veterans' claims processors, which is important because it will get services to veterans who need it more quickly. Although I am concerned that a comprehensive budget agreement seems far out of reach, I voted for H.R. 2216 because of the additional funds for veterans. I voted YES. H.R. 2216 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:
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Yesterday the House considered H.R. 2217, FY 2014 Homeland Security Appropriations. This legislation includes some troubling directives for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It prohibits funds from being used to implement the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program. That program gave young people brought to this country illegally when they were small children the opportunity to remain here as long as they met a set of requirements, such as being enrolled in school. By defunding this directive, H.R. 2217 eliminates ICE's discretion when it comes to enforcement. Under this bill, they will have to pursue a dangerous criminal as vigorously as a teenager brought here as a baby. I voted NO. H.R. 2217 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:
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What's Up Next
The House is scheduled to continue consideration of FY 2014 appropriations bills.
Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services