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Massachusetts Is 'Back On The Map' In U.S. House Of Representatives

December 2, 2018
In The News

Democrats are sorting out their leadership in the U.S. House — and it looks like Massachusetts is getting even more clout. 

Reps. Jim McGovern and Richard Neal are part of an already-powerful Massachusetts delegation in the U.S. House. Now that's been increased by one, as Rep. Katherine Clark clinched a key leadership spot last week to become the sixth-ranking Democrat. 

For our quick look at the week ahead in politics and government in Massachusetts, Matt Murphy with the State House News Service joins us.

Carrie Healy, NEPR: What does this signify for Massachusetts? 

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Massachusetts is really back on the map in Congress, if you look at where a lot of these members are falling. It's been years of waiting, and building up seniority for a couple of them, including Jim McGovern, who's poised to take over the Rules Committee, and Richie Neal of Springfield, getting ready to take over the Ways and Means Committee.

This is going to really put them in the prime seat to play a key role as Democrats look to drive the legislative agenda in Congress over the next two years, as well as starting to investigate President Trump and the White House.

Richard Neal gave a speech to business leaders in Boston last week. He talked about potentially trying to work with the White House on a major infrastructure bill. He thinks that's possible.

But he also talked about trying to get his hands on the president's tax returns, and also revisiting some of the controversial tenets in the Republican tax law that passed last year — including the cap on state and local tax deductions, and the endowment tax that put a tax on some of the endowments of the wealthiest colleges and universities in the country, including many here in Massachusetts.

A UMass Amherst poll looked at the competition for Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey's seat in 2020, when he's up for re-election. It shows Markey would face serious challenges from either Congressman Seth Moulton or Attorney General Maura Healey. What are you seeing in those stats?

Those poll numbers are certainly interesting. It's not just about the presidential race, even though Massachusetts figures prominently in that race, with Elizabeth Warren taking steps towards running, giving a major foreign policy speech last week.

But people are looking at Senator Markey, particularly after Ayanna Pressley came forward, challenged a sitting incumbent like Rep. Mike Capuano of Somerville, and won.

And now people are wondering whether Senator Markey could be in store for a primary challenge, particularly since he's an older member of the caucus, and as Seth Moulton has waged this sort of insurgency in the House that doesn't look like it's going to prevail, to try and oust Nancy Pelosi. Where does he go next, since he's sort of on the other side of leadership? Well, he could challenge Senator Markey.

So these poll numbers — obviously very early — show that Markey perhaps has some vulnerability. These numbers are all in the high 20s, low 30s for both candidates, Markey running neck-and-neck with both Healey and Moulton, large numbers of undecideds. And it shows that there's perhaps room there for a challenger.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission still has not disclosed whether Wynn Resorts is suitable to operate a casino in Everett after an investigation into sexual harassment claims made against Steve Wynn — who has since broken away from the company. And now, the Boston Herald reports, Mohegan Sun wants to buy the Everett casino if Wynn gets stripped of its license. Are there still legal holdups? 

Sure. This is Mohegan Sun probably just trying to position themselves, and maybe thinking that they could give the Gaming Commission some cover.

This investigation into Steve Wynn, and what's going to happen with that license, is on hold after a Nevada judge granted an injunction, while Steve Wynn tries to block the use of some documents and information that the Gaming Commission obtained during the course of its investigation.

Even once that report comes out, we don't yet know what the process would be. Certainly, the fact that Mohegan Sun is willing to buy that Everett property answers one question, as to would there be a buyer for that, if they were to strip that license away.

But still, there are major questions about how much Mohegan would be willing to pay for what is currently a $2.5 billion resort casino.

There are host agreements with neighboring communities. And in that Herald story, the mayor of Everett was quoted saying that he wants a luxury resort casino in that city. He doesn't want simply a placeholder that Mohegan Sun could build to just kind of take some gambling dollars and protect their larger assets in Connecticut.

So the Gaming Commission would likely pursue a full process if they were to strip the license from Wynn. We don't know exactly what that would look like, and Mohegan could be just one of several players in the field.