The Senate concluded its impeachment trial of former President Trump on February 13, voting to acquit 57-43. When the Senate returns from recess next week, the focus will be on President Biden’s agenda, in particular, passing a COVID-19 bill and confirming nominees to agency positions. Meanwhile, the House is completing its work on a COVID-19 bill to send to the Senate once it is passed, ideally getting a House and Senate-passed bill to the president before expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits run out in mid-March. Read below what happened in the last week and NCJW’s work to advance the rights of women, children, and families.
In effort to share our institutional priorities and advancements coming from the new administration, NCJW has been sending this newsletter to our entire list of advocates. Beginning on Day 51, this will go only to two groups: NCJW leadership (no action needed) and advocates like you. Don’t want to miss continued updates?
What is it?
The Equality Act (HR 5) was introduced in the House by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) on February 18. This bill, supported by NCJW, adds explicit protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to our civil rights laws. The bill would also add and expand legal protections for women, people of color, and many other communities.
How does it relate to our past work?
NCJW has long worked to safeguard civil rights for everyone. Advocates have worked to pass the Equality Act in every Congress in which it has been introduced; the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives last year.
What can I do now?
The bill is expected to come to the House floor for a vote next week! Take action to tell your representative to pass the Equality Act!
- On February 8, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (HR 959) in both chambers of Congress. This package, endorsed by NCJW, comprises twelve crucial maternal health bills that will protect birthing people of color and help secure safe pregnancies, deliveries, and postpartum care. The Momnibus Act covers a wide range of issues, from incarcerated pregnant individuals’ safety and wellness to funding much-needed research on maternal health disparities in the US. Pregnant people of color have a right to wellness, dignity, and equal access to comprehensive, high-quality, culturally-competent care.
Take action: tell your lawmakers to support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act and each of the twelve individual bills today!
- On February 11, President Biden terminated the national emergency (a legal status) at the southern border. Former President Trump declared this emergency to shift money within and across government departments, including the Department of Defense, to fund his border wall. Note: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order closing the border due to the pandemic is still in effect.
- On February 12, the Biden-Harris administration announced it would begin processing asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as “Remain in Mexico.” The administration plans to process roughly 300 people a day at the southern border; close to 30,000 asylum seekers have active cases in the program.
- On February 12, the Biden-Harris administration notified it was rescinding Medicaid work requirements that threaten health coverage for people with low incomes, especially those with chronic health conditions, and disproportionately harm BIPOC communities.
- On February 14, President Biden issued an Executive Order relaunching the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Established 20 years ago by former President George W. Bush, the “Partnerships Office’s initial work will include collaborating with civil society to: address the COVID-19 pandemic and boost economic recovery; combat systemic racism; increase opportunity and mobility for historically disadvantaged communities; and strengthen pluralism.”
- On February 15, the Biden-Harris administration reopened HealthCare.gov through May 15 to ensure all Americans have the opportunity to sign up for health insurance in the pandemic. (headline)
- American Rescue Plan:
As House Committees complete their work on individual pieces of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, the Budget Committee will then compile a single bill under the reconciliation rules. The House is expected to vote on the final package by the end of next week, sending it to the Senate for consideration. A $15 minimum wage increase, among other NCJW priority issues, is in the House bill. Call your lawmakers and urge them to pass this robust COVID relief!
- Nominations: On February 23. the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on Xavier Becerra, the nominee to lead the US Department of Health and Human Services, on February 23. NCJW supports the nomination of Mr. Becerra.