On the Hill Updates: Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Senate confirms public defender for a lifetime appointment
On August 7, the Senate confirmed Eunice Lee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 50-47. Lee has spent her career ensuring her clients’ constitutional and statutory rights are protected throughout the criminal process, representing over 380 clients over the last 20 years as a public defender with the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City. Lee is the only judge on the Second Circuit with experience as a public defender and the second Black woman to ever serve on the Second Circuit, diversifying the federal bench and better reflect the communities it serves. NCJW advocated for Lee’s appointment.
Circuit court nominees await Senate vote
There are three circuit court nominees supported by NCJW awaiting votes by the full Senate: Chief Judge Gustavo Gelpí to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Myrna Pérez to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Veronica Rossman to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. As a Puerto Rican jurist, Chief Judge Gelpí would bring a much-needed perspective to the federal judiciary. Pérez is widely considered one of our nation’s top legal minds on voting rights and has argued complex cases in federal and state courthouses across the country. Rossman has spent her career as a public defender, representing over 250 clients in the last 12 years.
Take Action! Urge your senators to support the nominations of Chief Judge Gelpí, Myrna Pérez, and Veronica Rossman.
Federal judge undermines nondiscrimination protections in health care, again
On August 9, Judge Reed O’Connor of the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued yet another ruling impacting the interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This portion of the landmark health care legislation — which prohibits providers from discriminating against patients based on their gender identity or previous termination of a pregnancy — was decimated via a 2020 Trump-era regulation. Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, President Biden’s subsequent executive order, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidance interpreting Section 1557 to prohibit gender identity discrimination rendered the Trump administration’s actions largely moot.
Despite these developments, Judge O’Connor again concluded that this interpretation of Section 1557 violates the rights of Christian medical groups under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Further, the judge issued a permanent injunction blocking HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and the agency from interpreting Section 1557 in this way, or enacting regulations that would mandate that states and providers involved in this specific case perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-affirming or abortion care according to patient needs and preferences. The practical effect of this ruling is unclear, as HHS has already announced its intent to revise and update the Trump-era rule implementing Section 1557. NCJW will continue to work to ensure LGBTQ equality and inclusion by supporting laws, policies, and programs that protect equal rights and opportunities for all people and to ensure the elimination of all forms of discrimination, especially those perpetrated under the guise of “religious liberty.”
Federal court rules Title IX protects students from discriminatory dress codes
On August 9, the Fourth Circuit Court issued an opinion in Peltier, et al v. Charter Day School, Inc., et al., a case in which three girls challenged North Carolina’s Charter Day School’s dress code, which requires girls to wear skirts to school while boys can wear shorts or pants. The court concluded that Title IX prohibits dress codes that discriminate on the basis of sex, but held the dress code could not be challenged as unconstitutional as the school is not a government entity. While charter schools are public schools, they are free of many of the rules and regulations traditional public schools must follow.
The case goes back to the district court to decide if the skirt requirement violates the law. NCJW joined an amicus brief in the case arguing the dress code promotes harmful policies that violates Title IX, including the false notions that girls should be passive and conform to specific sex stereotypes, and that such policies can be particularly harmful to people who are LGBTQ, transgender, and gender non-conforming.
March On for Voting Rights
On Saturday, August 28, March On, SEIU, National Action Network and the Drum Major Institute are organizing a “March On for Voting Rights” to demand that legislatures across the country end their push for restrictive voting laws and that Congress pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act. These critical bills will ensure free, fair access to the ballot for every American voter. Marches will be held in Atlanta, Houston, Miami and Phoenix, where voting rights are under attack, and in Washington, DC, where Congress is debating voting rights legislation. Learn how to get involved!
FY 2022 Budget Resolution released
On August 10, the Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which invests in physical infrastructure, including roads, rail, bridges, water, and broadband. The infrastructure bill now moves to the House, where a vote is anticipated in October at the earliest.
The infrastructure bill’s passage allowed the Senate to pivot to the FY 2022 Budget Resolution. This resolution includes reconciliation instructions directing the federal government to make a $3.5 trillion investment to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. These instructions shape the final budget reconciliation bill, which needs only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. So what will be in this massive bill? While specifics are still to be determined, it includes many of NCJW priorities: expanding health care, implementing paid leave, fighting child poverty, investing in education, and creating a path to citizenship for millions of immigrant youth, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), farm workers, and essential workers. NCJW cares deeply that these priorities become law.
- Take Action! Tell your senators that Congress must build an economy that helps families.
Administration aims to address ghost guns
Ghost guns — unserialized and untraceable firearms and firearm building kits and parts sold online — are quickly becoming the weapon of choice for violent criminals, gun traffickers, dangerous extremists, and other people legally prohibited from buying firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued a proposed rule that would help curb the proliferation of these firearms, which can be easily and quickly assembled and undermine all of the life-saving policies that NCJW advocates and state legislatures have worked hard to adopt. NCJW submitted a comment in support of the proposed rule. Use ours as a guide and submit your own by August 19 here!