On the Hill Updates: December 22, 2017
Budget and Tax
The final GOP conference report tax bill (HR 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) opposed by NCJW that cleared the House and Senate on December 20 was signed by the president on December 22. It is likely to add $2.2 trillion to the federal deficit between now and 2027 while also exacerbating income inequality by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest and corporations. It repeals the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, leaving 13 million individuals uninsured. Further, it will likely starve the government of the resources it needs to help women and families by cutting vital safety net programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare in order to pay for the tax cuts.
Take Action! Let your lawmakers know how you feel about their vote by calling the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3121). Don’t forget to call back to speak with all of your lawmakers! For those who voted against the GOP tax bill, thank them for holding strong for women, children, and families. If your lawmakers voted for the measure, express your disappointment that they voted for a harmful plan that takes from low and middle income people to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
Continuing Resolution To Fund Government Another Month
Just one day shy of a government shutdown, both the House and Senate passed (231-188 in the House and 66-32 in the Senate) a short-term funding bill on December 21 to keep the government open through January 19. The continuing resolution, or CR, includes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers nine million children, through March as well as language to prevent automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs that would be required to offset the tax bill’s deficit increase. It also includes a three week extension on a warrantless surveillance program. What’s not included is a permanent fix for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children, via the Dream Act (S 1615/HR 3440) which NCJW supports, as well as disaster relief funding that was passed (251-169) as a separate measure in the House. Read more about a legislative fix for dreamers below under Immigration & Refugees.The Senate will take up the disaster relief package next year, and both chambers will have to contend with additional unfinished business including passing 12 appropriations bills, a budget, fully reauthorizing CHIP, and addressing dreamers.
Human Trafficking Bills Move in House
On December 12, the House Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (HR 1865) as amended, which NCJW does not support. Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), the bill would ensure the ability to enforce federal and state criminal law relating to sexual exploitation of children or sex trafficking. The House Financial Services Committee approved (59-0) the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act (HR 2219), sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), on December 13 and the House Foreign Affairs Committee also approved the legislation by voice vote on December 14. HR 2219 would add the Secretary of the Treasury to the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, as well as review and update procedures to combat money laundering by human trafficking organizations.
Reproductive Health & Rights
Trump’s Birth Control Rule On Hold, For Now
On December 15, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s new rules on birth control from going into effect while they are challenged in the courts. The rules allowed nearly all employers, health insurance providers, and universities to claim a religious or moral objection in order to deny their employees, insurance holders, and students coverage for contraception. NCJW strongly opposes the rules, and submitted comments to the US Department of Health and Human Services opposing their implementation.
Trump Administration Battles ACLU Over Abortions
It was revealed this week that two young immigrant women — referred to as Jane Poe and Jane Roe — in federal detention were blocked by the federal government from obtaining abortions. On December 18, a federal district court judge issued an order to lift the administration’s block, and though the federal government initially appealed, it was later dropped, allowing both women to obtain abortions.
Banned Words at the CDC?
This week, senior policy analysts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that senior officials had banned them from using seven words in the agency’s budget documents: fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, evidence-based, and science-based. The CDC Director disputed the claim that any words had been banned, but further reporting suggests that the agency might have recommended avoiding these words in order to better position the agency to get its budget approved by Congress. NCJW’s Principles and Resolutions support comprehensive, affordable, accessible, quality services for women’s health, a goal which necessitates using these words.
Judicial Nominee Peterson Withdraws Following Hearing
Following the embarrassing questioning that went viral over the last week, judicial nominee Matthew Peterson officially withdrew his nomination. In an exchange with Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), Peterson was unable to answer basic legal questions and admitted that he lacked any litigation experience. Following Peterson’s withdrawal, which followed that of Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that these failure are “a clear signal that the White House isn’t properly vetting nominees but instead counting on Senate Republicans to jam them through with minimal review.” Unfortunately, one “unqualified” nominee is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many more unfit nominees, including several who have already been rubber-stamped by the Senate and will now define how justice is delivered in this country for generations to come.
No Senate Judiciary Committee Votes This Week; Nominations Returned to White House
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) did not hold a committee mark-up and vote on nominees David Stras and Kyle Duncan this week as planned. On December 21, at the end of the first session of the 115th Congress, the Senate returned 27 judicial nominees to the White House, including Stras and Duncan. NCJW opposes both Stras and Duncan. President Trump will be forced to decide whether to renominate them and the 25 other returned nominees in the new year. In the past, those who have already had hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee do not receive a new hearing, but the Committee will re-vote after the official re-nomination. Only then can nominees proceed to the Senate floor for a full vote.
On December 20, the White House announced the nomination of ten new judicial nominees. Three of the ten nominees were previously nominated by President Obama, though their nominations expired at the end of last Congress. Those nominated include:
- Jill Otake for the US District Court for the District of Hawaii (who has the support of Senators Hirono and Schatz (both D-HI));
- Maryellen Noreika and Colm F. Connolly for the US District Court for the District of Delaware (both of whom have the support of Senators Coons and Carper (both D-DE));
- Gordon Giampietro for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (who has the support of Senators Johnson (R-WI) and Baldwin (D-WI));
- Bill Jung for the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, who was previously nominated by both Presidents Bush and Obama and has the support of Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Rubio (R-FL);
- Kari Dooley for the US District Court for the District of Connecticut (who has the support of Senators Blumenthal and Murphy (both D-CT)); and
- Three district court nominees in Pennsylvania who have the support of Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Casey (D-PA).
Immigration & Refugees
Fix for Dreamers Pushed to 2018
Despite massive grassroots action and advocacy, Congress will not take up a legislative fix for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children, before the end of the year. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that he will bring a bill to the floor by the end of January if a compromise can be reached. In the meantime, 122 Dreamers lose their temporary status every day that Congress does not act. NCJW joined with United We Dream and other Dreamer-led organizations to call for passage of the Dream Act (S 1615/HR 3440) in 2017.
Sign On Letters
- On December 21, NCJW joined hundreds of health organizations on a letter to the Acting Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services expressing concern about reports that budget analysts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were discouraged from seven words: fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, evidence-based, and science-based.