Policy Updates

On the Hill: May 11, 2018


 Another devastating blow to the federal courts

On May 9, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) abandoned the Senate’s longstanding deference to home-state senators and held a vote on a judicial nominee from Wisconsin over the objection of Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The party-line confirmation of Michael Brennan signals a deeply troubling disregard by the Republicans for Senate traditions and our federal government’s system of checks and balances. NCJW strongly criticized the Senate’s vote to confirm Brennan to a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Aside from Michael Brennan’s disturbing and extreme views, the process by which he became a judge was flawed from day one.

Hearing on Bounds unprecedented

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Ryan Bounds for an Oregon based seat on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over the objection of both Oregon’s Senators. If confirmed, Bounds will be the first judicial nominee in history to be given a lifetime seat on the federal bench over the objection of both home-state senators. The senators objected to his hearing because he failed to disclose a paper trail of racist writings from his college newspaper to his state judicial selection committee. NCJW opposes Bounds as his record leaves little doubt that he would administer fair and impartial justice towards LGBTQ individuals, sexual assault survivors, and other marginalized communities.

New Senate judiciary democrats report on trump judges (spoiler alert – it’s not good)

With Senate Republicans attempting to confirm six circuit court nominees in two weeks, all 10 Judiciary Committee Democrats released a report on Thursday detailing the president’s efforts to remake the federal judiciary, particularly the circuit courts. “To fill these vacancies as quickly as possible, Republicans have changed how judicial nominees are considered and weakened the Senate’s vetting process, even diminishing the role of home-state senators by undermining the 100-year old blue-slip tradition.” The 60 page report includes 10 key findings.


Gun Violence Prevention

4th annual day to #wearorange

NCJW is supporting #WearOrange, the 4th National Gun Violence Awareness Day, on June 1. #WearOrange and share your pictures on social media on June 1, and join #WearOrange community events all weekend. Learn more here.


Reproductive Rights

Impending domestic gag rule

There is growing concern that the Trump administration is considering cutting off abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from the Title X family-planning program. The Title X program provides funding to ensure over 4 million Americans can access affordable family planning services. If the US Department of Health and Human Services were to issue such a rule, it would ban Title X providers from mentioning abortion completely, including counseling on abortion or referring to abortion. Additionally, this rule would require that any abortion care services be physically located outside a health center receiving Title X funding.

WHPA advocacy day in Washington, DC

On May 9-10, over 130 advocates from around the country met in Washington, DC — including 12 NCJW members — to get trained and lobby lawmakers in support of the Women’s Health Protect Act (WHPA, S 510/HR 1322),  a bill that would protect access to safe, legal abortion no matter where a person lives. Given the surge of medically unnecessary, anti-abortion regulations enacted by states nationwide over the past several years, including those aimed at closing clinics, abortion access now varies greatly by state.

Take Action! Missed us in DC? No problem! Urge your lawmakers to support WHPA by clicking here!


Administration ends TPS for Honduras

On May 4, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen announced the 2020 termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduras, which had been in place since the country suffered a devastating hurricane in 2001. The move puts nearly 57,000 individuals at risk for deportation. NCJW opposes this cruel decision.

DHS enacts anti-family policy

On May 4, Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen enacted a new policy to refer every person caught crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution. Parents crossing the border with children can now be separated from their kids, who will then be held in detention. The policy also means that some with valid asylum claims may still be end up with federal convictions even if they are ultimately granted the right to stay in the US. NCJW opposes this devastating attack on families.

Queen of the hill set into motion

On May 8, lawmakers in the House of Representatives filed a discharge petition to bring legislation to the floor that would then allow for a series of votes on immigration proposals. A discharge petition allows legislation to skip the committee process and move directly to the floor for a vote if it is signed by a majority of House members. If the discharge petition is successful, the legislation (H Res 774, introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)) would kick off a process known as “Queen of the Hill.” Under this rule, the House would vote on four immigration proposals: Securing America’s Future Act (HR 4760 – Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)), Dream Act (HR 3440 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)), USA Act (HR 4796 – Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-TX)), and a fourth bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) choosing. The bill receiving the highest number of votes exceeding 218 would pass. These maneuvers are an attempt to work around House leadership, which has blocked any votes on immigration. NCJW supports having an open debate and vote on measures that would protect Dreamers.


Hate Crimes

Move to expand hate crime law to include police

On May 8, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Reps. John Rutherford (R-FL) and Val Demings (D-FL) introduced the Protect and Serve Act (S 2794/HR 5698). The bill, modeled after hate crimes legislation, would increase sentencing for crimes committed because of the actual or perceived status of the person as a law enforcement officer. NCJW opposes legislation that extends hate crime provisions to mutable characteristics, including professions such as law enforcement.


Economic Justice

Poor people’s campaign kicks off May 14

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival kicks off 40 days of action on May 14, aims to unite individuals across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted morality. The weeks are themed, and include the issues NCJW cares about.

Get involved! There are activities in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Sign up at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (RAC) to join with other members of the Jewish community for the Poor People’s Campaign 40 days of Moral Action. Get more info here. Please note: To get connected with other NCJW members, select that you are a member of a Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Organization and then write in “National Council of Jewish Women” in the next box. There is also space to include details about your specific section / location. You can also sign up at the Poor People’s Campaign if you plan to participate outside of NCJW or the Jewish community.

Republicans set to cut food aid

On the heels of passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations last December, House Republicans are planning a vote to cut about $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, through the farm bill (HR 2). SNAP is our nation’s largest nutrition assistance program, and assures adequate nutrition to 40 million people (about 1 in 8 Americans) ― including 20 million children. The House is expected to vote on the farm bill, which NCJW opposes, next week.

Take action! Call your Representative today (Capitol Switchboard: #202-224-3121)! Let them know that cutting $20 billion from the SNAP food program would devastate critical nutrition services, which support 40 million individuals each year ― mostly children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities — and urge them to reject cuts to food stamps.


Sign On Letters

  • On May 9, 167 organizations including NCJW signed a letter organized by the National Women’s Law Center opposing the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (HR 2), aka the Farm Bill, because of the negative impact its work requirements would have on women and families.
  • On May 9, 32 organizations including NCJW joined a letter authored by Lambda Legal opposing the confirmation of Ryan Bounds to serve on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • On May 10, NCJW joined 56 organizations on a letter written by the American Federation of Teachers opposing the Farm Bill (HR 2) because of the negative impact it would have on students.
  • On May 10, NCJW submitted a comment to the Department of Education opposing a proposed delay in implementing a rule aimed to ensure that students of color are not disproportionately subject to inappropriate educational segregation, removed from school unnecessarily, and denied services which they need and to which they are entitled.
  • On May 10, NCJW submitted a comment to the Bureau of Justice Statistics opposing a proposal to stop collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data from youth respondents to the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Amicus Briefs

NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Williamson v. Brevard County, a case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals about a policy set by the county that prohibits atheists and polytheists from offering the invocation at commission meetings.

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