Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: December 13, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Submit a comment on HHS’ latest discriminatory regulation

On November 1, the Trump administration announced that it would immediately begin enforcing a new rule eliminating prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or religion in programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The administration also declared that HHS-funded programs would no longer be required to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Notably, HHS awards more than $527.3 billion in grants and contracts annually to a wide range of programs addressing HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, child care, hunger, domestic violence, and community health. Fortunately, there is still time to make your voice heard and to tell HHS that our taxpayer dollars should never be used to discriminate or hurt the most vulnerable among us.

  • Take Action! Submit a comment on or before December 19 by customizing the language below in the “Comment” text box here.

As [insert NCJW role here/a person of faith], I am deeply concerned by the proposal to eliminate prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or religion in programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Millions of people — my family, friends, neighbors, and congregants — access HHS-funded programs each year and risk being turned away due to this unconscionable rule. Judaism teaches that each of us is made in the image of divine, b’tselem Elohim (Genesis 1:26); when we exclude or reject someone simply because of who they are, we fail to honor this tradition of ensuring fair treatment, respect, and dignity for all human beings. Because the Proposed Rule jeopardizes the health and well-being of countless people across the US, especially the most vulnerable among us, it should not be finalized and should be withdrawn in its entirety.

House subcommittee considers universal coverage proposals

On December 10, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing investigating various legislative proposals aimed at achieving universal health care coverage. In addition to Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-WA) Medicare for All Act (HR 1384), the subcommittee considered the State Public Option Act (HR 1277), the Medicare for America Act (HR 2452), and the CHOICE Act (HR 2085). View all of the bills discussed and the entire hearing here. NCJW was part of a coalition of over thirty groups that submitted a letter for the record expressing that any proposal, in order to truly meet the health care needs of all people, must include comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care, including abortion care.

Federal Courts

$3.6 billion in wall funding blocked by court

On December 10, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas issued an injunction preventing the Trump administration from using military construction funds to build a wall on the southern border. On December 11, a federal judge in the Northern District of California issued a similar decision. Both decisions will be appealed. NCJW strongly opposes President Trump’s attempts to go around Congress, which has the constitutional power to appropriate money, to fund his vanity project.

Senate confirms 2 Ninth Circuit judges over home-state senator objections

On December 10, the Senate voted 53-40 to confirm Patrick Bumatay to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The next day, the Senate voted 51-44 to confirm Lawrence VanDyke to the same court. Bumatay was confirmed to a California-based seat on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Sens. Harris and Feinstein (both D-CA), both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the latter as Ranking Member. Bumatay, 41 years old, has been a Federalist Society member since 2003 and worked on the Bush–Cheney campaign in both 2000 and 2004. Likewise, Lawrence VanDyke was confirmed to a Nevada-based seat on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Sens. Rosen and Cortez Masto (both D-NV). VanDyke, 46 years old, is also a longtime member of the Federalist Society and anti-reproductive rights and anti-LGBTQ movement lawyer who has dedicated his career to partisan causes. The nonpartisan American Bar Association (ABA) rated VanDyke “Not Qualified,” citing reports of laziness, arrogance, entitlement, closed-mindedness, and beyond. NCJW strongly opposed VanDyke’s nomination.

Economic Justice

Federal paid parental leave

On December 9, House and Senate negotiators released a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, S 1790), a must-pass bill that funds the military. In positive news, the bill would establish 12 weeks of federal paid parental leave. While this is not as comprehensive as the FAMILY Act (HR 1185/S 463), which would establish 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child, an ailing family member, or yourself, it’s an important step toward creating a national standard. On the downside, the bill did not contain two provisions that immigrant advocates had fought for: restrictions on immigrant detention on military bases and restrictions on funding the border wall. It also did not include an amendment that would have ended the transgender military ban. On December 11, the House passed the NDAA (377-48) and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. While the NDAA is far from perfect, NCJW is glad to see the beginnings of a national standard for paid leave.

Human Needs

Spending deal reached in principle to avert a government shutdown

As of this writing, lawmakers have reached a $1.3 trillion deal in principle to fund the government beyond the December 20 deadline. While all of the details are not yet available, we know they have an agreement on all 12 spending bills needed to fund the government through the fiscal year. The deal does include $1.375 billion for the border wall — the same number offered for FY ’19 to end the 35-day government shutdown — and Trump will be able to retain the ability to transfer funds from other accounts, a move opposed by NCJW and the subject of a lawsuit and nationwide injunction. Other sticking points include Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention capacity — which isn’t likely to see a budget increase — and the administration’s Title X policy blocking federal funds to groups that refer patients for abortions.

The measures are expected to be introduced in packages (rather than a 12 bill omnibus) in both the House and Senate on Monday, with the first vote on Tuesday. Following Congressional passage, the president must sign the measures before funding expires to avoid another government shutdown.


  • On December 5, NCJW joined more than 50 organizations on a letter sent to Congress urging them to provide relief for people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
  • On December 11, the Center for American Progress sent an open letter to the American people concerning the Trump administration’s anti-family policies.
  • On November 22, more than 100 organizations including NCJW sent a letter urging Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to extend and redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen and Somalia.
  • On November 26, NCJW submitted a comment opposing the US Department of Agriculture’s third proposed rule to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would gut benefits by $4.5 billion over 5 years and result in the loss of eligibility for nearly 8,000 households.
  • On December 4, NCJW joined a letter organized by the Leadership Conference urging Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4).

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW joined religious and civil rights organizations on an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a religious freedom case before the US Supreme Court.


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