Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: December 6, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

EACH Woman Act digital day of action

In partnership with the All* Above All coalition, NCJW will participate in a Digital Day of Action supporting the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692/S 758) on Thursday, December 12. This bill is one of NCJW’s top priorities as it would end the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, which denies insurance coverage of abortion to those enrolled in federal health programs like Medicaid. Although Congress has the opportunity to do away with this policy disproportionately harming those struggling to make ends meet, people of color, immigrants, young people, and LGBTQ individuals every year, lawmakers continue to reauthorize the coverage ban. NCJW knows that abortion isn’t a right if you can’t access it and supports the EACH Woman Act to ensure that everyone has coverage for this basic health care no matter how much they earn, how they are insured, or where they live.

Federal Courts

Amicus briefs filed and oral arguments scheduled in June Medical Services

On December 3, a collection of nearly 200 organizations and more than 700 individuals representing leading voices in medicine, law, public policy, and advocacy, along with people who have exercised their right to abortion, submitted 27 amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in support of the clinic challenging Louisiana’s Act 620 in June Medical Services v. Gee. Some highlights include a brief of 28 faith-based organizations led by NCJW and Catholics for Choice, a brief signed by 197 members of Congress, a brief joined by major medical associations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and a brief from reproductive justice advocates. What’s more, the nonpartisan American Bar Association weighed in on an abortion case for the very first time, expressing deep concerns about the rule of law and respect for the precedent set in Whole Woman’s Health. This comes shortly after the Court announced that it would hear oral arguments in June Medical Services to decide if Louisiana’s law requiring providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals is unconstitutional on March 4, 2020. NCJW is proud to be in solidarity with a robust and diverse coalition of organizations and individuals opposing measures restricting access to abortion, shuttering licensed clinics, and preventing patients from receiving care.

Senate confirms anti-abortion zealot to a lifetime seat on federal court

On December 4, the Senate voted 49-44 to confirm Sarah Pitlyk, 42, to a lifetime judgeship on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. It was a party-line vote with the exceptions of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted against the nominee, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was not present but indicated that she would have voted against the nominee. Pitlyk was rated “Not Qualified” by the nonpartisan American Bar Association (ABA) for her lack of relevant experience. After serving as a law clerk for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his tenure on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Pitlyk built a career out of undermining all types of reproductive health care, from abortion to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to birth control. NCJW strongly opposed Pitlyk’s nomination and joined several other civil and reproductive rights organizations in decrying her confirmation. Read our full statement here.

Senate to vote on two Ninth Circuit nominees next week

On December 5, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nominations of Patrick Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke, both to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, setting up final confirmation votes for the week of December 9. Bumatay is nominated 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 is nominated to a Nevada-based seat on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Sens. Rosen and Cortez Masto (both D-NV). VanDyke, 46, 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 opposes VanDyke’s nomination.

Senate Judiciary Committee considers Brasher for Eleventh Circuit

On December 4, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Andrew Brasher, 38, to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. On May 1, 2019, Brasher was confirmed by a vote of 52-47 to the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama; just six months later, President Trump announced his intention to elevate Brasher to the Eleventh Circuit. Prior to his confirmation to the district court, Brasher served as the Alabama Solicitor General and in that role attempted to restrict voting rights, LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, environmental protection, and other critical civil and human rights. At the hearing, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) spoke powerfully about the role of Alabama federal judges in historic civil rights struggles, particularly Judge Frank Johnson, whose seat Brasher would occupy. NCJW strongly opposes Brasher’s elevation to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Voter Engagement

VRAA (HR4) passes the house

On December 6, the House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act (228-187), a high priority bill for NCJW that would restore the full strength of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby decision weakened the law, and dozens of laws making it more difficult to vote have been passed in the intervening years. NCJW celebrates the passage of this important bill and urges the Senate to take immediate action. 

Civil Rights

Fall regulatory agenda released

Twice a year, the federal government publishes the “Unified Agenda,” which lists all ongoing and planned regulations. While the expected dates of new proposed regulations often change, the agenda provides a roadmap for the administration’s work. Notable additions to the Fall agenda include proposed rules at nine agencies (Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, USAID, and Veterans Affairs) implementing Executive Order 13831, which instructs agencies to work more closely with faith-based organizations. There are hundreds of current and proposed rules that impact the issues NCJW cares about, including but not limited to those limited here. 

Gun Violence Prevention

Join or host a gun violence prevention Sabbath Dec. 12-15

Between December 12 and 15, find or create an opportunity to engage in the “December Sabbath” — a project of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, of which NCJW is a member — to highlight the issue of gun violence prevention. Find resources for engaging here.

Human Needs

Trump administration issues final rule to strip nutrition benefits

On December 4, the Trump administration announced a final rule to restrict nutrition benefits for nearly 700,000 Americans. As of April 1, so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWD) — people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled — will now be denied Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance after three months unless they can find work. Currently, ABAWD’s must meet specific work requirements in order to access three months of SNAP benefits in a thirty-six-month period. For the past twenty years, states have been given the flexibility to waive this three-month time limit in areas with high unemployment or insufficient jobs. This final rule removes these important protections and will result in unprecedented cuts to the country’s most successful and important anti-hunger program. Further, the rule circumvents the intention of Congress, which chose not to extend work requirements to ABAWD’s, and does nothing to help people find work. NCJW opposes this punitive effort which needlessly restricts access to the most basic of human needs for those who are among our nation’s most vulnerable.

Spending bills languish despite Dec. 20 shutdown looming

With only a handful of legislative days left in 2019, lawmakers are scrambling to pass some of the 12 spending bills by December 20 — when the current continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government expires. Though leaders agreed on spending levels for each of the 12 bills, sticking points include border wall funding, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and other issues like funding for gun violence research. It’s expected Congress will either pass each of the 12 fiscal 2020 bills, another CR, or some combination of the two.

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

VAWA Reauthorization simultaneously stalled and fast-tracked

After years of work, Senate negotiations on a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) ground to a halt. Despite having introduced competing bills, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have announced their intention of returning to the table to find a bipartisan compromise. Any bipartisan VAWA bill must protect all survivors and include: no rollbacks, including to nondiscrimination provisions; respect for the authority of tribal courts, affirming their sovereign right to hold non-Native predators accountable for crimes on tribal land; provisions disarming adjudicated domestic and dating abusers; increased access to safe housing and economic stability, and measures addressing the needs of underserved communities as a first step. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated his intention to pass a VAWA Reauthorization bill before Congress adjourns in mid-December. NCJW supports the House-passed HR 1585 and Senator Feinstein’s S 2843, two great efforts that support the needs of the field and survivors.


  • 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 and Catholics for Choice led an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief signed by 28 faith-based organizations including NCJW Greater New Orleans Section in June Medical Services v. Gee, an abortion case before the US Supreme Court.


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