On the Hill Updates: February 14, 2020
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
House committee considers Women’s Health Protection Act
On February 12, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing on the Women’s Health Protection Act (HR 2975/S 1645). The first proactive hearing on domestic abortion access legislation in almost 30 years — which you can watch here — also marked a key procedural step to advancing the bill and securing a vote for passage on the House floor. WHPA would eliminate medically unnecessary abortion bans and restrictions by guaranteeing providers an affirmative statutory right to care for their patients free from political interference. As a proud member of the Act for Women campaign, NCJW led 53 faith-based and civil rights organizations on a letter advocating for passage of WHPA and submitted testimony for the record supporting this critical bill.
- Take Action! Urge your lawmakers to support the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA).
Senate to vote on extreme anti-abortion bills
On February 13, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on S 3275, a bill to ban abortion at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and S 130, the so-called “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” The 20-week ban is blatantly unconstitutional, defying the standard set almost 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade by restricting abortion access prior to viability. What’s more, while anti-abortion advocates claim that the so-called “Born Alive” legislation outlaws infanticide, this crime is obviously already illegal in the US and, as such, this bill is totally unnecessary. In reality, S 130 and similar measures are carefully crafted to target, intimidate, and shut down reproductive health care providers by threatening them with criminal penalties and attempting to regulate the practice of medicine. The Senate votes will likely take place this month shortly after the Presidents’ Day recess. NCJW strongly opposes S 3275, S 130, and all policies that restrict access to safe and legal abortion, shutter licensed clinics, and prevent patients from receiving care.
Senate confirms anti-voting, anti-reproductive rights judge to 11th Circuit
On February 11, the Senate voted along party lines (52-47) to confirm Andrew Brasher to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Brasher, 38, has served as a federal district court judge for less than a year and has dedicated his career to extreme partisan causes. Brasher has advocated for racial gerrymandering and defended laws that disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color, including voter ID and proof of citizenship requirements, and a ban on former felons voting. He has also defended unconstitutional restrictions on abortion throughout his career, including a law that would allow a judge to appoint an attorney for a fetus and another effectively criminalizing the most common method of second-trimester abortion. Brasher will now serve a lifetime appointment on the Eleventh Circuit, which includes Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. NCJW strongly opposed Brasher’s nomination. Read our full statement here.
House votes to remove ERA deadline
On February 13, the House passed (232-183) HJ Res 79, a measure that would eliminate the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. When first introduced, the amendment had a ratification requirement of 38 states by 1972. It has since been changed to 1982, and today’s vote would retroactively remove the deadline. The ERA has been ratified by 38 states thanks to Illinois, Nevada, and Virginia in recent years. NCJW supports the ERA.
DC statehood bill advances
This week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted (21-16) to send the DC statehood bill, HR 5803, to the House floor. Currently, more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia do not have national representation in the Senate or House of Representatives, despite paying federal taxes. NCJW supports statehood for DC.
House of Representatives holds hearing on expanding paid family leave
On February 11, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee held a hearing on “Balancing Work, Health, and Family: The Case for Expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act.” NCJW submitted a statement for the record supporting both an expansion (HR 5456) of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and passage of the FAMILY Act (HR 1185), which would give millions of workers access to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
- Take Action! Tell your lawmakers to pass the FAMILY Act.
President’s destructive budget released
The president’s $4.8 trillion Fiscal Year 2021 budget, released on February 10, would cut safety net programs and boost defense spending at the expense of millions of Americans working to make ends meet. And, despite the fact that he vowed not to touch Medicare and Social Security, the president’s budget would do that and more. Among the many harmful provisions opposed by NCJW, the measure:
- Increases the Department of Homeland Security’s overall budget to $52.1 billion, including $2 billion additional funds for the border wall, increasing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding by 24% to $10.4 billion, increasing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) funding to $18.4 billion (an $800 million increase from the FY20 level), increasing detention funding by $3.1 billion to jail 60,000 immigrants and double family detention, and providing millions more for programs like MPP/Remain in Mexico.
- Decreases funding for the refugee resettlement program by about $1 billion; decreases Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act by $1 trillion over 10 years; diminishes Medicare by $130 billion; cuts food and nutrition assistance by $180 billion and school meals for low-income children by $1.7 billion; decreases student loan programs by $170 billion; decreases Social Security disability programs by $75 billion; and guts housing for low-income families among so many other safety net programs. It also adds new work requirements for Medicaid, federal housing assistance, and food stamp recipients.
- Zeroes out funding for after-school programs and the Legal Services Corporation, an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for legal aid to low-income Americans.
- Prohibits the District of Columbia from spending its local funds to provide abortion services for low-income women and from enforcing its own law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which prevents employers from discriminating against women for their reproductive health decisions.
Further, the president’s budget calls for permanently extending the 2017 tax law’s cuts for the wealthy, which he clearly intends to pay for by decimating programs for children and families. This roadmap of the president’s priorities would push millions of people into or deeper into poverty, widen inequality and racial disparities, increase hunger, and expand the ranks of the uninsured.
Immigration and Refugees
NO BAN Act mark-up
This week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the NO BAN Act (HR 2214), which would repeal the current and expanded Muslim bans, the asylum ban, and prevent future blanket bans in the future. The bill was voted out of committee 22-10 without any harmful amendments, a major victory. This historic bill could be the first ever passed by a chamber of Congress to specifically affirm the civil rights of American Muslims. A vote on the floor of the House is expected in the next few weeks. NCJW supports the NO BAN Act and submitted a statement for the record urging the committee to pass the bill and send it to the floor.
- Take Action! Tell your elected officials to support the NO BAN Act.
Resolution condemning Stephen Miller introduced in both chambers
On February 13, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced resolutions (H Res 858 and S Res 498, respectively) condemning the presence of white nationalist Stephen Miller in the White House and calling for his immediate resignation from office. In the House, the resolution was cosponsored by Reps. Chu (D-CA), Bass (D-CA), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Beyer (D-VA), and Schneider (D-IL), and in the Senate by Sens. Markey (D-MA), Wyden (D-OR), Booker (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), and Klobuchar (D-MN). NCJW applauds these bold actions from Congressional leaders opposing white supremacy.
Trump transfers even more money for border wall
This week, the Trump administration announced it would transfer $3.83 billion dollars from the Pentagon’s budget to fund border wall construction. Last year, the administration received nearly $1.4 billion in new border wall funding and announced it would shift $6.7 billion from the Pentagon. The year before, $5 billion was taken from the Pentagon. The president’s budget also requested $2 billion in the new fiscal year 2021 appropriations. Congress’s hands are largely tied: the president has the authority to transfer funds because he declared a national emergency at the southern border. Further, Congress did not include safeguards against transfers in this year’s appropriations deal, reached in December 2019. NCJW strongly opposes President Trump using emergency powers and Pentagon funding to both circumvent the inventions of Congress, which holds the constitutional power to appropriate funding, and ultimately build his vanity project.
NCJW joined organizations on an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Doe v. Trump, a case challenging the administration’s October proclamation barring entry to immigrants if they cannot show that they will be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering the US or possess the financial resources to pay for medical costs out of pocket.ƒWH