Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: February 15, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

House subcommittee aims to strengthen our health care system

On February 13, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on several bills designed to thwart the Trump administration’s efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The subcommittee discussed HR 1010, introduced by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), would reverse the expansion of junk insurance plans, while Rep. Anna Eshoo’s (D-CA) HR 1142 would require these short-term plans to disclose their risks and what services are not covered. Additionally, the subcommittee debated HR 987, a bill by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) to restore ACA outreach and enrollment funding that the administration had slashed. The final bill considered, HR 986 by Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH), would protect patients with pre-existing conditions by forcing the administration to rescind guidance enabling states to make conservative changes to the ACA. Watch the complete hearing here. Access to high quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care, is critical to an individual’s health, economic security, and dignity. NCJW supports the ACA, which expanded health care access to millions.

CMS hides new abortion restriction in a 331-page proposed rule

Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) releases a proposal that establishes rules governing qualified health plans issued through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace. Buried within this massive, 331-page proposed rule is a new requirement that insurers offering plans covering abortion care through the exchanges must also offer a mirror plan that does not cover abortion care. This proposal was clearly designed to discourage and ultimately eliminate private insurance coverage of abortion. Resulting increases in costs and administrative burdens will incentivize insurers to drop abortion coverage entirely rather than spend millions to comply with the new requirement, a fact the proposed rule itself openly acknowledges. Comments on the proposed rule are accepted through February 19, 2019.

Federal Courts

Senate will soon vote on dozens of judicial nominees

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced 44 judicial nominees in one day — many of whom NCJW opposes because of the real and serious threats they pose to our hard-won constitutional rights. These nominees for lifetime seats on the federal judiciary will now proceed to the full Senate for individual votes. On the afternoon of February 14, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on Ninth Circuit nominee Eric Miller, who NCJW opposes. If confirmed, Miller would be the first judge to be confirmed over the objections of both home state senators — in this case, Senators Cantwell and Murray (both D-WA). Miller also has a history of extreme hostility towards reproductive rights, among other troubling views. The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination early in the week of February 25 following a week-long recess. Click here to learn more and take action

Kavanaugh’s replacement attempts an apology for being a rape apologist

Following her hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 5, DC Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao sent a letter to the committee attempting to explain her offensive college writings, which she failed to sufficiently do during her hearing. Rao claims that her views on rape and sexual assault have evolved since college; however, her significant role in rescinding important protections for survivors of sexual assault as the head of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) indicates that they have not. NCJW opposes Rao’s nomination.

A proposed rule would increase the speed of district judge confirmations

On February 12, the Senate Rules Committee voted on 10-9 party-line to advance S. Res. 50, which would reduce the number of post-cloture debate hours for district court nominees or non-cabinet level appointees from 30 to 2. The resolution does not include circuit court nominees, cabinet positions, or nominees for the US Supreme Court. Given the extensive records of many of Trump’s extreme nominees and the extremely fast pace of judicial confirmations over the past two years, it has often been in the final few hours before confirmation that senators, such as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), recognized that they were voting on nominees who had not been properly vetted and had disturbing records. It was those last few hours that two extreme nominees, Ryan Bounds, and Thomas Farr, were ultimately defeated. Removing this crucial time for consideration simply to move even faster would harm the Senate’s constitutional role to thoroughly review judicial nominees’ records to ensure they are suited to serve for life. NCJW opposes the proposed rule.

Suit over temporary protected status termination

On February 10, immigrants from Honduras and Nepal sued the Trump administration, alleging its decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for these countries was based on racism. In 2018, a federal judge halted the termination of TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. TPS allows immigrants to stay and work in the US if their home countries have been affected by war or natural disaster. There are roughly 100,000 TPS recipients from Honduras and Nepal living in the US, and they have an estimated 50,000 US-citizen children. NCJW opposes the administration’s cruel decisions to terminate TPS for these countries.

Civil Rights

Barr confirmed as next US Attorney General

On February 14, William Barr was confirmed 54-45 to be our nation’s chief legal officer. He was sworn in the same day. Barr’s record indicates he will not protect civil rights for all. NCJW opposed Barr’s nomination and believe he is a threat to our civil rights.

Gun Violence Prevention

Markup on gun violence prevention bills

One day before the anniversary of the Parkland, FL mass shooting, members of the House Judiciary Committee held a markup and passed (23-15) the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (HR 8), which would expand background checks to all firearm purchases or transfers, with the exception of gifts between family members. The committee also passed (21-13) the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (HR 1112), which would close the loophole that allows a gun sale to go forward if background checks are not completed in three days. NCJW supports these bills.

Economic Justice

FAMILY Act reintroduction

On February 12, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (S 463/HR 1185), which would create a national paid family and medical leave program. Currently, only 20 percent of workers have access to paid leave, meaning that employees — disproportionately women, low-wage workers, and people of color — must choose between caring for themselves or their families and their economic security. NCJW endorses the FAMILY Act and urges Members of Congress to cosponsor and support swift passage of this important legislation.

Religious Freedom

Trump administration to expand taxpayer-funded religious discrimination

On January 23, the Trump Administration manipulated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to authorize South Carolina foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation without losing federal funding. The administration now seeks to expand this taxpayer-funded religious discrimination nationwide by allowing faith-based foster care and adoption groups which reject LGBTQ, non-Christians, and others, to receive federal funding. At last week’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump promised that faith-based adoption agencies that refuse same-sex or Jewish couples will still receive federal funding to “help vulnerable children find their forever families while following their deeply held beliefs.” NCJW opposes taxpayer-funded religious discrimination and joined 120 organizations on a letter denouncing the decision to use RFRA to exempt federally funded foster care agencies in South Carolina from federal religious nondiscrimination protections.  

Human Needs

Deal to keep the government open; national emergency to fund wall declared

A deal to finalize the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 19) spending and avoid another government shutdown on February 15 is in the works. The package, H.J. Res. 31 (116), would provide updated funding levels through September 30 for the nine federal departments and many agencies that went unfunded during the 35-day government shutdown in December: Transportation, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce, State, Interior, Justice and Treasury, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and dozens more. Lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as well as ensuring retroactive compensation for federal contractors who went unpaid through the five-week shutdown.

The spending package includes nearly $1.4 billion for approximately 55 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border — far less than the $5.7 billion Trump demanded for a border wall. It also increased funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and included funding for increased numbers of detention beds,

The Senate passed the funding bill followed by House passage, 300-128, on February 14. On February 15, Trump is expected to sign the bipartisan deal and then declare a state of emergency to fund his border wall. NCJW urges the president to sign the funding bill and avoid another harmful shutdown and opposes this declaration of a fake emergency to fund an unnecessary and immoral wall.

  • Take Action! NCJW is partnering in a national day of action on Monday, February 19 to protest Trump’s illegal power grab and attacks on immigrant and border communitie

President’s budget expected in March

Given the battles over Fiscal Year 2019 (FY 19) spending, President Trump is now expected to release his FY 20 budget the week of March 11. Congressional leaders are also expected to try to negotiate a new budget deal to raise both defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps for FY 20 and FY 21.

House passes new budget rules

The House passed a new rules package of reforms (H. Res. 6)  that change how the chamber will operate under Democratic control. Reforms include automatically raising the debt ceiling, or the nation’s borrowing limit, through the fiscal year once the House passes a budget, as well as curtailing the use of “dynamic scoring,” a controversial way of estimating the budgetary effects of proposed legislation utilized by the Republican-led House. Aside from the budget process, the rules changes also include the creation of a committee to address climate change, the requirement of annual ethics training for all lawmakers, and a mandated 72 hour minimum between when major legislation is released and when it can be voted on by the full House, to allow representatives sufficient time for analysis.


Expanding Remain in Mexico

At the end of January 2019, the Trump administration began implementing its Remain in Mexico policy, officially dubbed “Migrant Protection Protocols.” This week, the administration expanded the pilot at a border crossing near San Diego to the border crossing at Eagle Pass, Texas. Under Remain in Mexico, asylum seekers are returned to Mexico after the crossing the border until their claims are processed.  

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

One day only to speak out on Title IX changes!

Due to many technical difficulties on the final day of the comment period (January 30), the US Department of Education is giving the public an extra day — TODAY, February 15 — to weigh in on its proposed rule that would change how universities and other schools handle allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Under the proposed rule, schools would be allowed — and in many cases required — to ignore most students who report sexual harassment and disregard the needs of survivors.  Further, the rule would change the definition of sexual harassment and narrow the scope of responsibility so that colleges and universities have less obligation to investigate. NCJW believes the Department of Education should dedicate its efforts to advancing policies that ensure equal access to education for all students, including students who experience sexual harassment and assault.

Sign on Letters

  • On February 14, NCJW joined 60 national and international groups on a letter organized by the Latin America Working Group to Homeland Security Secretary Kielsen expressing deep concerns with the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
  • On February 14, NCJW joined 120 organizations on a letter denouncing the decision to use RFRA to exempt federally funded foster care agencies in South Carolina from federal religious nondiscrimination protections.
  • On February 14, 40 faith leaders including NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman signed a faith statement on the morality of the border wall.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Ramos v. Nielsen, a case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the administration’s termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 300,000 people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.

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