On the Hill Updates: July 12, 2019
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Refusals of care rule delayed
The Trump administration announced that implementation of the recently finalized refusals of care rule — originally scheduled for July 22 — will be postponed until November 22. The decision by the US Department of Health and Human Services to delay implementation came amidst a legal battle over the regulation with the city of San Francisco. The rule permits any person or entity involved in providing health care to refuse to deliver services on moral or religious grounds; it has also been challenged in court by advocacy groups and two dozen states and municipalities. NCJW forcefully opposes this unconscionable regulation as an affront to the Jewish traditions of pursuing justice for all, ensuring fair treatment for all, and safeguarding individual religious liberty.
House committee examines impact of ACA litigation
On July 10, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the pending litigation Texas v. US, the case potentially striking down the landmark health care legislation. Four witnesses, including patient/advocate Peter Morley, testified about deeply personal medical issues they and their children have faced — from the trauma of miscarriage to what it’s like to manage ten different conditions. A particularly salient moment came as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listed the states that chose not to expand Medicaid coverage “for their most vulnerable residents” because it was “tainted as Obamacare.” Overall, witnesses spoke passionately about how the ACA saved their lives and the hearing gave Congressional leaders a chance to shine a light on the impact of invalidating the ACA, especially for those with pre-existing conditions and medically fragile children. NCJW supports the ACA, which expanded health care access to millions.
Senate continues to rapidly advance nominees that are overwhelmingly male, white
On July 9, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Daniel Bress to be US Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit by a vote of 53-45. Bress, who has spent his entire legal career in Washington, DC, is now the third judicial nominee for a California seat on the Ninth Circuit confirmed without the support of the state’s home-state senators and Trump’s seventh appointee to that court. On July 10, the Senate confirmed three district court nominees to lifetime appointments: T. Kent Wetherell II to the Northern District of Florida, J. Nicholas Ranjan to the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Damon Leichty to the Northern District of Indiana. In Leichty’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he refused to endorse Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark civil rights case that desegregated public schools. To date, 127 judicial nominees have been confirmed under President Trump.
On July 15, the Senate will vote to end debate and advance the nomination of Peter Phipps of Pennsylvania to be a US Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit. Phipps is being advanced despite home-state Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) public statement that he would not return his blue slip for Phipps, thus indicating his lack of support for the nomination. Phipps is President Trump’s fourth white male nominee to the Third Circuit. Rebecca Ross Haywood was the first African American woman to be nominated to this very court, and her nomination was blocked because Senator Toomey (R-PA) did not return his blue slip during the Obama Administration. NCJW opposes Phipps’ nomination and the hypocritical, partisan-driven process permitting his confirmation.
Title X gag rule in effect once again
On July 11, an eleven-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep in place the court’s earlier stay of preliminary injunctions blocking the Title X gag rule while the court rehears the request for a stay, permitting the regulation to take effect nationwide. This is just the latest in a back-and-forth legal battle over implementation of the rule prohibiting federally funded family planning clinics from referring a patient for abortion and mandating “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions. NCJW continues to work to overturn the gag rule, which threatens the health and lives of 4 million patients.
- Take Action! Speak out against the Title X gag rule today.
Court hears oral arguments in ACA case
On July 9, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard 90 minutes of oral arguments in Texas v. US, a case threatening to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and jeopardizing the health coverage of millions. In December 2018, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth declared the entire law unconstitutional, reasoning that the ACA could not stand after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having insurance in 2017. In a rare move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to defend the ACA; instead, the Trump administration, in conjunction with a group of Republicans governors and attorneys general, is arguing that the entire law must be dismantled while confusingly claiming that this ruling would only apply to the 18 plaintiff states. The law is being defended by 21 states with Democratic attorneys general and the House of Representatives, though there is some dispute as to whether these groups even have standing to sue.
Questions from the judges during oral arguments in Texas v. US suggested they are skeptical of the constitutionality of the ACA and may decide to strike down the law, effectively ripping coverage away from nearly 20 million people and increasing the uninsured rate by 65%. What’s more, important protections for 130 million people with pre-existing conditions, prohibitions against higher insurance payments for women, mandatory coverage of maternity care and prescription drugs, and more will be lost if the law is invalidated. NCJW supports access to high quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care, which is critical to an individual’s health, economic security, and dignity.
Supreme Court will not hear AL abortion case
Closing out the 2018-2019 term with its final orders on June 28, the US Supreme Court declined to hear Harris v. West Alabama Women’s Center. This case is an appeal from a decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a permanent injunction against Alabama’s law banning D&E procedures used in almost all abortions performed at or after 15 weeks of pregnancy. By denying certiorari, the Supreme Court ensured that this law remains permanently blocked. Justice Thomas was the only member of the Court to comment on the order, writing that “[t]his case serves as a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control.” While Justice Thomas recognized that this case did not present an opportunity to revisit the undue burden standard, it is clear from his concurring opinion that he eagerly awaits the chance to do so. NCJW applauds the Court’s decision to follow over 40 years of abortion precedent and the undue burden standard by denying certiorari in this case.
Advocates and providers challenge GA abortion ban
On June 28, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenging the state’s six-week ban on June 28. The case, SisterSong v. Kemp, was brought on behalf of Georgia abortion providers and advocate and argues that the law blocking virtually all abortions in the state is unconstitutional. Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, explained that “SisterSong is bringing this lawsuit to protect maternal health and reproductive rights so that every person — especially persons of color — can thrive in their families and communities as well as maintain their human right to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives.” NCJW strongly opposes all measures that restrict access to safe abortion, shutter licensed clinics, and prevent patients from receiving care.
Supreme Court to determine fate of Dreamers
Last week, the US Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments next term to determine whether the administration’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is judicially reviewable, and whether the decision was lawful. DACA gives temporary status to approximately 800,000 young immigrants brought to the US as kids. President Trump attempted to terminate DACA in 2017, but the decision was challenged in court. Currently, people with DACA can keep their status, but newly eligible individuals cannot apply to the program. Three cases have been consolidated in front of the Court: Trump v. NAACP, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, and McAleenan v. Vidal. NCJW supports DACA recipients, joined a number of amicus briefs in support of the program, and will closely watch the outcome of this case.
Asylum seekers eligible for bond hearings
In April, Attorney General William Barr issued as a decision as the head of the nation’s immigration courts that asylum seekers are not eligible for bond hearings, meaning they would have to be detained until their cases are complete. On July 2, a federal judge overruled that decision, stating that asylum seekers who have passed their credible fear interviews have a right to a bond hearing. Moreover, eligible asylum seekers must be granted a bond hearing within seven days of requesting one or otherwise be released from detention. NCJW applauds this decision, though the administration is expected to appeal.
Florida voting rights restoration heads to the courts
In November 2018, Florida voters (supported by NCJW members across the state!) overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative restoring the right to vote to about 1.4 million previously incarcerated people. However, when it came time to turn the initiative into law, the state legislature passed a bill requiring people with felony records to pay all financial penalties connected to their sentence before their voting rights are restored — essentially creating a poll tax. This week, the ACLU filed suit in federal court alleging that the law is unconstitutional and will disproportionately impact black Floridians. NCJW supports expanding access to the ballot.
Trump concedes citizenship question
On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the administration had not made a compelling argument to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. After the decision, the Commerce Department announced that census forms had gone to print without the question. However, the President Trump and his Justice Department announced it would continue to fight to include the question. Finally, on July 11, Trump announced he would abide by the Court’s decision. NCJW welcomes this win for our communities and for our democracy.
NO HATE Act introduced
On June 27, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act (S 2043/HR 3545). The bill would improve federal hate crime reporting and expand resources and assistance available to the victims of hate crimes. NCJW applauds the introduction of this important bill.
House to vote to raise minimum wage
Next week, the House is expected to vote on the Raise the Wage Act (S 150/HR 582), which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024. The current minimum wage has stayed stagnant at $7.25 since 2009.
- Take Action! Tell your representative to vote yes on HT 582!
ICE raids begin July 14
President Trump announced that massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids targeting thousands of immigrant families would begin on July 14. The raids are driven by the administration’s white supremacist policies and a desire to appeal to the president’s base. Reports say the raids will focus on 10 cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco. NCJW condemns these raids, which will tear families and communities apart.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Senate stalled on bill to reauthorize VAWA
On April 4, The House of Representatives passed HR 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (VAWA, 230-157). Enacted in 1994, VAWA was the first federal law addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The Senate has yet to introduce its own bill or consider HR 1585. NCJW supports HR 1585 and urges the Senate to pass this or a similar bill that would maintain important protections for survivors while making critical enhancements to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
- Take Action! Urge your senators to reauthorize VAWA today!
- On July 11, 200 organizations including NCJW joined an interfaith letter to DHS Secretary McAleenan requesting an 18 month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria.
- On July 10, NCJW joined more than 600 groups on a letter to House leadership supporting the Disability Integration Act of 2019.
- On July 9, hundreds of organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Members of Congress supporting the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act.
- On July 8, NCJW and 38 other organizations sent a letter to Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) supporting amendments she offered to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act that would ensure improved access to contraception and family planning education for military servicemembers and dependents.
- On July 3, NCJW joined over 60 sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in a statement condemning the Trump-Pence administration’s treatment of migrants at border detention camps.
- On June 28, 31 organizations including NCJW joined a faith letter organized by the Domestic Human Needs campaign calling on Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC, and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, three consolidated cases before the Supreme Court that will determine whether Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to briefs in California v. Azar, Oregon v. Azar, and Washington v. Azar, three cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule.