On the Hill Updates: July 19, 2019
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Nearly 80 organizations unveil Blueprint policy agenda
On July 15, a coalition of nearly 80 organizations released the Blueprint for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, a proactive policy agenda for a future where all individuals are free and equal and have autonomy over their bodies. The Blueprint lays out a broad and intersectional vision that includes forward–thinking ideas to transform sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice policy domestically and globally, as well as basic and fundamental measures to correct the backtracking that has taken place in recent years. The document is centered around five principles — (1) ensure sexual and reproductive health care is accessible to all people; (2) ensure discriminatory barriers in health care are eliminated; (3) ensure research and innovation advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice now and in the future; (4) ensure health, rights, justice and wellness for all communities; and (5) ensure judges and executive officials advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice. NCJW is proud to endorse the Blueprint and to work with our coalition partners, Congress, and the administration to achieve the critical policy goals detailed in the agenda.
Senate Judiciary Committee considers controversial pick for 5th Circuit
On July 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Halil Suleyman Ozerden to be a Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in addition to three district court nominees. Ozerden, who has served as a federal district court judge since 2007, faces intense criticism from Republican senators and conservative activists, who cite a 2012 opinion centered on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive benefit. Despite this individual ruling that was made on procedural, rather than substantive, grounds, Ozerden’s record reveals hostility to workers’ rights and criminal and racial justice, and NCJW opposes his nomination for these reasons. As a judge, he has dismissed claims from an African-American employee threatened by the display of nooses and supervisors’ use of racial slurs; from an employee who was fired for corroborating sexual harassment claims made against a supervisor; and even from eight immigrant women who were sexually assaulted while detained in ICE custody. Ozerden’s decisions have been overturned by the Fifth Circuit — the court to which he may be elevated — several times, indicating a controversial record and lack of fitness for the position.
McConnell continues quest to rebuild the judiciary in the mold of Trump
On July 16, Peter Phipps of Pennsylvania was confirmed to the Third Circuit by a vote of 56-40. Phipps was confirmed along party lines (with the exception of Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Sinema (D-AZ), and Jones (D-AL), who voted for the nominee) despite home-state Sen. 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 Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) did not return his blue slip during the Obama Administration. NCJW opposed Phipps’ nomination and the hypocritical, partisan-driven process permitting his confirmation. On July 18, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Clifton Corker, 55-39, to be a District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee. At his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Corker refused to state that Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark civil rights case that desegregated public schools, was correctly decided.
Also on July 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nominations of Wendy Berger (US District Court for the Middle District of Florida) and Brian Buescher (US District Court for the District of Nebraska), setting up final confirmation votes for the week of July 22. Like Corker, both nominees refused to endorse Brown when asked at their confirmation hearings. Buescher, who has described abortion as “just immoral” and himself as “avidly pro-life,” has a career-long record of anti-abortion activism. NCJW opposes his nomination.
- Take Action! Call your senators via the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to protect our courts by opposing Brian Buescher for the District of Nebraska. His anti-abortion activist record shows that he will not be an impartial arbiter of justice.
House condemns president’s racist tweet
On July 14, President Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color, all progressive Democrats, should essentially go back to where they came from, implying that they did not belong in the United States — a racist trope dating back centuries. Democratic politicians were quick to condemn the tweet as racist, joined by a handful of Republicans. It’s important to note that, as with so many of the president’s most vicious attacks on social media, his target was women. On July 16, the House of Representatives voted 240-187 to pass a resolution condemning Trump’s racist comments. NCJW is disgusted by this latest racist attack from the president.
Minimum wage increase passes House
On July 18, the House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act (HR 582, 231-199). The bill would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, index the minimum wage to a median worker’s wages going forward, and eliminate sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, people with disabilities, and youth. Raising the federal minimum wage benefits low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals. NCJW applauds the passage of this critical bill and calls on the Senate to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Domestic Workers Bill of Rights introduced
On July 15, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) introduced the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (HR 3760/S 2112), landmark legislation to ensure that every nanny, housecleaner, and home care worker in the US can earn a decent living, have a voice at work, support their health and their families, and work in safety and with dignity. Specifically, the bill would include domestic workers in common workplace rights and protections like paid overtime, safe and healthy working conditions, and freedom from workplace harassment and discrimination; create new rights and protections addressing the unique challenges of domestic work (written contracts, affordable healthcare and retirement benefits, fair scheduling, support for survivors of sexual harassment, and grants for workforce training); and ensure that these rights can be enforced and implemented. NCJW endorses this important legislation consistent with our resolution to work for laws, policies, and programs that ensure fair pay, a living wage, and access to training and educational opportunities for all workers.
August recess looms with unfinished business on budget
Congress is working on a two–year spending deal before the start of their six–week August recess. Many issues remain unsettled including raising the debt ceiling, defense and non-defense spending levels, additional funding for veterans’ health care, and the Hyde Amendment (language that denies abortion coverage to women enrolled in federal health plans and programs, except in limited circumstances). The deal is estimated to cost more than $350 billion. The administration wants to offset $150 billion with cuts in mandatory entitlement programs (such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) and increase defense spending to $750 billion from the House-passed $733 billion. Further, Congress must agree to lift spending caps to avoid sequestration, or 10% across the board budget cuts. Failure to agree on a package before the House leaves for recess next week could force Congress to settle for a short-term debt limit fix. The US is expected to reach its debt limit on September 9, the day Congress returns from recess. The government will shut down without a new budget in place by midnight on September 30. NCJW urges Congress to enact a two-year budget deal to match or to raise House levels to fund services families need like childcare, housing, and health care, and to prevent an economic crisis by raising the debt ceiling.
- Take Action! The Senate has not yet acted on funding for next year. Join a National Call-in Day on July 22 (#1-888-668-8919) to urge your senators to support a two–year budget deal that puts families first, averts a government shutdown, and raises the debt ceiling.
Administration issues new asylum ban
On July 16, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice issued an interim final rule (meaning it takes effect immediately without time for public comment) that would bar asylum for all people who passed through a third country on their way to the United States’ southern border. The bar includes unaccompanied children. This means that migrants who pass through dangerous countries without adequate refugee programs will be denied asylum on the basis that they could have applied for safety there. This new asylum ban flies in the face of our nation’s immigration laws and has been challenged in court by the ACLU. NCJW condemns this cruel and illegal ban.
On July 14, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids targeting immigrant families began. Raids were reported across the country, but in smaller numbers than had been threatened by President Trump. However, the threat of raids continues to paralyze immigrant communities. The raids are driven by the administration’s white supremacist policies and a desire to appeal to the president’s base. NCJW condemns these raids, which will tear families and communities apart.
Tisha B’Av: Jews Say #CloseTheCamps
United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led community in the country, is asking allies to take action to close immigrant detention camps. Jewish organizations across the country — led by NCJW, T’ruah, Bend the Arc, and J Street — are organizing Jewish events on Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11, 2019 on Tisha B’Av to #CloseTheCamps.
- Take Action! Plan an event to #CloseTheCamps.
- On June 21, NCJW joined a letter signed by 40 organizations to Director of Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney as well as Chief Statistician Nancy Potok opposing the proposed rule to adjusting the official poverty measure.
- On July 15, NCJW joined over 50 local, state, and national organizations on a letter supporting the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.