Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: July 20, 2018

Federal Courts

Trump nominates conservative idealogue Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS

On July 9, President Trump announced the nomination of DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the US Supreme Court seat soon to be vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh is anti-abortion, anti-Affordable Care Act, anti-gun safety, and more. NCJW strongly opposes his nomination. Read our full statement here. And, if you missed us at the court on July 9, watch the live stream of the rally NCJW cosponsored here.

Take action! Visit our #SaveSCOTUS page for education and action resources, including:

  • #StopKavanaugh Talking Points
  • Action alert to call your senators
  • Recording of NCJW’s second Special Briefing Call on July 10 with Daniel Goldberg, Legal Director at the Alliance for Justice

More extremist judicial nominees advanced

This week, the Senate voted to confirm the nominations of Andrew Oldham to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was confirmed, 50-49, to be a judge on the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Oldham refused to affirm that Brown v. Board of Education was rightly decided. Additionally, during his time as deputy solicitor general of Texas, Oldham was the architect of Texas’s strategy to block the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). 

Ryan Bounds’ nomination for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was withdrawn on July 19 by Senator Mitch McConnell. Bounds, had he been confirmed, would have been the first judge to have been appointed without receiving either blue slip from their home state senator. It was reported that there were not enough votes in favor of Bounds due racial remarks he had written while in college. This is a huge win — thanks to all of your calls and emails — leading into the Supreme Court fight that reinforces the need for Kavanaugh’s records to be reviewed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also continues to rapidly report out judicial nominees. On July 19, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out 4 circuit court nominees and 3 district court nominees. Among the controversial nominees now awaiting a final floor vote are Britt Grant, who was on the Supreme Court shortlist, and David Porter, who does not have a blue slip from Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). David Porter, nominee for the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 19, 11-10. Britt Grant, a 11th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee, and outspoken anti-abortion advocate, was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 11-10. Additionally, two Fourth Circuit Court nominees were also voted out of committee, Julius Richardson (20-1) and Marvin Quattlebaum (15-6). NCJW opposes both Grant and Porter.

#CourtsMatter to immigration

On July 16, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of California ruled to temporarily halt the deportation of families forcibly separated at the border through the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. This case, filed by the ACLU, is meant to prevent the government from quickly deporting families without oversight or due process.The Trump administration’s attorney argued that rapid deportation of families creates more space in facilities for family reunification. The administration has until July 24 to prepare for the next hearing.

#CourtsMatter to reproductive rights

A judge in the Fifth Circuit Court cast the deciding vote on July 27 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith to uphold a Texas regulation and law requiring clinics that provide abortions to bury fetal remains. This means those seeking an abortion will have to consent to the additional financial burden of burying a fetus if they wish to obtain an abortion. The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops offered to pay for the burials but refused to reveal their email exchanges with the state during the pretrial discovery period, stating that having to reveal the exchange would violate their religious freedom, which was upheld in during the trail.

#CourtsMatter to LGBTQ rights

On July 18, a federal judge for the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected another Trump Administration appeal to lift the injunction preventing Trump’s transgender military ban from going into effect. There are currently four suits being filed against the ban across the United States. The suit in US District Court for the Western District of Washington, which issued the initial injunction for Kanrnoski v. Trump, is set to go to trial in April 2019. However, the Trump Administration could still appeal the injunction to the Supreme Court.

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Administration’s latest attempts to hamstring the ACA

The US Department of Health and Human Services announced on July 10 a cut of $27 million to the Navigator program, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), funding it at $10 million for the 2019 fiscal year — and only funding it for one year. This essential program has already been cut by almost half. Navigators are trained counselors who advise and ensure access to health care for individuals needing additional assistance, particularly the elderly, low income, limited English proficient, and those with low health literacy. They also help families enroll in Medicaid, and work throughout the year to ensure individuals resolve problems, understand complex insurance terms, and find in-network doctors. These cuts build on previous actions by the administration to reduce enrollment help for consumers, including the weakening of navigator standards in rules governing plans for the upcoming year and major cuts in outreach funding during the 2018 open enrollment period. Additionally, the administration plans to change the mission of Navigators, to include helping individuals enroll in health insurance plans that do not comply with the consumer protection standards — such as association health plans — and other requirements of the ACA. NCJW opposes changes to the Navigator program which will result in fewer individuals covered and a further weakening of the ACA.

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

HHS destroys treasure trove of evidence-based research

The Trump Administration eliminated medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years had been a critical resource for doctors, researchers, and others in the medical community on July 16. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the database — known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) —  was widely regarded as the most important repository of evidence-based research available.

Human Needs

Abstinence-only funding gets a leg up in appropriations

Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations work continues to move forward in both chambers. In addition to the immigration-related amendments reported in last week’s Capitol Hill Update, the FY’ 19 House Labor, Health and Health and Human Services, Education Funding (Labor-HHS) package (that passed out of committee along party lines on July 12) also included the following items related to sexual and reproductive health: it would eliminate the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) while simultaneously increasing by $5 million (to a total of $30 million) the abstinence-only-until-marriage “sexual risk avoidance” competitive grant program. In addition, the bill would maintain the current funding level of $33.1 million for school-based HIV prevention and student health efforts within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health. Amendments to offset funding for abstinence-only programs by establishing a family case management program in the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and increasing funding for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by $25 million all failed on party-line votes.

FY’19 budget – will we or won’t we?

Despite the forward motion of appropriations with House passage of its 12 bills,  a stopgap spending bill may still be needed to keep the government open from the time the new fiscal year begins on October 1 through sometime after the November elections. As of this writing, the House Budget Committee could still consider an FY’19 budget resolution this week.

House farm bill conferees named

On July 18, the House passed a motion to instruct conferees on the farm bill (HR 2), followed by  Senate action on a similar motion next week. House conferees have already been named, with the Senate to follow suit. NCJW urges conferees to oppose the $20 billion in House proposed cuts to SNAP and instead build on the Senate-passed farm bill that largely keeps SNAP intact.

Take Action! Call your lawmakers (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) to let them know that we need a farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP.

Immigration and Refugees

Devastating changes to asylum process could continue

On July 11, new guidance was given to the officers who interview asylum seekers and evaluate refugee applications implementing this decision. Going forward, claims based on fear of gang and domestic violence will be immediately rejected. In addition, officers should consider whether an immigrant crossed the border illegally and weigh that against their claim.

On July 19, the New York Times obtained a proposal drafted by Customs and Border Protection (CPB) leadership which would further limit asylum seekers by eliminating ports of entry as asylum processing centers. This means that individuals would need to apply for asylum from abroad through the refugee program, which already admits just a tiny fraction of all those seeking to come to the US. This proposal runs contrary to recent statements made by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that instead of attempting to cross the border illegally, asylum seekers should seek safe haven at ports of entry. Further, it is clear to NCJW that this is part of a larger effort by the administration to drastically reduce the number of people seeking asylum in the US.

US deporting victims of crime

Undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime while living in the US are allowed to apply for a special visa, called the U visa, which typically provides them a path to citizenship. However, a recent investigation by the Associated Press (AP) shows a pattern of applicants being deported while their applications are still active, creating a chilling effect on victims of crime coming forward. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials did not respond to questions from the AP on this issue.

Family separation update

This week, the administration identified 2,551 children separated from their parents, which preliminary parental matches made for 2,480. The deadline to reunite all children with their families is July 26. On July 13, the US District Court for the Southern District of California ordered the government to cover the cost of reunifications, and on July 16, ruled to temporarily halt deportations of separated families (see Federal Courts section above for more detail). On July 18, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a summary of its current plan to reunify children and parents separated at the border.

Two reports this week cement that detention is not an alternative to deportation

First, two government doctors, who currently serve as “subject-matter experts” for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said they identified a high risk of harm to children held in detention centers. Further, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law filed a report in the Southern District Court of California detailing the awful conditions separated parents and children faced at Border Patrol stations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, and detention centers, based on more than 200 independent accounts. These reports demonstrate that the administration is failing to meet the standards for holding children in detention set by the 1997 Flores settlement.

Take Action! The next #FamiliesBelongTogether massive mobilization in Washington, DC is on Thursday, July 26. There are also grassroots actions throughout the US planned for Saturday, July 28.

Cost of family separation and incarceration rising

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for the costs of housing separated children. The administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which resulted in the separation of more than 3,000 kids, has greatly stressed the department’s spending. HHS has reportedly spent $40 million in the past two months, diverting funding from medical research, rural health programs, and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.

Homeland Security appropriations battle heats up

On July 18, the House Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2019 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Overall the bill increases funding above fiscal year 2018 enacted level by $3.7 billion, including a 27 percent increase in discretionary funding for Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and a 5 person increase in discretionary funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Most troublingly, the bill would fund $5 billion for a border wall, 44,000 detention beds (10% more than there are currently and 30% more than just two years ago), and 400 additional ICE officers. The Senate only included $1.6 billion for the wall in its version of the bill, passed last month. The bill will be marked up by the full committee next week. NCJW is a member of the #DefundHate campaign, which advocates for decreased funding for President Trump’s deportation machine.

Two pro-immigrant rights bills introduced


On July 17, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant, Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act (S 3227). The bill would reunify separated families, ensure that separated children have access to legal counsel and contact with their parents, and creates a presumption of release on alternatives to detention. Also on July 17, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act (S 3225) to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from shackling and detaining immigrant women. NCJW supports both bills

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

On July 17, the House passed by voice vote the Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent Act (POWER Act (S 717), offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), which would promote pro bono legal services as a critical way to support survivors of domestic violence. The Senate passed S 717 on Aug 1, 2017.

Sign On Letters

  • On July 13, NCJW joined 144 organizations on a letter written by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State urging the House Appropriations Committee to protect the Johnson Amendment.
  • On July 16, nearly 100 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by Public Citizen opposing the House FY 2019 “minibus” packaging the Financial Services & General Government and Interior & Environment appropriations bills together because of its numerous ideological policy riders.
  • On July 17, more than 100 organizations — including NCJW — joined a letter to the full Senate opposing the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to serve on the US Supreme Court.
  • On July 19, NCJW was one of 111 faith organizations and 500 faith leaders to join a letter organized by Church World Service opposing family separation and incarceration.
  • On July 20, NCJW joined ___ on a letter demanding the disclosure of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s extensive responsive records to the Senate before any Supreme Court confirmation hearing is scheduled.

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