Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: July 24, 2020

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Amendment filed to remove Hyde from appropriations bill

On July 23, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — alongside Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — introduced an amendment to remove Hyde language, which bans Medicaid coverage of abortion, from the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) spending bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month. If given a vote and passed, Rep. Pressley’s amendment will ensure that abortion care is accessible and affordable for all. Unfortunately, when the Congresswoman introduced a similar amendment last year, it was deemed out of order by the Rules Committee for authorizing new policies, a violation of House rules for spending bills. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) could waive these rules, such an occurrence is rare. The continued inclusion of the Hyde Amendment in the appropriations process — despite the tireless efforts of the All* Above All coalition to eliminate this discriminatory provision and the House’s historic pro-choice majority — is clear evidence of the urgent need to pass the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692/S 758), legislation that would end coverage bans and prohibit political interference in private insurance coverage of abortion at all levels of government. NCJW is proud to support this bill to ensure that every single person can make their own decision about abortion no matter their income, insurance, or where they live.

  • Take Action!
    • Call your representatives (phone numbers here) and urge them to support the Pressley amendment using the call script below:My name is [NAME], and as your constituent and a National Council of Jewish Women advocate, I want you to support the amendment introduced by Representative Pressley to eliminate the Hyde Amendment from the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies spending bill. No one should be denied abortion care just because they are struggling financially, and your vote on this amendment will show a commitment to ending racist policies that deny Black, Indigenous, and people of color the right to make the decisions that are best for them and their families. I urge you to vote YES on Rep. Pressley’s amendment if it comes to the floor and ends the ban of Medicaid coverage for abortion care.
    • Register for the upcoming #AbortionAccess4All Digital Lobby Day to urge your lawmakers to cosponsor the EACH Woman Act and to commit to eliminating Hyde from the appropriations process.
    • Use NCJW’s action alert to advocate for the EACH Woman Act.

Federal Courts

Two troubling nominees up for a vote in Committee

David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn, both vehemently anti-abortion, have been nominated to the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. During his successful campaign for an Illinois state circuit court seat, David Dugan made it clear that he believed that life began at conception and that “. . . from that moment forward, taking that child’s life is the taking of a human life.” He questioned the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and was involved in various organizations as an anti-abortion advocate. He supports biased counseling laws and restricting abortion access for young people. Stephen McGlynn was a leader in the Illinois Federation for Right to Life. He was endorsed in his campaign for the state appellate court by Illinois Citizens for Life PAC and Family PAC which is affiliated with the Illinois Family Institute, an organization designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on both nominees on July 24, and is expected to vote on their nominations next week. NCJW opposes David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn for a lifetime seat on the federal bench.

  • Take Action! Contact your senators and urge them to oppose these two troubling district court nominees with a history of hostility to abortion rights.

SCOTUS abandons Florida voters

On July 16, the Supreme Court declined to overturn a lower court’s decision blocking some formerly incarcerated people in Florida from voting. A quick history: in 2018, Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which would automatically restore the right to vote to most people with prior felony convictions. The state legislature then went against the will of the people by passing a law that obligated those same people to pay all fines and fees associated with their sentence before they were able to vote — in effect, a modern-day poll tax. (And the state provides no easy way for people to check what fines and fees are owed.) A district court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals both agreed that denying the right to vote based on outstanding fees was unconstitutional, but the state’s appeal to the full 11th Circuit resulted in a stay (or halt) of the ruling until the case is heard in August. The Supreme Court declined to overturn the stay without weighing on the merits of the case. Three justices, led by Justice Sotomayor, dissented. Bottom line: the stay blocks hundreds of thousands of voters in Florida from registering for the state’s primary election, and if the case is not resolved before November, they will be blocked from the national election. NCJW advocates and leaders in Florida worked hard to pass Amendment 4 and continue to advocate for full voting rights for people formerly convicted for a felony.

Court upholds block of cruel asylum rule

On July 17, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling blocking a Trump administration policy from going into effect that would have prevented women fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence from seeking asylum in the US. The policy stemmed from a decision by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018. While from a practical perspective asylum has been ground to a halt during the pandemic, NCJW applauds this decision, which protects women seeking safety in the US.

Voter Engagement

Lewis’ legacy of voting rights

This week, the Congress and nation lost a hero when Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) passed away from pancreatic cancer. Lewis (who received an award at NCJW’s 2017 Convention in Atlanta) was perhaps best well-known for his lifelong fight for voting rights. In honor of his passing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill passed the House of Representatives in December 2019, and has been blocked from a vote in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Civil Rights

Transgender people under attack

This week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development published a proposed rule (rolling back an Obama-era equal access policy) giving a green light to federally-funded housing services, including homeless shelters, to deny transgender people access to single-sex shelters of their gender identity. There will be 60 days to comment on the rule. Transgender and gender non-binary people are at acute risk of homelessness; according to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, nearly one-third of this population experience homelessness at some point in their lives, a percentage that is greater for those who identify as Black, undocumented, Middle Eastern, or multiracial. NCJW condemns this proposed rule and will be submitting comments in opposition.

  • Take Action! Want to know more about the federal rulemaking process? Watch NCJW’s webinar on administrative advocacy. 

President Trump seeks to undermine the 2020 Census

On July 21, President Trump signed a memo to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count when determining how many seats in Congress will be given to each state (known as apportionment). Just last term, the Supreme Court rejected the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but the administration has other ways to collect citizenship information. Legal experts agree that attempts to exclude undocumented immigrants from congressional apportionment is unconstitutional, and NCJW rejects this attempt to treat undocumented immigrants as though they are less-than other members of our community. It is now more important than ever that everyone participates in the census. Common Cause filed suit challenging the memo, and other organizations are expected to follow.

Human Needs

Senate COVID response bill delayed

After fits and starts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to release his coronavirus relief bill on Monday. The measure will likely come with a $1 trillion price tag — far below the House-passed HEROES Act supported by NCJW — and with far fewer supports for those impacted by the pandemic. Pain points include extending the additional $600 Unemployment Insurance benefits, a liability shield protecting businesses from lawsuits, expanded nutritional assistance, eviction protections, access to the ballot, and additional funding for state and local governments. With the Senate expected to leave for recess on August 7, the clock is ticking to provide the much-needed relief for the more than 1.4 million people who have lost their jobs, the 4 million individuals with coronavirus, health care workers, and more.

  • Take Action! Tell the Senate we need a robust coronavirus response like the HEROES Act.

House plows through appropriations

As of this writing, the House is expected to vote on a 4 package appropriations bill (HR 7608) that includes State and Foreign Operations, Agriculture-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction-VA funding. Next week, House lawmakers plan action on a seven-bill fiscal 2021 appropriations package (HR 7617). It will include Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education (see Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice above), and Transportation-HUD funding. Among many contentious issues, this larger package includes measures that would cut off the Pentagon’s financial flexibility due to the Trump administration’s use of defense funds for the border wall; block Trump administration restrictions on asylum; make some police grants contingent on policy changes including chokehold bans; and create a commission to review federal displays inconsistent with the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday to set the amendments and terms for floor consideration of the package.

Immigration and Refugees

Historic Muslim civil rights bill passes House

This week, the House of Representatives made history by passing the first Muslim civil rights bill in history. The NO BAN Act (HR 2214/S 1123) would reverse the administration’s Muslim and African Bans and prevent similar blanket bans in the future. If passed, the bill would reunite millions of families separated by the bans. NCJW sent a vote recommendation to the House ahead of the vote, and applauds passage of this important bill.

  • Take Action! The House has done its job, and now it’s time for the Senate. Tell your senators to pass the NO BAN Act!

Tisha B’Av: Jews Say Free Them All

This year on Tisha B’Av (July 29-30), NCJW is partnering with Bend the Arc, HIAS, J Street, Torah Trumps Hate, and others on an event led by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights in which communities will commit themselves to taking action on behalf of immigrants whose health, livelihoods, and physical safety are under siege. For the third year in a row, we ask Jews to cry out and say that we must #FreeThemAll. Register here!

New DACA applicants turned away

After the Supreme Court ruled that the administration had ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, illegally, it was somewhat unclear whether the program would allow new applicants (in addition continuing protections for current recipients). On July 17, the US District Court in Maryland ordered the Trump administration to begin accepting new DACA applications. However, reports this week indicate that the administration is still refusing to process new applications, in direct opposition to the court. New applicants have filed suit, and it is unclear what will happen next. NCJW urges the administration to follow the court’s ruling and give protection to new applicants.

  • Take Action! Tell your senators to provide permanent protection to DACA recipients by passing the Dream Act before the administration tries again to rescind the program.

ICE reverses policy on international students

On July 7, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international college students would be deported if their schools were entirely online this fall. However, after huge outcry and lawsuits filed, the administration reversed its decision a few days later. NCJW is pleased by this outcome.

Sign-On Letters

  • On July 10, NCJW submitted a comment opposing the administration’s latest proposal to decimate the nation’s asylum program.
  • On July 14, NCJW joined 182 organizations on a letter to Senate leadership to include legislative language in the fourth COVID-19 package that would extend work authorization and protection from deportation for DACA recipients for two years and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders for 18 months.
  • On July 17, more than 100 organizations including NCJW sent a letter to the administration urging that parents and children be released together from all three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) family detention centers.
  • On July 20, NCJW sent a letter to every representative urging them to vote yes on the NO BAN Act (HR 2214).
  • On July 20, 32 organizations including NCJW sent a letter to the Senate urging sufficient funding for election preparedness.
  • On July 20, NCJW and 92 organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging they consider Leadership Conference task force principles as they consider COVID legislation.
  • On July 21, more than 30 groups from the Declaration for American Democracy Coalition, including NCJW, sent a letter to the Senate Rules Committee urging them to support the $3.6 billion in election funding that was included in the House-passed HEROES Act.

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