Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: July 26, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice 

Title X update 

Following the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the Title X gag rule can take effect while the court rehears a request for a stay, the Department of Health and Human Services sent written guidance to program grantees allowing clinics additional time to comply with the new restrictionsUnder the new rule, such clinics can no longer refer a patient for abortion and will be forced to maintain “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions. Numerous grantees — including the state of IllinoisPlanned Parenthood, and other clinics — have vowed to drop out of nation’s only federally-funded family planning program rather than comply with these requirements. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which represents organizations and individuals that operate or fund health centers across the US and is suing to prevent the gag rule from taking permanent effect, “is concerned that [HHS Office of Population Affairs’] failure to provide detailed implementation guidance may be the start of a game of ‘gotcha’ as it assesses compliance with the rule.” NCJW continues to work to overturn the gag rule, which threatens the health and lives of 4 million patients.   

WHPA digital day of action 

On July 25, the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA, HR 2975/S 1645) reached a historic 203 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. This shows overwhelming support for the bill, which would invalidate state abortion restrictions and bans by guaranteeing health providers the right to deliver care free from these burdensome limitations. To celebrate and to encourage additional cosponsorship, the Act for Women campaign is hosting a digital day of action on August 1. Keep an eye on NCJW’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to learn how you can use social media to lift up this critical legislation. 

Federal Courts 

McConnell sets up 19 district court votes in latest court-packing scheme

On July 25, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on 19 district court nominees, setting up final confirmation votes for the week of July 29. If all are confirmed, the number of lifetime federal court confirmations under President Trump would reach 150 — nearly 20% of the entire federal judiciary. 11 of the 19 nominees failed to state that Brown v. Board of Educationthe landmark civil rights case, was correctly decided when asked at their confirmation hearings. Several others have troubling records in other areas. Rushing votes on these lifetime appointments precludes senators from carefully vetting and adequately evaluating each nominee, thus harming the nation’s courts for decades to come. NCJW urges the Senate to deliberately consider each individual nominee and to confirm only those who are fair, independent, and will uphold the rights of those who most need the protection of the courts. 

  • Take ActionCall your senators via the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to take their constitutionally-granted advise and consent role seriously! They must slow down and individually consider each of these nominees, many of whom are hostile to our rights.

Two more anti-civil rights and anti-abortion nominees confirmed as federal judges

On July 24, the Senate voted to confirm the nominations of Wendy Berger and Brian Buescher to lifetime appointments as federal district court judges. Berger was confirmed to the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida in a 54-37 vote. Sens. Jones (D-AL), Manchin (D-WV), and Sinema (D-AZ) voted in favor of the nominee. Berger has a grotesque anti-abortion and anti-civil rights record as a state court judge. Brian Buescher was confirmed to the US District Court for the District of Nebraska on a party line vote of 51-40. Sens. Bennet (D-CO), Booker (D-NJ), Capito (R-WV), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Isakson (R-GA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Sanders (D-VT), and Warren (D-MA) did not vote. Buescher has a lifelong history of anti-abortion activism, and NCJW opposed his nomination. Both Berger and Buescher refused to acknowledge that Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided when asked at their confirmation hearings and will doubtlessly bring their biases with them to the bench. 

Asylum Ban on hold, for now

On July 16, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice issued an interim final rule (meaning it took effect immediately) that barred asylum for all people, including unaccompanied children, who passed through a third country on their way to the United States’ southern border. The ban was challenged in court by the ACLU, and this week a federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction halting the ban nationwide. The decision came hours after a different federal judge in Washington, DC issued a ruling that the ban could continue. While the California judge’s ruling is the law of the land for now, the appellate courts are expected to rule on the matter soon. NCJW condemns this cruel and illegal ban. 

Civil Rights 

Federal death penalty reinstated 

On July 25, Attorney General William Barr ordered the reinstatement of the federal death penalty after a halt of 16 years. He also ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule five executionsNCJW opposes the death penalty. 

Human Needs  

Budget deal to raise debt ceiling passes House 

Just before leaving for August recess, the House passed (284-149) a massive budget deal to raise the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021 and to lift caps on federal spending for the next two years — avoiding $126 billion in across the board cuts known as sequestration. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (HR 3877) includes a $1.37 trillion budget agreement in the first year, with $738 billion for defense spending and $632 billion in nondefense spending for FY20. With these spending limits in place, appropriators can return to considering spending bills for FY’20: the House passed 10 of the 12 required FY’20 spending bills while the Senate has yet to move any forward. The Senate is expected to vote on HR 3877 next week. NCJW opposes the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, which withholds coverage of abortion from those enrolled in federal health plans or programs except in extreme circumstances, and impedes reproductive justice as all should be free to make their own decisions about their body, sexuality, and future. 

Trump’s latest rule would take food away from 3 million people 

The Trump administration issued a proposed rule on July 23 that would take nutrition assistance away from 3 million people by making them ineligible to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s first line of defense against hunger. In particular, the proposed rule would harm working families with children whose net incomes are below the poverty line, and families and seniors with even a small amount of savings. The 60-day public comment period began on July 24, and NCJW will both submit a comment and provide a template comment for our network opposing the proposed rule. NCJW opposes this latest attack on individuals struggling to make ends meet.  


Refugee admissions zeroed out? 

On July 19, press reported that the Trump administration was considering admitting only 3,000-10,000 refugees next year. The admissions number, known as the presidential determination, will not be formally announced until late August or September. However, advocates are fearful that the administration will essentially dismantle the refugee resettlement program by setting the target so low. White House Advisor Stephen Miller was reportedly behind the push to zero out the program and has gone on record saying he does not want the US to admit any refugees. The admissions number is already the lowest in US history at 35,000; the historical average of US refugee admissions is 95,000 per year. NCJW is outraged at this news and urges Congress to push back on the administration and to insist on a robust refugee resettlement program. 

  • Take ActionTell your lawmakers to pass the GRACE Act to restore refugee admissions to its historic average.

Expanding expedited removal

This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would expand its expedited removal program. Up until now, expedited removal  bypassing immigration courts when deporting an individual — has only been used for those detained within 100 miles of the US border and who have lived in the US for less than two weeks. The expansion would apply expedited removal to immigrants anywhere in the US who have been the in country less than two years. The ACLU and other immigrant rights groups have filed suit to stop this change. NCJW opposes this latest attack on immigrants and their communities. 

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. 


  • On July 15, NCJW joined over 150 women’s organizations on a letter supporting the Raise the Wage Act. 
  • On July 23, 178 organizations including NCJW sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo expressing deep concerns with the Department of State’s recently announced Commission on Unalienable Rights. 


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