Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: July 31, 2020

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Amendment to strip Hyde language from funding bill ruled out of order

As expected, on July 28, the House of Representatives Committee of Rules declared the amendment to strip Hyde language from the FY21 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill not in order. This means that the amendment will not receive a vote on the House floor and that Hyde — which denies abortion coverage to those enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — will remain in the funding package. Although we are very disappointed about the continued inclusion of this discriminatory rider in appropriations legislation, NCJW thanks Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for filing the amendment and for their tireless efforts to permanently end abortion coverage bans. NCJW is proud to support the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692/S 758) to ensure that every single person can make their own decision about abortion no matter their income, insurance, or where they live.

Federal Courts

#CourtsMatter to religious liberty

On July 24, the US Supreme Court ruled against a church which sought exemptions from statewide restrictions on houses of worship during the coronavirus. The case, Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak, involves a Nevada public health order governing which businesses and institutions are able to remain open during the pandemic, and under what terms they may do so. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberals on the Court in a 5-4 decision siding with the Nevada public health order directing churches to admit no more than 50 people at one time. In Judaism, pikuach nefesh (saving lives) takes precedence over pretty much everything else we might do. And, right now, that means choosing not to come together — including for religious services — so we avoid harm to anyone, especially those at most risk.

Two anti-abortion nominees progress

On July 30, David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn, both vehemently anti-abortion, were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee for 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 by 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. NCJW opposes David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn for lifetime seats on the federal bench.

  • Take Action! Contact your senators and urge them to oppose these two troubling anti-abortion district court nominees.

Court stops public charge rule, for now

This week, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its public charge rule while a national health emergency in response to COVID-19 is in effect. The public charge rule radically expands the list of programs that will be considered as the government determines whether someone is likely to become a public charge (i.e. dependent on the government) to include food assistance, housing vouchers, Medicaid, and beyond. If deemed a public charge, immigrants can be prevented from entering the US, receiving a green card, or sponsoring family members. In February, the Supreme Court allowed the rule to go into effect while it made its way through the courts. NCJW advocates submitted hundreds of comments in opposition to this cruel rule. NCJW applauds this decision, which is expected to be appealed by the administration.

Voter Engagement

President tweets falsehoods about mail-in voting

On July 30, President Trump tweeted to his more than 84 million followers that, given mail-in ballot fraud, the November election should be delayed. While responding to social media posts can feel like an uphill battle, it’s important to debunk the harmful falsehoods in this tweet:

  • Only Congress has the power to change the date of the presidential election. Simply speaking, a combination of the Constitution, federal law, state law, and local law gives the power to set the presidential election to Congress. Further, the Constitution is explicit that under no circumstances can any president’s term be extended past noon on January 20 without amending the Constitution.
  • Mail-in ballot fraud is statistically nonexistent. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since 2000, more than 250 million votes have been cast via mail in all 50 states. In 2018, more than 31 million Americans voted by mail, roughly a quarter of election participants. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that of these 250 million mail-in ballots, only 204 were fraudulent. That’s .00008 percent.

The 2020 presidential election faces challenges unlike any other in history given the current pandemic. But voter fraud related to mail-in ballots (and voter fraud in general) is simply not one of those challenges. The states desperately need funding to implement safe and secure elections, and we all deserve to participate in our democracy without putting ourselves at risk. This week, the Senate released a coronavirus relief package that included $0 for safe elections, versus the $3.6 billion in the House-passed package (known as the HEROES Act).

  • Take Action! Call your senators to demand they include $3.6 billion in the next coronavirus relief package to make our elections safe.
    • First, find their phone numbers here. Then, call and say the following:
      Hi, my name is [name], I live in [state], and I am a National Council of Jewish Women advocate. It’s less than 100 days to the 2020 Election, and yet the Senate has put forward a bill with zero funding for voting. We should not have to choose between our health and our democracy! I urge you to negotiate with the House of Representatives on a coronavirus relief package that includes at least $3.6 billion for states to implement safe elections in November and any remaining primaries before then.
      Feel free to make this suggested script your own, and consider sharing stories from the primaries that have happened in your states.

Economic Justice

Child care bill passes House

On July 29, the House of Representatives passed the Child Care is Essential Act (HR 7027) with bipartisan support in a vote of 249-163. The bill would create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the existing Child Care and Development Block Grant program. The fund would provide grants to child care providers to stabilize the child care sector and support safe re-opening of child care facilities. NCJW is pleased by the passage of the bill, which we endorsed, but urges Congress to incorporate the fund into the next coronavirus relief package.

Human Needs

Senate COVID bill falls far short of meeting country’s needs

On July 27, Senate Republicans finally unveiled their collection of coronavirus relief bills, more than 2 months after the House passed its robust HEROES Act supported by NCJW. The $1 trillion measures fail to address key issues such as nutrition assistance, safe voting, rental assistance, and additional funding for states and would bar families with immigrants from accessing stimulus benefits. As of this writing, there is not enough support in the Senate or the House for the package. With only a handful of legislative days before August recess, it is expected that lawmakers will work through some or all of that time to reach a deal. Provisions of the various bills include:

  • Unemployment Insurance: Decreased from $600/week to $200/week;
  • Direct payments: $1,200 payments at individual incomes of $75,000 or less a year, with $500 in benefits for each child or adult dependent;
  • Education: $105 billion w/ 2/3 going to schools that institute re-opening plans;
  • Liability shield: Five-year shield for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits;
  • PPP loans: Small businesses w/ fewer than 300 employees that can show revenue losses of 50% or more could apply for second PPP loans;
  • Health care: $16 billion to help states ramp up tests and contact tracing;
  • Tax break: 100% for businesses providing meals and entertainment for clients;
  • Tax credits: For businesses to shield workers and customers against the virus, an expanded version of the employee retention tax credit to keep workers on their payrolls;
  • Child care: $15 billion to child care providers in emergency assistance;
  • Sexual and Domestic Violence: $65 million for local and community based domestic violence programs and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline;
  • Pet Projects: $10 billion for airport improvement as well as $1.75 billion for a new FBI headquarters; and
  • Immigration Enforcement: $1.6 billion in funding to Customs and Border Protection
    • Take Action! Tell the Senate these packages don’t go far enough. Urge them to pass a more robust coronavirus response like the HEROES Act.

House moves to finish funding bills

The House is expected to pass the tenth of its twelve annual FY21 appropriations measures to fund government agencies, well ahead of its planned August recess. The measure, HR 7617, includes Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-HUD. Earlier this week, lawmakers removed the Department of Homeland Security spending bill due to disagreement within the Democratic party about the bill. The Senate has yet to introduce any of its bills. Given this, it is expected Congress will have to pass a short term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government beyond midnight on September 30, when the clock runs out on current government funding. 

Immigration and Refugees

Administration looks to end DACA, again

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a memo announcing it was reviewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (known as DACA) with the ultimate aim of ending the program. During the review, new DACA applications will not be accepted and current DACA recipients can only renew their status for a year, instead of the usual two years. The memo follows a US Supreme Court decision in June that found the administration had illegally ended DACA, and a subsequent ruling in July by the US District Court in Maryland ordering DHS to process new applications. The administration’s actions make clear that the only way to protect DACA recipients is to pass the Dream Act. NCJW condemns this memo.

Sign-On Letters

  • On July 28, NCJW joined 154 organizations on a letter calling on Congress to quickly pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4) and the HEROES Act (HR 6800) to honor the legacy of Rep. John Lewis.
  • On July 28, NCJW joined 85 organizations on a letter calling on Congress to enact COVID relief legislation addressing the economic and health crises.
  • On July 28, more than 800 organizations including NCJW sent a letter to Congress urging immigrants to be fully included in the next coronavirus relief package.
  • On July 29, NCJW joined close to 100 organizations on a letter to House leadership in support of a House Resolution (non-binding) to establish a commission to investigate the legacy of slavery and its ongoing harms as well as come up with proposals to Congress for redress and repair.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW joined civil rights and advocacy groups on an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Victim Rights Law Center v. Elizabeth DeVos, a case before the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts in support of several states seeking a preliminary injunction of Devos’s Title IX Rule that will otherwise become effective in mid-August.


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