Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: June 19, 2020

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Damaging health care rule finalized

On June 19, the Trump administration published its final rule rolling back critical nondiscrimination protections found in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule eliminates gender identity, sex stereotyping, and termination of pregnancy from prohibitions against discrimination “on the basis of sex,” encouraging health care providers and entities to refuse care to vulnerable patients. Significantly, the proposal ignores the moral principle that all deserve equal access to health care, tramples individual religious liberty, and will have serious negative implications for the health of women and LGBTQ people. The rule will be effective on August 18. While advocates believe Tuesday’s Supreme Court victory for LGBTQ employment discrimination (see Federal Courts below) will help future lawsuits seeking to overturn this rule, the process could potentially take years, and many will be harmed in the interim. NCJW opposes this harmful rule.

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

Federal Courts

DACA program safe, for now

The Supreme Court struck a blow to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda on June 18 when it ruled 5-4 in an opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, had been illegally ended by the Department of Homeland Security. While the ruling protects nearly 800,000 DACA recipients from deportation for now, it allows the administration to “try again” to end the program. Until the Senate passes the Dream Act (HR 6), which grants DACA recipients a path to citizenship, this victory is incomplete.

Courts Matter to LGBTQ Rights

In a 6-3 landmark decision on June 15, the Supreme Court held that it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Justice Neal Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion in the three consolidated cases addressing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. While one of the plaintiffs in the case, Aimee Stephens, is not alive to witness her victory, we celebrate this watershed moment for fairness and equality for her and all LGBTQ workers.

While the decision is welcome, it does not negate the need for the Senate to pass the Equality Act (HR 5), which would expand nondiscrimination protections to other aspects of federal law, including public accommodations, housing, education, and beyond. The House of Representatives passed the bill in May 2019.

California “sanctuary city” laws can stand

This week, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to California’s “sanctuary city” laws, leaving in place a lower court’s decision that the federal government cannot compel state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The Trump administration had challenged this and similar laws across the country. Immigration advocates note that sanctuary policies facilitate better crime reporting and cooperation with law enforcement in criminal investigations.

Senate advances Justin Walker to DC Circuit Court

On June 17, the Senate voted (52-46) to end debate and move forward on a vote to confirm Justin Walker to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The vote was mostly along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joining Democrats in opposing the motion. And, on June 18, the Senate voted 51-42 to confirm Walker despite the fact he has never tried a case as lead or co-counsel and has made it clear he would dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

On Monday, June 22, the Senate will hold a cloture vote to end debate and move forward on the nomination of Cory Wilson to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. A full Senate confirmation vote is expected on late Tuesday or Wednesday. Like Walker, Wilson openly disdains the Affordable Care Act, calling it illegitimate” and “perverse.” He supported every anti-reproductive health bill offered as a state legislator and called Roe v. Wade the “result of a liberal activist court.” As we navigate the uncharted waters of the COVID- 19 pandemic, it is unthinkable that the Senate would confirm circuit court judges bent on taking away access to health care. 

With a blockbuster Supreme Court term — the first with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the bench — join NCJW and Dahlia Lithwick, who writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast Amicus. From abortion access to LGBTQ rights to firearms to Dreamers, we’ll break down the cases and learn what’s at stake based on the decisions issued this term. We’ll also highlight cases to watch when the next term opens on October 5. You won’t want to miss hearing from Dahlia, one of the most insightful voices on the courts. Register here.

Voter Engagement

DC statehood up for vote

The House of Representatives announced its intent to hold a vote on DC statehood (HR 51) on June 26, the first vote on the topic since 1993. The bill would grant full representation for the more than 700,000 citizens of the District of Columbia, including granting residents two senators and one representative in Congress. NCJW endorses this bill and urges every representative to vote YES.

Civil Rights

House moves forward on police reform bill

On June 17, the House Judiciary Committee marked up (24-14) the Justice in Policing Act (HR 7120), a sweeping measure addressing police accountability introduced by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) as well as Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate. Among many provisions, the bill includes:

  • Banning the use of chokeholds and other tactics;
  • Limiting the transfer of military weaponry and equipment to police departments;
  • Changing the legal standard to make it easier to hold police accountable for misconduct when they use deadly force on American citizens;
  • Making lynching a federal crime; and
  • Helping prevent police misconduct in the first place by increasing data and transparency, as well as important modifications to law enforcement training and practices.

On the same day, Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), unveiled a separate proposal, the Justice Act, which falls short of real change. HR 7120 now moves to the House floor for a vote next week while the Senate is expected to consider the Justice Act prior to July 4. NCJW supports HR 7120 as an important first step toward protecting communities and ensuring police accountability and urges both chambers to consider the measure.

Economic Justice 

Senate Finance Committee holds a roundtable on paid leave

On June 18, the Senate Finance Committee’s Paid Leave Working Group held a roundtable to discuss “Paid Leave Proposals in the COVID Era.” A number of important topics were discussed, including the loopholes and exclusions in current emergency paid leave and paid sick days law. There was also robust discussion of policy solutions to provide paid leave in the longer term, including establishing a federal program paid for by a small payroll tax, allowing new parents to take advances on their Child Tax Credit to be repaid by deductions in that tax credit over 10-15 years, and allowing parents to use Social Security benefits in exchange for delaying their retirement. While some of these policies would be beneficial steps forward toward paid leave for all, others would detrimentally impact the economic and retirement security of women, children, and families. NCJW supports paid leave for all and sent this letter to the Senate Finance Paid Leave Working Group.

  • Take Action! Tell your Senators to close the loopholes in current emergency paid leave law by passing the HEROES Act. 

Mobilize for justice this weekend!

NCJW is proud to once again sponsor the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC) summer mobilization. PPC is a movement that aims to shift the moral narrative, impact policies at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor people. Sign up here to join NCJW’s virtual delegation at the virtual Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March at 10:00 am ET and 6:00 pm ET on Saturday, June 20, to highlight the crisis of poverty and interlocking injustices in America. The program will be broadcast again on Sunday, June 21 at 6:00 pm ET.

Immigration and Refugees

NCJW Celebrates World Refugee Day
June 20 is the United Nations-designated World Refugee Day, a time to celebrate the contributions of refugees. NCJW is a member of the #70Million campaign (referencing the more than 70 million refugees and displaced people around the world), a call to the Jewish community to be in solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced people around the world. The US refugee resettlement program has been largely dismantled by the current administration, and in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, has ground to a complete halt.

  • Take Action! Visit the #70Million campaign to find ways to advocate, learn, volunteer, and donate to help refugees.

Sign-On Letters

  • On June 11, NCJW joined 141 LGBTQ and allied organizations allies joined an open letter calling to defund the police and invest in communities.
  • On June 15, more than 100 organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Congress in support of statehood for the District of Columbia.
  • On June 16, NCJW joined more than 120 organizations on a letter to the Department of Homeland Security opposing recent measures that threaten the safety and family unity of vulnerable immigrant children.
  • On June 17, NCJW joined 40 organizations on a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting several continuations of Medicare enrollment flexibilities urgently needed to better facilitate access to coverage and care during COVID-19.
  • On June 18, Sen. Markey introduced a bill endorsed by 70+ organizations including NCJW that would halt deportations and immigration enforcement during the pandemic.
  • On June 18, NCJW joined 2,500 national, regional, state, and local organizations on a letter calling on Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer to take immediate action to boost SNAP benefits.

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