On the Hill Updates: March 15, 2019
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
EACH Woman Act reintroduced
On March 12, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman Act) was reintroduced in the House by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) alongside 106 additional cosponsors. Marking significant process in the fight to end dangerous coverage bans, the bill (HR 1692/S 758) was also introduced in the Senate for the very first time by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). The EACH Woman Act would end the Hyde Amendment and related restrictions, the language in annual appropriations legislation which denies abortion coverage for women enrolled in federal health programs. The measure would also prohibit federal, state, and local political interference in the decisions of private insurers to offer abortion coverage. NCJW is proud to join 84 other organizations in endorsing this bill to ensure that each woman can make her own faith-informed decision about abortion no matter her income, insurance, or where she lives.
- Interested in advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice through the passage of EACH Woman Act? Join us at Washington Institute 2019 to advocate for this issue on Capitol Hill!
Thanks to Senate, Trump now responsible for 20% of federal circuit judges
On March 12 and 13, the Senate confirmed two judges to circuit courts of appeal: Paul Matey of New Jersey to the 3rd Circuit (54-45); and Neomi Rao to the District of Columbia Circuit (53-46). Matey is now the second nominee in the last month to be confirmed over the objection of both home-state senators; prior to Trump becoming president, this did not occur. In fact, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) was not even given an opportunity to meet Matey in person until just days before his confirmation vote despite repeated requests to do so. Sens. Menendez and Booker (both D-NJ) have called Matey “a highly partisan attorney who will not be an impartial jurist.” Rao will replace now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh on what is widely considered to be the second most powerful court in the country. Rao currently serves as President Trump’s “anti-regulatory czar” as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, where her work reflects the harmful anti-women views she espoused in college. NCJW opposed Rao’s nomination. Read our full statement here.
Senate committee helps Trump reshape the Ninth Circuit
On March 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Kenneth Lee and Daniel Collins of California to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, despite strong opposition from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (both D-CA), both of whom are on the Committee, the former as Ranking Member. Last week, Harris and Feinstein sent a letter to Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asking that the committee not move forward with Lee’s hearing due to his repeated failure to turn over requested documents and writings. Lee failed to disclose controversial writings revealing extreme views on important issues. In those writings, he criticizes racial justice, espouses harmful stereotypes about sexual violence, and expresses offensive views about the LGBTQ community. Collins has restricted the rights of women, consumers, and torture victims. NCJW opposes Lee’s nomination, as well as the Senate’s abandonment of home-state senator consultation, an important safeguard meant to ensure a fair and balanced bench.
Court victory for asylum seekers
On March 8, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that limitations on the ability of asylum seekers to access US courts if they want to challenge decisions of asylum officers and immigration judges are unconstitutional. The ruling broadens constitutional protections for undocumented immigrants at the border. However, it conflicts with an earlier ruling from the Third Circuit, and so the case will likely be resolved by the US Supreme Court.
Expanded pool of families to be reunited
On March 8, Judge Sabraw of the US District Court for the Southern District of California ordered the reunification of families separated anytime after July 1, 2017. Sabraw’s original order only applied to approximately 2,700 children separated April-June, 2018. The federal government did not keep records on families it separated until last summer, so reuniting this new pool of children will be a time consuming and difficult task. As such, the judge temporarily stayed his order until there is further discussion on how to proceed. NCJW lauds the decision to reunite more families.
HR-1 passes House
On March 8, the For the People Act (HR 1) passed the House of Representatives along party lines, 234-193. The bill would enact a series of voting reforms, including:
- modernizing voter registration by implementing online voter registration, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration;
- restoring voting rights to individuals currently or previously incarcerated;
- establishing two weeks of early voting for federal elections;
- making Election Day a federal holiday;
- increasing funds for election security; and
- requiring states to implement independent redistricting commissions.
HR 1 would also implement campaign finance reform measures and ethics guidelines. The Senate is expected to introduce a companion bill in the coming weeks, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not bring the bill up in the Senate. NCJW supports this landmark reform legislation.
Bill to strengthen indigenous voting rights
On March 12, the Native American Voting Rights Act (HR 1694/S739) was introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). The bill would increase access to voter registration sites and polling locations on reservations, authorize tribal ID cards for voting purposes, and create a Native American Voting Rights Taskforce to strengthen Native voter registration, education, and participation. NCJW endorses this important bill.
VRAA hearing in House
On March 12, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the “History and Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” The hearing is one of many establishing a public record as to why there is a need to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR 4/S 561), which would restore the strength of the Voting Rights Act. At the hearing, witnesses from the US Commission on Civil Rights, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and elsewhere testified as to how voting rights are being eroded across the country. NCJW supports the VRAA and considers it an extremely high priority issue.
- Take action! Tell your elected officials to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Equality Act reintroduced
On March 13, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Equality Act (HR 5/S 788), which would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals from discrimination by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of identities protected under the Civil Rights Act. The bill would also expand protections for women in public accommodations and federal funding, two areas not currently covered by existing federal civil rights law. NCJW supports this important bill.
- Take action! Tell your lawmakers to support the Equality Act.
Transgender military ban to go into effect
The Department of Defense announced that a policy effectively barring transgender troops from serving in the military will go into effect on April 12. President Trump first advertised this policy shift in a tweet in July 2017. The ban is likely to face legal challenges but could impact as many as 15,500 transgender troops in the military. NCJW denounced this disgraceful ban.
Gun Violence Prevention
Bill to keep guns out of classrooms introduced
On March 14, Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a resolution (H Res 231/S Res 110) to prevent school districts from using federal funds to arm teachers. Hayes, a former National Teacher of the Year, introduced the resolution in response to continued support from President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos for arming teachers. NCJW supports efforts to prevent the use of federal funding to arm teachers.
Healthy Families Act reintroduced
On March 14, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Healthy Families Act (HR 1784/S 840), which would set a national paid sick leave minimum standard of seven job-protected paid sick days per year. Workers can use the days to recover from short-term illnesses, access preventive care, care for a sick family member, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. NCJW supports the Healthy Families Act and urges Congress to pass this much-needed legislation.
Trump Administration introduces its own overtime rule
During the Obama Administration, the US Department of Labor (DOL) finalized a rule that would raise the salary threshold for those eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476, giving 4.2 million more workers — disproportionately women — the overtime protections they deserve. It also tied the threshold to cost of living so it would increase every year. However, before the rule could go into effect it was halted by the courts. The Trump Administration, led by DOL Secretary Acosta, later rescinded the rule.
On March 7, DOL released a new version of the overtime rule increasing the threshold to $35,308, covering approximately 1.1 million workers. While an increase is welcome for those workers covered, the proposed rule falls far short of Obama’s proposal, which would have been set at $51.064 this year. DOL’s own analysis shows that 2.8 million fewer workers would get overtime under this year’s rule than under the 2016 rule — a total which grows to 4.3 million fewer workers over ten years. NCJW supported the original rule and is concerned about those left out of the proposed revision.
Trump’s 2020 budget request released
On March 11, President Trump released his budget request for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY 20), which begins on October 1, 2019. The proposed budget would cut $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $845 billion from Medicare, and $25 billion from Social Security, while setting aside $8.6 billion for a border wall. The president’s budget proposal, while rarely enacted as-is, serves as a means for the administration to communicate its priorities. NCJW called on Congress to reject this harmful budget proposal.
Immigration and Refugees
Emergency declaration passes Senate
On February 15, after failing to receive funds from Congress to build his unnecessary and immoral border wall, President Trump declared a national emergency in order to use unobligated funds from Department of Defense to build the wall. On February 26, the House passed a bipartisan resolution (H J Res 46) to overturn the emergency status. On March 14, the Senate also passed the resolution 59-41 — 12 Republican senators joined all 47 Democrats. President Trump has promised to veto the bill. NCJW supports the resolution to overturn the emergency declaration.
Dream and Promise Act introduced
On March 12, the Dream and Promise Act (HR 6) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY). The bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for all Dreamers (young immigrants brought to the US as children), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients. TPS allows individuals from countries suffering natural disaster, war, and other extreme conditions to live and work in the US legally. DED is a similar program. These programs were all promises to protect individuals and families from deportation and separation — and were all terminated by President Trump. NCJW endorses this permanent solution for Dreamers and those with TPS and DED statuses.
- Take Action! Tell your representative to pass the Dream and Promise Act.
TPS decision impacts immigrants from Honduras and Nepal
In October 2018, a federal judge halted the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. (TPS allows individuals from countries suffering natural disaster, war, and other extreme conditions to live and work in the US legally.) This week, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that TPS holders from Honduras and Nepal will retain their status while the original case moves through the federal courts. The fate of more than 360,000 immigrants now hangs in the balance of the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision. NCJW supports a path to citizenship for TPS holders.
Administration fails South Sudan TPS holders
On March 8, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would extend, but not redesignate, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people in the US from South Sudan. TPS allows individuals from countries suffering natural disaster, war, and other extreme conditions to live and work in the US legally. Failing to redesignate the program means that people from South Sudan who arrived in the US since the designation was most recently granted cannot receive its protections. NCJW opposes this decision.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
VAWA passes House Judiciary Committee
On March 14, the House Judiciary Committee voted (22-11) to approve a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), cosponsored by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). This important legislation reauthorizes VAWA grant programs and makes modest yet vital enhancements to existing law. The current legislation would build on the 2013 reauthorization and provide expanded protection, justice, and services to all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The bill (HR 1585) will now head to the full House for a vote. NCJW applauds the committee’s passage of VAWA.
Sign On Letters
- On March 11, NCJW joined 45 groups on a letter endorsing the Native American Voting Rights Act organized by the Native American Rights Fund.
- On March 11, 20 faith organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Congress opposing the border wall waiver and eminent domain bills.
- On March 13, NCJW joined 218 groups on a letter organized by CLINIC urging the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to designate Venezuela Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
- On March 14, 130 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by National Partnership for Women and Families to Members of Congress urging support and swift passage of the Healthy Families Act.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Common Cause v. Rucho and Lamone v. Benisek, partisan gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Maryland that are being argued together in front of the US Supreme Court.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in O.L.B.D. v. Barr, a case before the First Circuit Court of Appeals petitioning the court to review an order of the Board of Immigration Appeals. In June 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed long standing precedent granting asylum to those who could prove themselves persecuted by ‘private actors,’ such as survivors of domestic violence, victims of LGBTQ or religious persecution, or victims of gang violence.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Parents for Privacy v. Dallas School Dist. No. 2, a case regarding transgender student rights before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Shurtleff v. City of Boston, a case before the First Circuit Court of Appeals concerning an attempt by some residents of Boston to convince the courts to order the City to fly the Christian Flag in front of City Hall in place of the City flag.