Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: March 6, 2020

Federal Courts

Supreme Court hears major abortion rights case

On March 4, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo, a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Justices considered whether the “benefits” of the law would be the same in Louisiana as they were in Texas, where the Court concluded just three years ago that an identical law “provide[d] few if any, health benefits for women.” Significantly, Chief Justice John Roberts said twice that the benefits of the Louisiana law would likely be the same (that is, nonexistent) while Justice Brett Kavanaugh questioned whether admitting privileges laws would be unconstitutional in every state. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg repeatedly emphasized the safety of abortion, stressed the difficulty of obtaining admitting privileges, and disputed the necessity of such requirements. Justice Ginsburg also noted that Louisiana had not raised the issue of “third-party standing” — the right of abortion providers and clinics to sue on behalf of their clients — until the case reached the Supreme Court, prompting Justice Samuel Alito to launch a long line of questions on this issue.

During oral arguments, NCJW advocates from across the country participated in the #MyRightMyDecision rally on the steps of the Supreme Court, organizing an invocation at the start of the event led by CEO Sheila Katz and joined by prominent faith leaders. NCJW Greater New Orleans Section President Susan Hess also spoke at the rally in Louisiana. NCJW will be closely watching for the Court’s announcement of its decision in June and calls on the Justices to uphold settled law cementing our constitutional right to abortion.

Rare public statement by Chief Justice Roberts demonstrates politicization of SCOTUS

During the #MyRightMyDecision rally outside of the US Supreme Court on March 4, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke in favor of abortion rights. His comments included a statement that Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh “will pay the price” if they do not adhere to the Court’s precedent. Subsequently, Chief Justice Roberts issued a public statement chastising Schumer, calling his comments “inappropriate” and “dangerous.” Notably, Roberts did not make any public comments following President Trump’s recent Twitter attack on Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg, nor did he comment after Kavanaugh threatened revenge against Democratic senators who opposed his confirmation. Chief Justice Roberts’ decision to respond only to comments made by the highest-ranking Democratic senator reveals his own partisan biases. NCJW believes that our nation’s courts, especially at the highest levels, must be independent and insulated from partisanship. We will continue to advocate for fair, independent, and diverse federal judges.

‘Remain in Mexico’ judicial whiplash

A series of decisions has created confusion about the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), more commonly known as Remain in Mexico. Remain in Mexico forces asylum seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico during their asylum proceedings. More than 60,000 people have been forced to wait in Mexico since the program was implemented in January 2019, despite overwhelming evidence that this policy has resulted in barriers to legal representation at best, and kidnappings, torture, trafficking, sexual assaults, and murders at worse. On February 28, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction halting the program, but the same court stayed the injunction a few hours later, leaving the program in place while the government appealed. Then, on March 4, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the administration can continue to Remain in Mexico nationwide through March 11, and after that only in areas outside the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction (i.e. only in New Mexico and Texas). In the meantime, the administration has asked the US Supreme Court to stay the court’s original decision as the case continues through the courts. NCJW opposes Remain in Mexico, which effectively makes it impossible for tens of thousands of migrants to successfully seek asylum.

Senate Judiciary Committee postpones advancement of controversial nominee

On March 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee once again “held over” the nomination of Stephen Schwartz to the Court of Federal Claims, meaning that it has postponed advancing his nomination for at least an additional week. Schwartz has a career-long record of attempting to curb LGBTQ, women’s, immigration, and voting rights. Like many of President Trump’s judicial nominees, Schwartz has a history of extremely controversial writings on topics related to health care (including abortion), governmental authority, affirmative action, and beyond. He has also never practiced before the Court of Federal Claims to which he is nominated. NCJW strongly opposes Schwartz’s nomination and sent this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

  • Take Action! Click here to tell your senators to oppose Schwartz’s nomination.

Voter Engagement

One year since democracy bill passed House

This Sunday, March 8, marks one year since the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act (HR 1). The bill would enact a series of voting reforms, including:

  • Modernizing voter registration;
  • Restoring voting rights to people who are currently or were formerly 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.

The bill has languished in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) legislative graveyard since then.

Immigration and Refugees

Appropriations process continues

In February, the president released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 (FY21). Hearings in which administration officials make the case for their budgets before congressional authorizing and appropriations committees began last week, and coalitions and organizations are submitting their priorities to appropriators. NCJW is one of the co-chairs of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, which urged legislators to uphold our moral and legal obligations, to refuse to expand immigration detention and enforcement, and to instead invest in humanitarian assistance, refugee protection, and integration, and support for vulnerable migrants.

Sign on Letters

  • On February 27, NCJW joined 20 organizations on a letter submitted to the record for a recent House Homeland Security hearing, “Examining the Effect of the Border Wall on Private and Tribal Landowners.”

Related Resources