Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: March 8, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Stop Shackling and Detailing Pregnant Women Act reintroduced

On March 5, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act (S 648), a measure to protect the health and safety of pregnant women and youth in detention. The bill was first introduced in the 115th Congress in response to reports surrounding the heinous treatment of pregnant women in ICE custody. The bill would reinstate the Obama-era presumption of release of pregnant women and youth previously ended by the Trump administration, set minimum standards for health care, prohibit shackling, and require public reporting on the detention of pregnant women. NCJW endorses this bill consistent with our principle that “[h]uman rights and dignity are fundamental and must be guaranteed to all individuals.”

Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act reintroduced

On the eve of International Women’s Day (March 7), the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act (HR 1581/S 707) was reintroduced in the House and Senate. The bill is led by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Lois Frankel (D-FL) as well as Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Significantly, the bill requires the State Department to restore critical comprehensive reporting on reproductive rights in all future Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. NCJW endorses this bill alongside 92 organizations dedicated to ensuring that governments around the world respect women enough to enforce reproductive rights as human rights.

House subcommittee continues to fight to strengthen ACA

On March 6, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held its second legislative hearing to consider three bills designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by lowering consumer costs and expanding access. Introduced by Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN) and Scott Peters (D-CA), the State Health Care Premium Reduction Act (HR 1425) would provide funding to states to establish state reinsurance programs or to provide financial assistance to reduce out-of-pocket costs. HR 1386 — the ENROLL Act introduced by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) — would provide funding for the ACA’s navigator program which provides outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to consumers eligible for marketplace and Medicaid coverage. Finally, the SAVE Act (HR 1385), introduced by Reps. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), would provide $200 million of federal funds to states establishing insurance marketplaces. Relatedly, the SAME Act (S 585), sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Doug Jones (D-AL), would incentivize states to utilize the ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision by providing each state with the same levels of federal matching funds regardless of when it chose to expand the program. Access to health coverage is a reproductive justice issue — we all deserve to have the resources we need to make our own decisions about our health, families, and futures. NCJW supports the ACA, which has expanded access to health care to millions.

Federal Courts

Senate continues to fast track extreme right-wing judicial nominees

Between March 5 and 7, the Senate confirmed three judges to circuit courts of appeal: Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina to the 4th Circuit (53-44); Chad Readler of Ohio to the 6th Circuit (53-47); and Eric Murphy of Ohio to the 6th Circuit (52-46). NCJW opposed all three nominations, and is disgusted by the Senate’s rush to rubber stamp President Trump’s ideological nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench. Read our full statement here. The Senate will continue its fast-tracking of nominees next week, when it will vote on the nominations of Paul Matey of New Jersey to the 3rd Circuit and Neomi Rao to the District of Columbia Circuit. If confirmed, Rao would 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 opposes Rao’s nomination.

Senate committee considers record number of circuit nominees without home-state senator support

On March 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nominations of Joseph F. Bianco and Michael Park, both of New York, to the full Senate for consideration over strong objections by home-state Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirtsen Gillibrand (both D-NY). Park and Bianco will serve on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for life if confirmed, but neither has received a favorable “blue slip” from the New York senators indicating support. Michael Park has undermined civil rights by defending the Trump administration’s fight to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census and challenging affirmative action at multiple universities. He has also worked to subvert the longstanding fishing rights of Alaskan Natives, reduce access to abortion care, and protect the wealthy and powerful at the expense of workers. NCJW opposes Park’s nomination.  

Likewise, on March 13, the Committee will hold a hearing on the nominee Kenneth Lee 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. Lee failed to disclose controversial writings revealing extreme views on important issues. In the one hundred years before President Trump took office, only five judges were confirmed with only one blue slip. Two years into his administration, the Senate has already confirmed four of Trump’s nominees that lack home-state senator support and is on track to confirm six more. 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.

Domestic gag rule faces multiple legal challenges

On March 4, the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule was officially published in the Federal Register, setting May 3, 2019 as the final rule’s effective date and igniting a flurry of lawsuits. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has now filed 47 lawsuits against the Trump administration, announced he would sue to prevent the rule from denying 1 million California “patients access to critical health care services and prevent[ing] doctors from providing comprehensive and accurate information about medical care.” A coalition of 20 states and DC also announced suits seeking to prevent implementation of the onerous new requirements. Reproductive rights and patients advocacy groups — including the American Medical Association, Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, and Planned Parenthood — have also joined the legal battle against the gag or have publicized their plans to do so. All of this comes on the heels of a letter from House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats to the Department of Health and Human Services questioning “the final rule’s compliance with the Title X statute, the public health implications of this action, and the Administration’s rationale for these changes.” NCJW strongly opposes attempts to block low-income women, women of color, young women, and LGBTQ individuals from accessing safe and legal abortion and family planning services and submitted comments opposing the proposed gag rule in July 2018.

Equal pay victory

In September 2017, the Trump administration scrapped a pay data collection rule finalized the year before on the grounds it was too burdensome. The rule would have required businesses to disclose data on diversity on compensation to the the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which would have made it easier to identify patterns of pay discrimination. The National Women’s Law Center filed suit, and this week a federal district court decided that pay data collection could move forward. NCJW supported the original rule and lauds the judge’s decision.

Second census victory

In January, a federal district court in New York ruled that the 2020 Census could not include a citizenship question. This week, a second judge in California agreed, finding that the administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act and the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution when it added the question. The US Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the New York case on April 23, and it’s expected the hearing will now include an appeal of the California case too. NCJW opposes adding a citizenship question to the census as it would suppress response rates in communities of color.

Voter Engagement

Vote for HR-1

On March 6, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on HR 1, the For the People Act. The bill would enact a number of voting rights and elections, campaign finance, and ethics reforms. While the bill is expected to pass the House, 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.

Economic Justice

Minimum wage bill advances

On March 6, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Raise the Wage Act (HR 582) along party lines. The bill would raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024, and end provisions that allow companies to pay workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. NCJW endorses this important legislation.

Immigration and Refugees

Nielsen grilled by committee

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on March 6, “The Way Forward on Border Security,” featuring Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as the witness. The hearing was the first opportunity for Democrat lawmakers to question the Nielsen since the administration’s family separation debacle in spring and summer 2018. The hearing was contentious, as the Secretary and elected officials debated the treatment of asylum seekers, including children. NCJW encourages additional oversight of DHS and its treatment of asylum seekers.

Remain in Mexico policy expands

In January, the Trump administration began implementing its Remain in Mexico policy, officially dubbed “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Asylum seekers are now forced to stay in Mexico for months or years while their claims are processed. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) piloted the policy at a single border crossing in San Diego, and gradually expanded it to others. This week, the Associated Press obtained an internal DHS memo that said the program was expanded last week to include people who cross the border between official ports of entry. Further, the memo explicitly directed border agents to target Spanish-speakers from Latin America. Last, the memo spelled out groups exempt from the policy — pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, people suffering medical issues, Mexican asylum seekers, and children traveling alone. NCJW opposes these cruel attempts to block asylum seekers from the US.

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

VAWA reauthorization moves forward in House

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on March 7. The legislation, also introduced that day, is co-sponsored by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and would build on the 2013 reauthorization to provide critically needed enhancements to protect all survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence — NCJW is on the steering committee — provided testimony in support of VAWA at the hearing.

Goessling nominated to head Violence Against Women Office

The President nominated Shannon Goessling to lead the Office of Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. NCJW is alarmed by this nomination. Goessling is a conservative activist with minimal experience supporting survivors and extensive experience opposing rights for immigrants and LGBTQ individuals. The Office of Violence Against Women is charged with reducing violence against women and strengthening services to all survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider Goessling’s nomination soon.

  • Take Action! Call your senators using the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121. Remind them that a vote for Goessling is a vote to weaken the Violence Against Women Act, and urge them to oppose her confirmation.

Sign On Letters

  • On March 5, 82 faith groups including NCJW joined a letter organized by the #GreaterAs1 campaign urging Congress to pass a permanent, legislative solution to protect Dreamers, and TPS and DED holders.
  • On March 5, NCJW joined over 70 other organizations on a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education in support of the current Title X program, requesting additional resources for the current network, and expressing dismay at the medically unnecessary and onerous changes to the program under the new gag rule.
  • On March 5, 26 faith groups including NCJW joined a letter organized by the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs to members of the House Education and Labor Committee urging them to pass the Raise the Wage Act.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Adams v. St. John’s County School Board, a case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a trans-inclusive restroom policy at a school.
  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Fields v. Speaker of the House, a case before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ prayer policy that permits theistic prayers by individuals who believe in God, but not secular invocations by nontheists, during the opening invocation of a legislative session.


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