Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: May 8, 2020

Lawmakers urge leadership to protect access to reproductive health care

On May 7, Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) led more than 155 of their colleagues on a letter urging House Democratic leadership to block efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care in future coronavirus response legislation. The letter noted that previous relief packages have included the Hyde Amendment, a discriminatory measure denying insurance coverage of abortion in federal health programs. In April, NCJW sent its own letter asking congressional staff to address this issue and to incorporate other critical priorities to protect women, children, and families in the next phase of response legislation. NCJW knows that abortion isn’t a right if you can’t access it and supports the EACH Woman Act to ensure that everyone has coverage for this basic health care no matter how much they earn, how they are insured, or where they live.

Birth control access returns to SCOTUS

On May 6, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania, two very important cases that NCJW is watching this term. Unsurprisingly, the Justices appeared divided on the question of whether employers and universities can refuse to cover birth control as part of their health insurance under the guise of religious or moral objections and frustrated that the parties could not reach a compromise without the Court’s intervention. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg condemned the contested Trump administration regulations from her hospital room in Baltimore, noting that the rules “tossed entirely to the wind what Congress thought was essential, that women be provided [birth control] services with no hassle, no cost to them.” NCJW advocates from across the country joined a digital rally ahead of oral arguments, hearing from storytellers and activists including CEO Sheila Katz. NCJW was also proud to lead faith-based organizations on an amicus brief in these cases and to offer this toolkit for people of faith to take action. After nearly a decade of legal back-and-forth, NCJW urges the Court to finally affirm that everyone deserves access to birth control, no matter where they work or go to school.

 Senate returns to DC for unnecessary hearing on McConnell’s family friend

Despite ongoing health and safety concerns, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on May 6 on the nomination of Justin Walker to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Walker was nominated for this powerful appeals court exactly three weeks after being sworn in as a district court judge, and the seat for which he is nominated will not be vacant until September 2020. Walker, a long-time friend of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has repeatedly praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for whom he once served as a law clerk, for his criticism of the ACA and attempts to dismantle it. At the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) acknowledged NCJW’s opposition to Judge Walker for this and other reasons. During his hearing, Judge Walker refused to recuse himself from cases concerning the ACA despite making his personal views on the law widely and frequently known.  NCJW strongly opposes Walker’s nomination and co-sponsored a digital rally urging senators to do the same. Click here to watch NCJW Chief Policy Officer Jody Rabhan deliver powerful remarks alongside US senators and other important progressive leaders.  

  • Take Action! Click here to learn much more and urge your senators to reject Walker.

Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on biased, inexperienced nominee

On May 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup and vote on a number of federal court nominees including Stephen Schwartz, nominated to a fifteen-year term on the US Court of Federal Claims. NCJW strongly opposes Schwartz, who 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. During the last debate on Schwartz’s nomination, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) read a portion of NCJW’s opposition letter into the record.

  • Take Action! Click here to learn much more and urge your senators to reject Schwartz.

#CourtsMatter to executive power: SCOTUS tosses Bridgegate conviction

On May 7, the US Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Kelly v. US, one of the cases that NCJW is watching this term. Informally known as the “Bridgegate case,” it concerns the conviction and sentencing of Bridget Kelly, who served as deputy chief of staff to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Kelly was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for the decision to change the traffic patterns on the George Washington Bridge, creating gridlock in nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey. Officials cited a traffic study to justify the change, but prosecutors say that the real reason was a desire to punish the city’s mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid. Writing for the Court, Justice Kagan held that because the scheme in question did not aim to obtain money or property, there was no violation of federal-program fraud or wire fraud laws. The Court acknowledged Kelly’s abuse of power, but noted that “not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime.” NCJW applauds the Supreme Court’s adherence to precedent but believes that a key limit of executive power is a public official’s duty to be truthful about why policies are implemented.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Delays Data Collection

On May 7, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that they will delay EEO-1 Component 1 information collection until March 2021. EEO-1 Component 1 asks businesses with over 100 employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees and a contract of $50,000 or more with the federal government to report their employees sorted by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender to help the EEOC better understand the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of the workforce by classification, industry, and geography. It also helps the EEOC review a company’s diversity when the agency investigates a claim. Data on federal contractors is shared with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for their use in ensuring that federal contractors comply with nondiscrimination laws and regulations. EEO-1 Component 1 plays an important role in uncovering and combating discrimination and delaying its collection will harm women and people of color in the workforce, especially as people of color and women make up the majority of essential workers facing the current pandemic. NCJW supports the timely collection of EEO-1 Component 1 data. 

Administration rolls back Title IX protections

On May 6, US Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a Title IX final rule that rolls back protections for survivors by significantly narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and limiting the cases for which schools are responsible. Though Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, the new rule would instead require schools to ignore many reports of sexual harassment, require schools to use procedures that treat victims unfairly and make it harder for survivors to come forward, and allow religious schools to discriminate on the basis of sex. In the midst of a health care pandemic, when the administration should be providing much-needed resources and relief for students, they are instead taking action to make schools less safe. The rule is expected to go into effect on August 14. NCJW submitted a comment opposing the rule when it was proposed and issued a press statement highlighting the rule’s shocking disregard for survivors of sexual violence.

Sign-on letters:

  • Forty organizations sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judicial Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urging a cessation of the consideration of lifetime judicial nominees at a time when a continued focus on support and resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic should be paramount.
  • Thirty faith organizations on behalf of the Faithful Democracy coalition sent a letter to members of Congress urging funding and priorities to protect upcoming elections in the next COVID response package.
  • 284 organizations sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar urging him to restore access to the Affordable Care Act for DACA recipients.
  • 52 organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging Congress to take immediate and comprehensive action to ensure equal educational opportunity during the COVID-19 public health crisis and beyond.

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