On the Hill Updates: November 1, 2019
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Health care marketplace officially open
Over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected monumental changes in health care access and affordability, representing the most significant legislative advancement for women’s health in decades. The insurance exchanges are one of the law’s most important initiatives, serving as marketplaces where individuals can compare and purchase health plans. Open enrollment begins November 1 and continues through December 15 with all plans starting on January 1, 2020. In keeping with our commitment to reproductive justice, NCJW continues to work toward universal access to comprehensive care and coverage; we all deserve to have the resources we need to make our own decisions about our health, families, and futures.
- Take Action! Learn more and get covered here!
Senate Republicans refuse to protect patients with pre-existing conditions
On October 30, the Senate voted 43-52 against overturning a Trump administration rule that makes it easier for states to prioritize junk insurance plans over those that meet critical requirements established in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule allows states to request section 1332 waivers enabling them to buy and offer lower-quality plans that could discriminate against patients with pre-existing conditions. Every single Republican except Sen. Susan Collins (D-ME) voted against the resolution. NCJW believes that every person’s health is paramount and unassailable and works to protect patients and their access to care.
Senate Judiciary Committee considers two controversial Ninth Circuit nominees
On October 30, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Patrick J. Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke, both to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Bumatay is nominated to a California-based seat on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Sens. Harris and Feinstein (both D-CA), both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the latter as Ranking Member. Bumatay, 41 years old, has been a Federalist Society since 2003 and worked on the Bush–Cheney campaign in both 2000 and 2004. Likewise, Lawrence VanDyke is nominated to a Nevada-based seat on the Ninth Circuit over the objections of Sens. Rosen and Cortez Masto (both D-NV). VanDyke, 46, is also a longtime member of the Federalist Society and an anti-reproductive rights and anti-LGBTQ movement lawyer who has dedicated his career to partisan causes. The nonpartisan American Bar Association (ABA) rated VanDyke “Not Qualified,” citing reports of laziness, arrogance, entitlement, closed-mindedness, and beyond. At the hearing, VanDyke unconvincingly attempted to refute claims that he would not treat LGBTQ litigants with fairness. NCJW opposes VanDyke’s nomination.
Senate to vote on anti-abortion zealot for lifetime district court seat
On October 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10, along party lines, to advance the nomination of Sarah Pitlyk to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Pitlyk served as a law clerk for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and now works at the Thomas More Society, where she focuses on anti-abortion activism. She received a unanimous “Not Qualified” rating from the nonpartisan American Bar Association due to her lack of experience. NCJW opposes Pitlyk’s nomination. Read our full statement here.
Federal court blocks another unconstitutional abortion ban
On October 29, the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a preliminary injunction temporarily halting implementation of the state’s near-total abortion ban. Judge Myron Thompson wrote that the law — which outlaws abortion at every stage of pregnancy and makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison — “contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent” and “defies the United States Constitution.” Notably, the extreme abortion ban intentionally omits any exceptions for cases of rape and incest and employs appalling language directly comparing abortion to the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity. NCJW applauds this victory and will continue to oppose all measures which restrict access to safe abortion, shutter licensed clinics, and prevents patients from receiving care.
North Carolina partisan gerrymandering defeat
On October 28, a three-judge panel of North Carolina state judges held that the state’s congressional election map was drawn in a way to benefit Republicans and blocked the state from holding another congressional election until it is fixed. (“Partisan gerrymandering” refers to electoral maps drawn with the intent to benefit one political party over another.) In June, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in combined cases challenging North Carolina’s congressional map that federal courts had no role in deciding partisan gerrymandering cases; this major victory demonstrates that fight against partisan gerrymandering going forward lies with the states. NCJW applauds this ruling!
SNAP rule could leave nearly 1 million kids without access to free school meals
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) briefly reopened the public comment period for the second proposed rule that would revise Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Categorical Eligibility is an important state flexibility option for SNAP, allowing states to simplify the application process for both applicants and program administrators. It has been utilized by over 40 states over the past two decades, enabling states to ensure working families with modest savings can still receive SNAP. A surprise release of data — that the USDA should have disclosed earlier — underscores the deep harm of its proposed rule opposed by NCJW: it would eliminate access to SNAP for 3.1 million people and jeopardize free school meals for nearly 1 million children. Previously, the USDA estimated the proposed rule could jeopardize 500,000 children’s access to free school meals. New comments can be submitted through this portal until 11:59pm on Nov.1.
- Take Action! Submit a new, personalized, unique comment and include the following:
Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Regulations.gov Document ID
Food and Nutrition Service
[Include your name, city, state. Add in anything relevant about food insecurity in your city/state, NCJW community service work to address hunger in your area, data and statistics about the number of children in your state who rely on SNAP, etc.]
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) serves as the first line of defense against hunger. The proposed rule would:
- Circumvent Congress, which rejected such harmful proposals when it enacted the 2018 Farm Bill;
- Fuel rates of hunger and food insecurity by taking food off the tables of working families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities, among others;
- Prevent children from receiving healthy school meals, putting their health and learning at risk; and
- Create a sicker and poorer nation by denying struggling households the food assistance they need for a healthy, productive life.
Refugee resettlement moratorium continues
This week, the administration extended a refugee resettlement moratorium for the fourth time, announcing that no new refugees would be resettled in the US until November 5. A week-long moratorium at the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1) is common, but a freeze of this length is unprecedented. Reports say the president has not yet signed the formal paperwork legalizing the targeted admissions goal of 18,000 refugees; this paperwork kicks off the resettlement process each year. NCJW is outraged by this de facto ban and urges the government to begin meeting its commitment to resettle 18,000 people as soon as possible.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Senators introduce resolution supporting DVAM
On October 30, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a resolution in support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). This non-binding measure supports the goals and ideals of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and commends domestic violence survivor advocates, service providers, crisis hotline staff, and first responders. The resolution also expresses the sense of the Senate that Congress should continue to support efforts to end domestic violence, provide safety for domestic violence survivors and their families, and hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable.
- Take Action! Tell the Senate to go further by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act!
- On October 28, NCJW submitted a comment to the State Department opposing its interim final rule on the public charge.
- On October 30, NCJW joined a letter to the Senate with 41 gender justice organizations; reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations; and anti-violence and civil rights organizations in unified opposition to the nomination of Sarah Pitlyk to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.