Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: November 22, 2019

Federal Courts

Senate committee advances 2 extreme nominees over home-state senator objections

On November 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a markup and vote on the nominations of Patrick J. Bumatay and Lawrence VanDyke, both to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Both nominees were voted out of Commitee along party lines. 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 member 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 his confirmation hearing, VanDyke unconvincingly attempted to refute claims that he would not treat LGBTQ litigants with fairness. NCJW opposes VanDyke’s nomination.

McConnell sets up vote on anti-abortion extremist for week after Thanksgiving

On November 21, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nomination of Sarah Pitlyk to a lifetime appointment on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The Senate is expected to vote on Pitlyk’s nomination when it returns from Thanksgiving recess on December 2. Pitlyk earned a unanimous “Not Qualified” rating from the nonpartisan American Bar Association for her lack of experience and has built a career out of undermining reproductive health care, from abortion to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to birth control. NCJW strongly opposes Pitlyk’s nomination.


HIAS and others challenge refugee order

In September, President Trump issued an Executive Order allowing state and local jurisdictions to veto refugee resettlement. In fact, local refugee resettlement agencies would be responsible for collecting affirmative agreements allowing refugee resettlement from governors, mayors, county commissioners, and beyond, all within 60 days – a Herculean task. On November 21, three refugee resettlement agencies (HIAS, Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service) challenged the order in the US District Court in Maryland arguing that it violates federal law. NCJW supports HIAS and the other plaintiffs as they once again emphasize the importance of our nation’s federal courts.


Gun Violence Prevention

SCOTUS case, December Sabbath, and National Vigil  

The month of December is shaping up to be busy for gun violence prevention advocates. On December 2, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc et al. v. City of New York, a case challenging now-repealed New York City regulations limiting the locations to which holders of a “premises license” could transport their handguns both within and outside of the city. Join NCJW at the court that day or follow along on social media!

On December 4, NCJW is once again proudly sponsoring the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence in Washington, DC. Vigils and events are planned across the country. And, December 12-15, you can find or create an opportunity to engage in the “December Sabbath” — a project of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, of which NCJW is a member — to highlight the issue of gun violence prevention. Find resources for engaging in both here.

Economic Justice

Latinas earn only 54 cents on the dollar

November 20 was Latina equal pay day, marking the date in 2019 to which a Latina must work to earn as much as a white male earned in 2018. On average, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a white man; the gap is much larger for women of color.

Human Needs

Stopgap spending bill keeps government open 4 more weeks

The Senate passed (74-20) a four-week spending bill (through December 20) on November 21, following House passage (231-192) on November 19. Trump signed the measure (HR 3055) on November 21, which includes funding at current levels along with additional funding for the 2020 census and several other programs. The short term measure allows lawmakers time to negotiate spending levels for the 12 appropriations bills to fund government programs and agencies in FY’20, but it’s unclear how they will navigate the issues that remain sticking points:  funding for Trump’s border wall, reversing changes to the Title X program, and funding for domestic programs.


US begins deporting asylum seekers to Guatemala

This week, yet another Trump administration policy went into effect that makes it more difficult for asylum seekers to come to the United States. The administration has signed “third country agreements” with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that require migrants to seek asylum in those countries if they pass through them on their way to the US. If they did not, they can then be deported back to those countries (if they’re from one of those nations, they can be deported to the other two). The agreement with Guatemala went into effect this week, and a small number of migrants seeking asylum in the US have been deported to that country. The three countries, known as the Northern Triangle, have varying degrees of capacity to process, accept, and integrate asylum seekers, and have long histories of instability and violence (caused in part by US foreign policy in the region). These third country agreements are currently being challenged in the courts. NCJW condemns the administration’s ongoing attacks on asylum.

Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

VAWA on the fast track

On November 13, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S 2843, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. S 2843 is the companion bill to HR 1585, which passed the House of Representatives in April with strong bipartisan support. Both measures are supported by NCJW and were drafted with the support of advocates based on needs identified through extensive outreach to the field. However, on November 20, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced her own Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (S 2920), which fails to meet the identified needs of victims, survivors, and advocates.

  • Take Action! Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) may bring up both the Feinstein and Ernst bills for consideration at any time! Let your senators know you oppose the Ernst bill and instead support the advocates’ bill, S 2843, which would improve upon and enhance protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Call your senators using the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) or email them here.


  • On November 18, NCJW joined a letter organized by the Leadership Conference calling for Stephen Miller’s resignation after his close ties to white nationalist organizations were made public.


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