On the Hill Updates: November 8, 2019
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Yet another new rule authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination
On November 1, the Trump administration announced that it would immediately begin enforcing a new rule eliminating prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, or religion in programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The administration also declared that HHS-funded programs would no longer be required to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Notably, HHS awards more than $527.3 billion in grants and contracts annually to a wide range of programs addressing HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, child care, hunger, domestic violence, and community health. The nation’s $7 billion child welfare system would be most immediately impacted by the rule as foster care and adoption agencies in several states have already begun discriminating against prospective parents based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and faith. Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, a public comment opportunity lasting 30 days will begin. NCJW opposes all forms of taxpayer-funded discrimination and will submit a comment reflecting this position.
President Trump boasts about remaking federal courts in his image
On November 6, President Trump held a press conference and released a “fact sheet” highlighting his overhaul of the federal court system. In his remarks, Trump congratulated himself for, among other things, the over 150 judges confirmed to lifetime seats during his administration. He also went so far as to claim that “[g]enerations from now, Americans will know that Mitch McConnell helped save the constitutional rule of law in America.” Trump failed to acknowledge that the majority of his judicial nominees have long records of hostility towards civil and human rights and have not shown that they will be fair and independent. He also ignored the lack of qualifications of many of his nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released a statement in response, decrying Trump’s “clear misunderstanding of the role of our federal judiciary.” She enumerated several of the Senate norms that Senate Republicans have ignored in order to confirm as many judges as possible during this administration. NCJW is appalled by Senate Republican leadership’s utter disregard for the norms and procedures that are meant to ensure fair and mainstream judges. We will continue to advocate for a federal judiciary that is independent, qualified, and diverse.
Senate Judiciary Committee advances Menashi nomination despite mounting concerns
On November 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 along party lines to advance the nomination of Steven Menashi to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On November 6, the New York Times reported that Menashi helped devise a plan, while working with Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, to use private social security data to deny debt relief to thousands of students cheated by their for-profit colleges. A federal judge found that this plan violated federal privacy laws. This is merely the latest in a long list of concerns regarding Menashi’s fitness for the federal bench; he has also worked in the White House advancing Stephen Miller’s immigration policies and has extensive, offensive writings regarding women, religious freedom, and more. Several hours following the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nomination, setting up a confirmation vote on the Senate floor early next week. NCJW opposes Menashi’s nomination.
- Take action! Click here to contact your senators and urge them to vote NO on Menashi’s confirmation!
Senate confirms Rudofsky, another anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ judge, to district court
On November 7, the Senate voted 51-41 to confirm Lee Rudofsky to a lifetime seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Rudofsky helped Arkansas become the only state in America to successfully terminate Medicaid program funding to Planned Parenthood and has given speeches at events hosted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality in the US. NCJW opposed his nomination.
Federal court voids religious refusals of care rule
On November 6, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York declared the Trump administration’s refusals of care rule unconstitutional, blocking implementation of the regulation less than a month before it was set to take effect. The rule would have allowed any individual or entity involved in a patient’s care to refuse to deliver any part of any medical service based on religious or moral objections. Multiple lawsuits aimed to block the rule, arguing that enforcement would encourage discrimination against women, LGBTQ patients, the uninsured, low-income people, and other marginalized communities. NCJW applauds this decision as this regulation is an affront to the Jewish traditions of pursuing justice for all, ensuring fair treatment for all, and safeguarding individual religious liberty.
Latest immigration wealth test temporarily blocked
In October, the Trump administration issued a proclamation requiring immigrants to prove their ability to afford “approved health insurance” within 30 days of entering the US in order to receive a visa. On November 2, a federal judge in Oregon issued a temporary restraining order preventing the policy from going into effect one day later. The president’s proclamation amounts to an immigration wealth test, and the Migration Policy Institute announced that nearly two-thirds of future immigrants to the US would be blocked by this rule. NCJW applauds the temporary block and encourages the court to fully overturn this damaging policy.
SCOTUS could consider Sandy Hook gun case
The Supreme Court justices will meet on November 8 to consider whether to hear Remington Arms Co. v. Soto, a case brought by relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting challenging firearm manufacturers’ legal immunity. The families argue that Remington, the firearm manufacturer, violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by recklessly marketing its product. Remington sought immunity from the case under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which was passed in 2005 and protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products. The Connecticut Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed, explaining that “Connecticut law does not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior.” Remington appealed to the US Supreme Court. NCJW supports laws, policies, and programs that regulate firearms and ammunition to promote gun safety and prevent gun violence.
Gun Violence Prevention
National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence
December 14, 2019 marks the 7-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. NCJW is once again proudly sponsoring the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence in Washington, DC on December 4. Reach out to Jody Rabhan (JRabhan@ncjw.org) if you’re planning any type of gun violence prevention event, whether it’s a voter registration effort or a program to #EndGunViolence. Or, click here to join an event in your community.
Deadline to fund government looms
With the current continuing resolution expiring on November 21, there’s no telling when and for how long the government will be funded. As of this writing, with only a handful of legislative days before funding expires, lawmakers are hoping to pass a short-term stopgap measure through mid-December. Trump’s proposed border wall and abortion, among other issues, remain sticking points in negotiations.
TPS extended for six countries
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would extend work permits to Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan pending the results of ongoing litigation. (TPS allows immigrants from countries facing war or natural disaster to live and work legally in the United States.) According to the announcement, the administration will be able to terminate TPS for Honduras, Nepal, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti as quickly as 120 days after litigation is finished. TPS for El Salvador will wind-down more slowly (365 days) because of the recent safe country agreement between El Salvador and the US. These uncertainties emphasize that TPS holders continue to be threatened by deportation without a permanent solution. It’s time for the Senate to pass legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for TPS holders.
- Take Action! Tell your senators to pass the Secure Act (S 879) without delay.
Trump’s dangerous pick to lead DHS
This week, President Trump announced his intent for current Acting Undersecretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans Chad Wolf to be the next Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In order to step into the role, Wolf will first need to be confirmed as the undersecretary by the Senate; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his intent to vote on his confirmation next week. Wolf helped execute the department’s family separation policy in 2018 and was a key player in revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of immigrants. NCJW opposes Wolf becoming the next Acting DHS Secretary.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Senate no closer to VAWA reauthorization
Efforts to introduce a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have once again stalled in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to consider any House measure, including the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (HR 1585), supported by NCJW. It is increasingly likely that Democrats and Reublicans in the Senate will each release their own measures in the coming weeks. VAWA expired over a year ago, yet programs have continued to be funded through appropriations measures.
Take Action! Urge your senators to support a bill similar to HR 1585!
- On November 1, NCJW joined the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence on a letter to senators urging the Senate pass HR 1585 or a substantially similar bill.
- On November 4, the Clean Budget Coalition sent a letter to members of Congress signed by 79 organizations including NCJW urging Congress to fully fund important programs and reject any flawed bills that fail to remove poison pill policy riders that would undo essential public safeguards.