Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: September 11, 2020

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Beginning on September 14, NCJW will join with partners in the All* Above All coalition to mark the 44th year of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment is language added to annual appropriations legislation that prohibits government health programs from covering abortion care; this means that those enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and many other federal health plans are denied insurance coverage of abortion.

To be clear, the Hyde Amendment is not permanent law. Legislators must approve this language each year during the appropriations process. It’s time to set the record straight and to fight for people struggling financially; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; young people; people living with disabilities; rural communities; immigrants; and LGBTQ individuals who have been disproportionately denied access to basic health care for over 40 years.

Please see below for a schedule of events; all NCJW sections and advocates are encouraged to participate on social media. You can repost updates from NCJW’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts or use our resources (like this EACH Woman Act Action Alert or petition, our Abortion & Jewish Values Toolkit or #AbortionAccess4All Toolkit, or this recent op-ed co-authored by NCJW CEO Sheila Katz) to craft your messages.

  • Week 1 (Week of September 14): Launch – Bold AF
    • Why are we Bold AF for abortion coverage? We will use this week to educate and explain why abortion coverage is critical to achieving justice and how Hyde has been a barrier for 40+ years.
    • Sample: Hyde and related coverage bans block those enrolled in federal health programs from using their insurance to pay abortion care. BIPOC communities & those struggling to make ends meet–who are disproportionately impacted by Hyde–deserve better. #BeBoldEndHyde
  • Week 2 (Week of September 21): United AF
    • Who is United AF to end Hyde? We will use this week to spotlight the diversity and unity of the #BeBoldEndHyde movement.
    • 23rd at 3:00 pm ET: Join our #BoldAFUnitedAF Twitter Storm by filling in the blank: We fight for _____, and we are #BoldAFUnitedAF to end Hyde because _____. #BeBoldEndHyde
  • Week 3 (Week of September 28): Bold AF + United AF = Unstoppable
    • What will a future WITHOUT Hyde and WITH full abortion coverage look like? We will use this week to highlight our vision and mobilize supporters to take action to end Hyde, and all coverage bans on abortion.
    • 30, all-day: Bold AF + United AF Tag Challenge.
      • Share a selfie video/photo, and tag/nominate up to three organizations and individuals to commit that they are Bold AF + United AF in the movement to end Hyde and all coverage bans on abortion.
      • Sample: Our #BoldAFUnitedAF future rooted in reproductive & economic justice = end of Hyde. The next administration must commit to a post-pandemic world where all of us can thrive. We tag @XXX, @XXX, @XXX to join us. Copy/paste + tag 1–3 groups to keep going!

Federal Courts

Trump announces new Supreme Court shortlist

On September 9, President Trump released a shortlist of potential SCOTUS nominees in the event of a vacancy. While there is no current Supreme Court vacancy, the list of candidates makes clear the administration’s commitment to undermining human and civil rights. Here is the shortlist of potential nominees: Bill Pryor, Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardimann, Bridget Bade, Daniel Cameron, Paul Clement, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Stuart Kyle Duncan, Steven Engle, Noal Francisco, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), James Ho, Gregory Katsas, Barbara Lagoa, Christopher Landell, Carlos Muniz, Martha Pacold, Peter Phipps, Sarah Pitlyk, Allison Jones Rushing, Kate Todd, and Lawrence VanDyke. NCJW believes federal judicial nominees must be fair, impartial, and qualified for a lifetime seat on the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.

Senate to vote on vehemently anti-abortion nominees next week

At its July 30 executive session, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn to the US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by a 13-9 vote. The full Senate is expected to vote on these nominees next week. During his successful campaign for an Illinois state circuit court seat, David Dugan made it clear that he believed that life began at conception and that “. . . from that moment forward, taking that child’s life is the taking of a human life.” He questioned the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. He was involved in various organizations as an anti-abortion advocate, supporting biased counseling laws and restricting abortion access for young people. Stephen McGlynn was a leader in the Illinois Federation for Right to Life. He was endorsed in his campaign for the state appellate court by Illinois Citizens for Life PAC and by Family PAC, which is affiliated with the Illinois Family Institute, an organization designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. NCJW opposes David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn for lifetime seats on the federal bench.

  • Take Action! Contact your senators and urge them to oppose these two troubling anti-abortion district court nominees.

Anti-abortion, anti-gun safety nominee for US District Court

On July 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Toby Crouse, nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Since 2018, Crouse has served as Kansas Solicitor General and proved to be a highly partisan opponent of many vital rights — reproductive, voting, and workers, among others. On behalf of the state of Kansas, he urged the Supreme Court to review a case defunding Planned Parenthood, a case that the Tenth Circuit disagreed with, and the Supreme Court declined to hear. Crouse also joined amicus briefs in several other anti-reproductive health care cases. In private practice, Crouse defended the infamous Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a case challenging his redistricting plan. Later, as Solicitor General, Crouse supported other restrictive voting laws. He joined amicus briefs in anti-immigration, anti-worker, anti-gun safety, and other cases challenging fundamental rights. The Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to vote on Crouse’s nomination in the coming weeks. NCJW opposes the nomination of Toby Crouse, given his extreme views on issues impacting women, children, and families.

Unqualified nominee with ultraconservative ties for a lifetime appointment

On September 8, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle was officially nominated to the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was the following day. Mizelle has spent a total of four years in practice and has experience in only two trial cases, neither at the senior level. Mizelle has deep ties to some of the nation’s most conservative legal voices, in addition to being a longtime member of the Federalist Society, an ultraconservative legal society. Additionally, the American Bar Association found Mizelle to be “Not Qualified” for a lifetime appointment, directly citing her lack of meaningful experience. NCJW believes Mizelle lacks the proper experience required for a lifetime appointment and opposes her nomination.

  • Take action! Call your senator today and urge them to oppose Mizelle’s nomination. Find their phone number here and use this call script: My name is [your name]. I am an advocate with the National Council of Jewish Women calling from [city/state] in opposition to the nomination of Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for a lifetime appointment to the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Mizelle is overwhelmingly unqualified for this position, with only four years of experience. She is also rated “Not Qualified” by the impartial American Bar Association. I urge you to reject her nomination.

#CourtsMatter to gun safety

On August 14, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a California ban on high-capacity gun magazines. The law passed as a 2016 ballot initiative, restricted Californians from owning high-capacity gun magazines often used in mass shootings. US Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lee, a Trump appointee, argued the ban violated the Second Amendment. California Attorney General Xavier Beccara is considering an appeal to the full appellate court. The chaotic messaging over the Second Amendment continued when, on September 1, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2018 New Jersey law, which similarly banned high-capacity gun magazines. The appellate panel ruled that the ban was “reasonable” and did not violate any constitutional rights. The New Jersey law is intended to limit mass-shootings. NCJW works to expand and enforce laws, policies, and programs that regulate firearms and ammunition, ban assault and other military-style weapons and accessories, and prevent gun violence and promote gun safety.

#CourtsMatter to education

On September 4, a federal judge struck down Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ plan requiring public schools to send a more significant share of pandemic assistance to private schools than is required under current federal law. At issue in the case is $13 billion for K-12 schools in the CARES Act and how public schools must share the funds with private schools to provide equitable services. Under federal law, funds are apportioned based on the number of low-income students at private schools. Yet, DeVos’s guidance said school districts must allocate money for private school students based on total enrollment, irrespective of the students’ income. While other courts have blocked DeVos’ rule, this decision is final and renders the entire rule illegal. NCJW supports quality public education and ensuring resources to help every child succeed.

#CourtsMatter to voting

On September 9, a federal court blocked a Tennessee law that bars first-time voters from casting ballots by mail unless they show identification at an election office beforehand. The law impacted an estimated 128,000 newly registered voters last election cycle. NCJW works for safe election laws, policies, and practices that ensure — without foreign or domestic interference — safe, easy, and equitable access to the ballot and eliminate obstacles to the electoral process so that every vote counts and can be verified.

#CourtsMatter to immigration

On September 10, a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the president violated federal law by ordering the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from census data used to determine the number of congressional seats apportioned to each state. In reaching their decision, the judges cited the Constitution’s requirement that the census should include all “persons” in a state and the language of current statutes stipulating that the “total population” and the “whole number of persons” in each state must be counted. This case is one of several pending challenges to the president’s July order, which could have excluded millions of undocumented immigrants — likely discouraging them from participating in the census altogether — and put some states at risk of losing representation in Congress. This case also follows the administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the census, a move blocked by the US Supreme Court in 2019. NCJW rejects the president’s efforts to treat undocumented immigrants as though they are less-than other members of our community and celebrates this decision.

Human Needs

Senate votes on skinny coronavirus bill

On September 10, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) failed (52-47) to garner the 60 votes needed to proceed to a vote on his “skinny” coronavirus bill. The bill would do little to ensure the safety and economic recovery of America’s families. It would instead divert federal aid to private schools, condition funding for schools on the physical reopening of the buildings, and limit the liability for corporations and other employers if employees get sick on the job. Further, it would halve the unemployment benefits in the HEROES Act, offer nothing for immigrant and mixed-relief households, and scale back additional funding for the US Postal Service and child care centers. This half-hearted attempt at relief does nothing to support nutrition and hunger programs, the census, paid family leaves, rental assistance, vote-by-mail programs, state and local governments, and health care workers, among other areas. It is clear Sen. McConnell is prioritizing judges over lives, rushing through unqualified and partisan nominees instead of focusing on a meaningful coronavirus response. NCJW supports the House-passed HEROES Act that directs more than $3 trillion to state and local governments, health systems, safe elections, and a wide range of progressive initiatives to help workers, families, and the economy recovers.

September 30 deadline looms

As the government heads toward a shutdown at midnight on September 30, lawmakers are scrambling to pass a stopgap funding measure or Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the lights on. It’s anyone’s guess as to how long the measure will be in place and if it will be “clean” — without additional legislative language. Given the November election, many Republican lawmakers are pushing for a deal that would extend through December.

Sign-On Letters

On September 10, NCJW and the ACLU sent a letter to the US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Liberties requesting a thorough investigation of religious-freedom violations committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

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