Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: September 13, 2019

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

House committee considers maternal mortality legislation

On September 10, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to discuss four pieces of legislation designed to address America’s maternal mortality crisis: the Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA’s) Act (HR 1897), the Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act (HR 1551), the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies Act (HR 2902), and the Healthy MOMMIES Act (HR 2602). Doctors and advocates testified alongside Wanda Irving, whose daughter, an African American epidemiologist, died three weeks after giving birth. Like many women, Shalon Irving’s complaints were repeatedly ignored by medical providers. In May, a CDC report confirmed that the US is the “most dangerous place to give birth among developed nations,” especially for black and Native women who are three times more likely to die of pregnancy related causes than are white women. NCJW will continue to work to end racial disparities in maternal health and ensure that all have access to comprehensive, affordable, confidential, and equitable family planning, reproductive, sexual health, and maternal health services.

Federal Courts

Menashi hearing reveals little about nominee’s record, views

On September 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Steven J. Menashi of New York to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Menashi, who currently serves as Associate Counsel and Special Assistant to President Trump, has a history of inflammatory writings about “ethnonationalism,” women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, affirmative action in higher education, and beyond. At his nomination hearing, Menashi refused to answer questions from senators on both sides of the aisle regarding his work in the White House counsel’s office, specifically as it related to immigration and his work with Stephen Miller, citing attorney-client privilege. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that if Menashi was unwilling to answer any questions, then the hearing “is a worthless exercise,” while Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Menashi to “be more forthcoming” and not treat the hearing as “a game.” The Committee is expected to debate and vote on Menashi’s nomination in the coming weeks, after which the full Senate will hold a final confirmation vote. NCJW strongly opposes Menashi’s nomination.

Judicial nominees confirmed under Trump surpasses 150

On September 11, the Senate confirmed six district court nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench, reaching a running total of 152 judges confirmed during this administration. The newly-confirmed district judges are Stephanie L. Haines (Western District of Pennsylvania), Steven D. Grimberg (Northern District of Georgia), Ada Brown (Northern District of Texas), Steven C. Seeger (Northern District of Illinois), Mary S. McElroy (District of Rhode Island), and Stephanie A. Gallagher (District of Maryland). At their hearings, Brown and Haines refused to answer whether they would “honor the request of a plaintiff, defendant, or witness in [their] courtroom, who is transgender, to be referred in accordance with their gender identity,” raising serious concerns about their biases towards the transgender community. Similarly, Brown and Grimberg failed to acknowledge, when asked at their hearings, whether the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided, indicating an unacceptable disregard for racial equality. Of the 152 lifetime judges now confirmed under President Trump, the majority are white and male, and many have anti-civil rights backgrounds, creating a decades-long legacy for the Trump administration. NCJW believes that federal judges must be independent, qualified, and diverse and will continue fighting for the integrity of our judiciary.

Federal court blocks “abortion reversal” law

On September 10, a North Dakota district court issued a preliminary injunction temporarily preventing implementation of a state law requiring physicians to tell patients that a medication abortion can be “reversed.” Currently, eight states have passed laws mandating inclusion of information about “abortion reversal” in pre-abortion counselling despite that fact that this unethical procedure is not based in science and does not meet clinical standards. Indeed, the judge in American Medical Association v. Stenehjem wrote that “[s]tate legislatures should not be mandating unproven medical treatments, or requiring physicians to provide patients with misleading and inaccurate information.” As with any health care decision, patients must have access to comprehensive and accurate information in order to make an educated choice about abortion; to that end, NCJW opposes laws and regulations prohibiting providers from discussing abortion as well as policies implementing biased counselling requirements.

Asylum ban goes into effect

This week, the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the administration’s latest ban on asylum seekers can go into effect while a challenge to the ban makes its way through the courts. The ban prevents most people from seeking asylum if they have passed through a third country on their way to the US, effectively closing the border to all asylum seekers except those from Mexico. It’s unclear what this means for people who have been waiting in Mexico for months simply to first make their claim as a result of metering. NCJW is saddened by this callous ruling.

Gun Violence Prevention

House Judiciary Committee passes 3 gun safety bills

On September 10, the House Judiciary Committee passed three gun violence prevention bills out of committee:

  • HR 1236, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019, sponsored by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), which would provide due process to remove firearms from individuals who are at risk of hurting themselves or others;
  • HR 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act, offered by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), which would ban high capacity magazines with ten or more rounds; and
  • HR 2708, the Disarm Hate Act, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), to prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying and possessing guns.

Next up for these measures is consideration by the full House. NCJW supports these and other efforts to curb gun violence and keep our communities safe.

  • Take Action: While the House passed expanded background check legislation in February, the Senate has yet to act. Let your senators know it’s time to pass expanded background check legislation, S 42.

Economic Justice

Administration halts equal pay efforts

In March 2019, a district court ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could move forward with pay data collection that included a breakdown by race, ethnicity, and gender in an effort to identify pay discrimination. The EEOC collected the data once but announced this week it would not do so going forward. Their announcement comes on the heels of new data confirming that the wage gap has stayed stagnant for another year; at the current rate, women will not achieve pay equality with men until 2059 (and it’s still way worse for women of color). NCJW condemns this decision and supports pay data collection.

Human Needs

Census income, poverty, and health insurance data released

On September 10, the US Census Bureau released its annual data of income, poverty, and health insurance. The data reveal critical information, including:

  • More than 38 million people in the United States lived in poverty in 2018, approximately 1.4 million fewer people than 2017;
  • The percentage of people who are uninsured rose for the first time since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with 27.5 million without health insurance;
  • Income inequality remains near the highest levels of the past half-century;
  • White women saw the largest earnings gains in the last year, while Black women saw the smallest;
  • Women will not see equal pay until 2059, assuming current trends;
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and low-income portion of the Child Tax Credit lifted 7.9 million people out of poverty in 2018 and reduced the severity of poverty for millions more; and
  • SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and rental assistance each lifted 3 million people out of poverty.

The data is telling of racial and gender inequalities in the workplace, the administration’s undermining of the ACA, and the importance of federal programs addressing poverty, among so many other important results. In fact, NCJW plans to submit a comment on the Trump administration’s recent proposal to cut people off food assistance, resulting in millions losing their SNAP benefits. As millions continue to struggle with poverty, NCJW believes the administration should be doing more to reduce poverty and hunger, not taking steps to erode effective programs.

Senate funding bills off to a rocky start; CR all but certain

While the House has passed 10 of its 12 fiscal year 2020 (FY ‘20) spending bills, all eyes turned toward the Senate this week, where the battles have begun. Senate appropriators postponed the Labor-HHS-Education markup this week over an amendment from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to bar the administration from implementing its Title X gag rule. They also postponed the State-Foreign Operations markup over an amendment to end the global gag rule, which bars US foreign aid to groups that promote or provide abortion. Republican leaders consider both amendments in violation of the agreement made in crafting the budget deal (HR 3877) this summer. The Senate did advance the Defense spending bill — without an amendment offered by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that would block transfers of Pentagon funds for Trump’s border wall — and the Energy and Water spending bill on September 12.

With funding currently appropriated through September 30 at midnight, the House is expected to pass a continuing resolution or CR next week. The CR is expected to include “anomalies” for Census funding and other issues — but will not include the president’s request to allow border wall construction. The Senate will then have to pass the measure to send to the president for his signature before the deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown.


Refugee admissions target coming soon

By the end of September, the Trump administration will release the number of refugees it plans to admit to the US in the coming fiscal year. This number, called the “presidential determination” or PD, was the lowest in history at 35,000 last year and is expected to be even lower this year. By law, administration officials are required to “consult” with members of Congress on certain committees about the PD. However, these meetings did not happen last year and that trend looks likely to continue. It’s also worth noting that while the administration said it would settle 35,000 refugees this year, they are on target to accept only 28,670. White House Advisor Stephen Miller is acknowledged to be behind the continued dismantling of the US refugee resettlement program.


  • On September 9, NCJW joined 56 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations on a letter urging senators to pass common sense gun reform to protect our communities from gun violence and to condemn the actions of white supremacists.
  • On September 11, NCJW joined 26 other women’s organizations on a letter expressing serious concerns about the nomination of Steven Menashi to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in State of Washington v. Department of Homeland Security before the Eastern District of Washington opposing the Department’s public charge rule.


Related Resources