Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: September 27, 2019

Federal Courts

Senate Judiciary Committee considers extreme anti-abortion activist

On September 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on five judicial nominations: Danielle J. Hunsaker (US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit), William Nardini (US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit), Jodi Dishman (US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma), Sarah E. Pitlyk (US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri), and Daniel Traynor (US District Court for the District of North Dakota). 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. Additionally, Traynor has an extremely active and partisan presence on Twitter, frequently retweeting President Trump’s criticism of the media and conspiracy theories about Secretary Hillary Clinton. NCJW advocates for an independent, nonpartisan federal judiciary, and is concerned about Traynor’s social media presence.

One year anniversary of Kavanaugh’s confirmation approaches

October 6 marks one year since the Senate confirmed now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court amidst accusations of sexual assault against him and compelling evidence that he lied under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his personal and professional past. Kavanaugh’s confirmation process shook the public’s trust in both the Senate and our federal judiciary. Now, one year later, we have learned that not only were dozens of witnesses to Kavanaugh’s behavior ignored by the FBI, but also that an entirely separate and credible allegation was altogether dismissed. NCJW is urging House leadership to launch a full investigation into the new and existing allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh to determine whether he deserves his seat on the US Supreme Court.

Appeals court considers reinstating freeze on Title X gag rule

On September 23, an 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals again considered whether to freeze implementation of the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule while legal challenges move through the courts. Initially, the multiple district courts temporarily blocked the rule; these decisions were later reversed by the Ninth Circuit, allowing the rule to take effect nationwide. Unfortunately, during Monday’s oral arguments, the judges were again divided on the question of whether the administration’s decimation of the Title X program was unlawful.

Title X is legally designed to prioritize the needs of low-income families or uninsured people who might not otherwise have access to family planning services. Under the new rule, family planning clinics funded through Title X can no longer refer a patient for abortion and will be forced to maintain “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions. What’s more, providers are prohibited from discussing the full range of pregnancy options and are required to refer all pregnant patients for prenatal care. NCJW vehemently opposes the dangerous, unconscionable, and illegal gag rule which jeopardizes the health and lives of the people of color, young people, low-income people, immigrants, and LGBTQ individuals who largely rely on Title X.

Gun Violence Prevention

House hearing on assault weapons; hundreds rally afterwards 

On September 25, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on assault weapons and their use in recent mass shootings. Along with hearing from survivors and experts, the hearing focused on Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-RI) bipartisan measure (HR 1296) that would define assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns that have any one of a range of features. HR 1296 has 211 cosponsors, with 7 more needed to ensure House passage. Following the hearing, NCJW co-sponsored a National Rally to End Gun Violence at the US Capitol.  

NCJW’s letter to McConnell garners 700 signatures 

Thank you for signing NCJW’s letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding he do something to pass gun violence prevention legislation. NCJW Kentucky SPA Beth Salamon dropped off the letter along with the 700 signatures in his district office. See Beth’s video here! 

Florida’s red flag law upheld 

On September 26, the Florida’s First District Court of Appeals rejected a constitutional challenge to the state’s red flag law, passed after the Parkland shooting, that would allow guns to be removed from individuals found to pose a threat to themselves or others. Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, allow law enforcement officers to act on warning signs by petitioning a court to temporarily remove guns from dangerous situations. Interventions in states with red flag laws have already prevented potential tragedies, including suicides. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws. NCJW supports red flag laws and other measures to keep our communities safe from gun violence. 

Economic Justice

Administration releases final overtime rule

This week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released its final overtime rule, which raises the salary threshold for those eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $35,568. While this means that 1.3 million workers are newly eligible for overtime pay, an Obama administration overtime rule rolled back by the current administration would have expanded overtime pay to about 8 million workers. Oddly, DOL classified the rule as a “deregulatory action” because it will cost employers less money than the Obama-era rule, which never actually went into effect. An executive order issued by President Trump in January 2017 mandates that every new regulation be offset with two deregulatory actions. NCJW supported the Obama-era rule and is outraged that nearly 7 million workers are left out of this proposal.

Human Needs

Stopgap spending measure averts government shutdown, for now

The Senate voted on September 26 to pass (82-15) HR 4378, a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at FY’19 levels through November 21 and averting a government shutdown on October 1. The measure, passed by the House (301-123) on September 19, now heads to the president’s desk for signature. But, the issues that led to a CR — border wall funding as well as the domestic and global gag rules — remain as Congress leaves for a two week recess. Importantly, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed a State and Foreign Operations bill that fails to repeal the global gag rule, which prevents foreign organizations receiving US global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money. The committee blocked consideration of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) bipartisan amendment to repeal the rule.


Refugee admission number slashed again

On September 26, the Trump administration announced that it will lower the refugee resettlement number to 18,000 for the fiscal year 2020. This number, called the “presidential determination” or PD, was the lowest in history at 30,000 last year; still, the administration is on target to accept only 28,670 refugees in fiscal year 2019. An accompanying Executive Order allows states and localities to veto resettlement, requiring them to provide written consent to the federal government in order to accept refugees. White House Advisor Stephen Miller is acknowledged to be behind the continued dismantling of the US refugee resettlement program. NCJW is outraged at this gutting of the refugee resettlement program — an all-out assault on refugees fleeing violence and persecution — and will continue to demand safety and dignity for all refugees around the world.

Historic Muslim Ban hearing

On September 24, the House held a historic hearing on President Trump’s Muslim Ban, more than two years after the ban first went into effect. The hearing also highlighted the NO BAN Act (HR 2214), which would overturn the current Muslim and Asylum Bans and prevent similar blanket bans in the future. NCJW submitted a statement in support of the hearing.

Senate gives more money to ICE, CBP, border wall

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill including massive increases to the nation’s detention and deportation machine. The bill includes:

  • A $3.2 billion increase in funding for Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
  • $780 million increase in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including funding for 6,800 more detention beds than funded last year; and
  • $5 billion for the border wall.

These funding increases come after Congress allocated DHS an unprecedented level of resources last year for detention, deportation, and wall building. Further, over the summer, the administration moved money from other agencies within DHS to fund additional detention beds and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon and military construction for the wall without Congressional approval.

NCJW is a member of the #DefundHate Campaign, which calls for reduced funding for ICE and CBP.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Rizo v. Yovino, an equal pay case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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