Budget and Tax
Tax Plan Nears Passage
Republican lawmakers have hammered out an agreement between the House and Senate-passed tax plans behind closed doors, without any input from Democrats.
The deal would cut the corporate rate to 21% and the top individual tax rate to 37%, benefitting the wealthiest Americans. And, it would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, leaving 13 million individuals uninsured. Perhaps most egregious, the tax plan would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion, with no clear way within the bill of recouping lost revenue. However, President Trump and Speaker Ryan have said that vital programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP will be on the chopping block at the beginning of the year to pay for the tax cuts.The tax agreement is expected to be voted on in both chambers as soon as Monday, and sent to the president’s desk for signature by Christmas.
Take Action! It’s Now or Never — Tell Congress that this agreement is nothing more than a tax cut give-away to the wealthy on the backs of low and moderate income individuals.
House Proposes Continuing Resolution Extension
As of this writing, the House is proposing a new continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government that would extend to January 19, 2018. It includes extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years, and community health centers for two years. It also includes the full defense appropriations bill, with funding levels far above the current law cap. What’s missing is funding for disaster relief as well as a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA, a program created in 2012 by the Obama administration allowing young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study, and obtain driver’s licenses. See more about the Dream Act below. The current CR to keep the government open runs out on December 22.
Senate Confirms Three More Circuit Court Judges
The Senate voted (50-48) to confirm Steven Grasz to a lifetime appointment on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Grasz is only the fourth nominee since 1989 to receive a unanimous Not Qualified rating from the American Bar Association (ABA). Not since 2006 has a federal appellate court nominee unanimously rated unqualified by the ABA even gotten a hearing, much less a confirmation. NCJW opposed Grasz, as well as the Senate’s disregard for the ABA rating, which has previously been respected. Read NCJW’s letter to the Senate and full statement on Grasz.
Also this week, the Senate voted to confirm Don Willett and James Ho, both to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. NCJW opposed Willett, and sent a letter to the Senate urging members to vote against his confirmation. As of Thursday, December 12, there have been a staggering 19 federal court confirmations since the beginning of this Congress. Twelve of those confirmations were circuit court judges. For comparison, in the first year of President Obama’s administration there were only 13 confirmations, 3 of them to the Circuit Courts.
Two Judicial Nominees Will Not Proceed
This week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) announced that the nominations of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer would not proceed. The White House subsequently confirmed that the nominations would be withdrawn, though this has not yet formally occurred. Talley and Mateer are the first of President Trump’s judicial nominees to fail. NCJW opposed both Talley and Mateer.
Immigration & Refugees
Dream Act Might Be Punted to January
Despite calls from activists and Dreamers for Congress to pass the Dream Act before the end of the year, Democratic leadership in the House and Senate quietly signaled that they may not tie a vote for the Dream Act to the spending bill Congress must pass to keep the federal government open past December 22. NCJW has joined with United We Dream and other Dreamer-led organizations to call for passage of the Dream Act in 2017.
Gun Violence Prevention
Background Check Bills Introduced
Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Background Check Expansion Act (S 2009) on October 25, which would require a background check for all gun sales and prohibits non-licensed dealers, manufacturers, or importers from conducting gun transfers. The bill has 32 cosponsors. In the House, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act on November 3rd, which would require that individuals prohibited from purchasing a gun be listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The bill has 144 cosponsors and was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on November 21. NCJW supports background checks for all gun sales.
Higher Education Bill Rushed Through Committee
On December 12, the a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform Act, or PROSPER Act (HR 4508) passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce (23-17). The bill, introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA) on December 1, has numerous harmful provisions, including:
- Eliminating public service loan forgiveness and ending various financial loan programs;
- Terminating safeguards for the students of for-profit colleges;
- Limiting the Department of Education’s ability to make regulations, including (and especially) rules addressing sexual assault on college campuses; and
- Allowing student groups and colleges themselves to discriminate based on religion.
The bill does not have a companion in the Senate, but could move forward when Congress returns from winter recess in January. NCJW opposes the PROSPER Act, and signed a letter asking that the troubling religious discrimination provisions be removed from the bill.
Sign On Letters
- On December 8, more than 200 organizations including NCJW sign on to a letter asking the Department of Labor (DOL) to extend the comment period for rolling back regulations regarding tipped wages. In response, DOL extended the comment period by 30 additional days.
- On December 12, NCJW joined 49 organizations on a letter to the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce opposing sections of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (HR 4508) that would allow the use of religion to discriminate.
- On December 8, NCJW joined 11 other reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination of Matthew Kascmaryk to serve on the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Cambridge Christian School v. Florida Athletic Association, a case before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals over the reading of a sectarian prayer on a stadium loudspeaker before a football game.