On the Hill Updates: April 20, 2018
Gun Violence Prevention
Today is the national school walk out!
Today is the April 20th Day of Action, supported by NCJW, and marking 19 years since the Columbine shooting. Click here for resources to get involved. And, once again, NCJW is supporting #WearOrange, the 4th National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Friday, June 1 will kick off #WearOrange Weekend, with community events across the nation. For more about what’s happening your state during the next congressional recess and beyond, click here.
House background check bill gains steam
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) filed a discharge petition on his Thompson-King background check bill, HR 4240, offered along with Peter King (R-NY). It’s a procedural tactic allowing 218 lawmakers (an absolute majority) to force a House floor vote on a bill, bypassing committee. The measure, which currently has 207 bipartisan cosponsors, would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet, or in classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friend transfers. HR 4240 only needs 11 additional co-sponsors to be discharged to the House floor for a vote. NCJW supports HR 4240, though not a perfect vehicle, as an important first step to saving lives. Click here to see if your lawmaker is a cosponsor of HR 4240.
Take Action! Call the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3121) to speak with your legislator. Ask them to support HR 4240, which would require criminal background checks for all gun sales, including sales that begin online or at gun shows, blocking purchases by individuals who are prohibited from having guns.
Budget and Human Needs
Balanced Budget Amendment to senate?
Last year, Congress passed a shameful tax plan that raises taxes on millions of working families while giving huge tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and corporations — a decision that is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the national deficit. Last week, the House attempted to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA, HJ Res 2), which would force deep cuts to human needs programs in order to pay for the deficit. Though they fell short of the two-thirds majority required to pass a constitutional amendment (233-184), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has shown interest in bringing the measure up in the Senate.
Take Action! Call your senators using the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3132). Let them know you oppose a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would slash key programs like SNAP, Social Security, and Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Even worse, BBAs can turn weak economies into recessions, leading to millions of jobs lost and harming families.
House agriculture committee marks up farm bill
The House Agriculture Committee passed the farm bill (HR 2, The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) on a party-line vote (26-20) on April 18, sending the measure to the full House for consideration. Included in the farm bill is SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps millions of low-income families access healthy food. At 80% of farm bill spending, the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program is often a target for conservatives — as it is this time around. At issue is House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway’s (R-TX) inclusion of work requirements and tightened eligibility rules for SNAP recipients, affecting millions of children. The House is expected to vote on HR 2 in May. NCJW opposes cuts to SNAP which would make it harder for millions of individuals to put food on the table, and result in children losing access to free school meals.
Reproductive Health & Rights
Latest HHS efforts to sabotage the ACA
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule, open for comment until April 23, 2018, that would expand the sale of “short-term limited duration plans” that do not have to comply with the consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and would leave consumers uncovered for major medical expenses. By appealing to young and healthy consumers, health plans sold under the proposed rule would undermine the market for real, comprehensive health insurance and instead leave consumers in plans that don’t protect them when they become sick. NCJW submitted comments opposing the rule which would harm consumers and health care markets.
And, on March 23, the US Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights sent the Office of Management and Budget a proposed rule on “Nondiscrimination and Health Programs and Activities,” which would remove nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals in Section 1557 of the ACA — indicating the administration is close to finalizing the rule. While it would not change the Section itself, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex in health care, the rule would make it much more difficult for transgender people to advocate on behalf of themselves by making it confusing for insurance companies and health administrators.This critical provision of the ACA is essential for addressing the ongoing individual and systemic discrimination in our health care system.
Human trafficking bill signed into law
On April 11, President Trump signed the FOSTA-SESTA package (HR 1865) into law, ensuring websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking are held responsible for their role in the crime.
FOSTA is Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-MO) Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and SESTA is the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — first passed as a package in the House on February 27, followed by the Senate on March 21. Just after passage, federal prosecutors seized Backpage.com, the largest purveyor of online child sex trafficking ads, and arrested seven Backpage executives including its chief executives. NCJW supported the FOSTA-SESTA package.
Students’ civil rights at risk
The US Senate is poised to vote to confirm Kenneth Marcus, opposed by NCJW, as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education. Marcus has a history of supporting sex segregation in public schools and, during his Senate hearing, did not agree to fully support or protect Title IX and other civil rights laws. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights plays a critical role in the enforcement of Title IX and is vital to ensuring every student can access education free from discrimination.
Take Action! Call your senators using the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3121). Urge them to oppose the confirmation of Kenneth Marcus, who has demonstrated a lack of commitment to protecting students from sex discrimination under Title IX.
Separation of Religion and State
Bill to strengthen protections for religious minorities in Senate committee
As of this writing, the Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to mark up S 994, the Protecting Religiously-Affiliated Institutions Act of 2017, offered by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The legislation is an amendment to the Church Arson Prevention Act passed 1996 in the aftermath of dozens of bomb threats last year against Jewish community institutions, JCCs, ADL offices, and Day Schools. S 994 is similar legislation to HR 1730, which passed the House (402-2) in December 2017.
House bill would force DACA, immigration consideration
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) introduced H Res 774 that, if passed, would invoke a little-known measure to bring four immigration reform bills to the floor of the House without the approval of committees or leadership. H Res 774, currently with 239 cosponsors, would bring to the House floor the Securing America’s Future Act, the DREAM Act, the USA Act, and an immigration bill of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) choice. The rule would allow bill sponsors the opportunity to amend language prior to debate and, ultimately, a vote. In this vote series, the bill receiving the highest number of votes exceeding 218 would pass the House under a rule known as “queen of the hill.” While rarely invoked, this tactic would allow lawmakers an opportunity to find solutions for DACA recipients and Dreamers, border security, and broader immigration issues.
Duncan unfit to fill lifetime appointment
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the nomination of S. Kyle Duncan to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The vote will be held on Monday at 5:30pm ET. NCJW strongly opposes this nomination as Duncan lacks the requisite impartiality and honesty to serve as a federal judge. He has demonstrated a clear bias against women and LGBTQ individuals. And, among other concerning pursuits, Duncan advocated against transgender rights as an attorney for the school board in GG v. Gloucester County School Board and against contraceptive coverage as lead counsel in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
Take Action! Contact your senators using the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3121) before Monday at 5:30pmET and urge them to vote against Duncan’s confirmation to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
#CourtsMatter to immigration
On April 17, the US Supreme Court ruled in Sessions v. Dimaya that a statute requiring the deportation of noncitizens who commit felonies is “unlawfully vague,” with Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the majority opinion (5-4). A lower court ruled in 2015 that Dimaya’s deportation “created uncertainty over which crimes may be considered violent,” and that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.The majority opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, is a victory for James Garcia Dimaya, whose two burglary convictions were considered violent crimes under the statute — despite not having involved violence, as well as for legal permanent residents and due process.
#CourtsMatter to sanctuary cities
On April 19, President Trump’s effort to crack down on sanctuary cities suffered another legal setback as the 7th circuit court of appeals upheld a nationwide injunction stopping Attorney General Jeff Sessions from applying new conditions to grant money to force cities to cooperate with immigration authorities. A three-judge panel — all Republican appointees — ruled that the administration likely exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement the new conditions without approval from Congress.
Kobach in contempt
A federal judge found Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court for disobeying a court order to stop enforcing the state’s controversial proof-of-citizenship law requiring individuals to show a citizenship document — a passport or birth certificate — in order to register to vote. Kobach, who led President Trump’s now-disbanded commission on voter fraud, violated the preliminary injunction to allow some potentially ineligible voters to remain eligible to cast a ballot, pending the outcome of the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the law.
Sign On Letters
- On April 11, NCJW and 275 organizations signed on to a letter to Deputy Director Homan of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other key offices at the Department of Homeland Security urging the agency to discontinue its policy of detaining pregnant individuals.
- On April 19, NCJW sent comments to the US Department of Health and Human Services in opposition to the proposed rule on short-term limited-duration insurance.