On the Hill Updates: February 2, 2018
Reproductive Health & Rights
20 Week Abortion Ban Fails in Senate
On January 28, the ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’ (S 2311) failed in the Senate, 51-46. The bill required 60 votes to pass. Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have mixed voting records on abortion rights, voted against the 20-week ban. Three Democratic Senators — Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Bob Casey (D-PA) — voted for the measure. Manchin and Donnelly both serve on the federal advisory board of Democrats For Life of America. NCJW is opposed to all measures that attempt to prohibit access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
Alex Azar Confirmed by Senate as Secretary of Health and Human Services
Alex Azar was confirmed by the Senate, 55-43, on January 24 to lead the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this role, he’ll oversee the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates prescription drugs including those produced by his former employer Eli Lilly. Additionally, he will oversee both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. NCJW signed on to letters expressing serious concern about Azar’s ability to fulfill the mission of HHS —“to enhance and protect the well-being of all.”
Immigration and Refugees
Shift in ICE Enforcement
It was revealed this week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has written policy guidance in place for making deportation arrests at courthouses. The directive states that ICE agents should avoid areas dedicated to non-criminal proceedings, such as family court, but acknowledges that arrests can happen anywhere. ICE has not shied away from acting in courthouses in the past, but this marks the first time this shift has been written in a formal directive.
Battle with Sanctuary Cities Continues
Last week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) escalated its fight with sanctuary cities, jurisdictions whose law enforcement agencies choose not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. On January 24, DOJ sent letters to 23 jurisdictions — including Los Angeles, West Palm Beach, and Chicago — asking for documentation to prove they were cooperating with immigration officials.The letter threatened subpoenas if documents were not submitted.
90 Day Ban Ends, But What Happens Next?
Last week, the 90 day ban on refugees from 11 nations — Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — came to an end. On January 29, the Administration announced that refugees from these nations would still face increased scrutiny; however, guidance or policy on the specifics of this increased vetting have yet to be released. NCJW opposes all attempts to halt refugee admissions to the United States.
Syrian TPS Renewed, But Not Re-Designated
On January 31, the Department of Homeland Security decided to renew, but not re-designate, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syria. TPS allows immigrants to work and stay in the US if conditions in their home nations are deemed unsafe. TPS for Syria was first granted in the wake of its civil war in 2012, and was most recently re-designated in August 2016. Renewing TPS means that those covered prior to 2016 can stay in the US for another 18 months, but around 2,000 individuals who arrived after the last designation could be deported back to Syria. NCJW applauds the renewal, but is deeply distressed at the prospect of people, including families and children, being sent back to a country in the midst of an active war.
Department of Labor Held Back Data for Proposed Rule
On February 1, Bloomberg Law reported that the Department of Labor (DOL) prepared but then concealed an economic analysis concluding that its proposal to allow employers to keep their employees’ tips would cost working people billions of dollars. DOL is required to share all quantitative analysis as a part of the rulemaking process, making the omission a major process violation. NCJW previously submitted a comment opposing the rule, and in light of this revelation, submitted a comment asking that the rule be withdrawn.
Stras Confirmed to Lifetime Seat on 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
On January 30, the Senate voted to confirm David Stras of Minnesota to a lifetime appointment on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Stras was confirmed by a vote of 56-42. This is the first time in decades that the Senate has confirmed a federal appeals court judge who did not have two positive blue slips from home-state senators, and only the second time in history that this has happened at the circuit court level. Unfortunately, this is one of many examples of Sen. Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) rushing and manipulating the judicial confirmation process to suit an ultraconservative ideological agenda. Stras, 43, is on President Trump’s short list for the next US Supreme Court vacancy. NCJW strongly opposed Stras’ nomination.
- Want to go further? Make sure the Senate doesn’t confirm additional ideological, extremist judges. TAKE ACTION by calling your senators (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) or by clicking HERE to send a customizable message.
Sign On Letters
- On January 12, NCJW joined 37 organizations on a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to include early voting funding and legislation in the state budget.
- On January 26, NCJW joined two comments submitted to the Department of Education regarding information collection for DC’s school voucher program.
- On January 30, 78 faith leaders including NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman sent a letter to Members of Congress opposing an anti-immigrant bill, “Securing America’s Future Act.”