After Brief Government Shutdown, Massive Spending Bill Passes
Following a five hour government shutdown overnight, Congress voted early this morning to pass a massive spending bill that would keep the government open through the end of March. Included in the package is $300 billion in increased spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending, more than $80 billion in disaster relief, an additional four years of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (bringing it to a 10 year reauthorization), two years of funding for community health centers, an extension of the debt ceiling, and funding to address the opioid crisis. Though Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held up the vote due to the increased budget caps, the Senate ultimately passed the package, 71-28, before 2am today, followed by House passage (240-186) near dawn despite a historic 8 hour floor speech from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the need to address the Dreamers in this package. Keeping his promise on bringing immigration to the floor in exchange for a vote on the budget, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will allow consideration on Monday, February 12 (more below in Immigration and Refugees). The president signed the measure into law this morning. Next up, attention turns to the president’s FY’19 budget, expected to be released on February 12.
Reproductive Health & Rights
Trump’s Global Gag Rule Implementation Review
On February 8, the US Department of State released a report meant to assess the impact of the Global Gag Rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) during the period of May-September 2017 — the first several months the policy was in place following the administration’s release of implementation guidance. The Global Gag Rule prevents foreign organizations receiving US international family planning funds from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money. Under Trump, this rule was expanded to include international organizations that work on any US funded global health program, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, and Zika programs
In the report, administration officials claimed to have not seen or received reports of disruptions in services — running counter to reports from many international NGOs that work abroad on reproductive health. For example, Marie Stopes International halved its outreach sites that had formerly reached 150,000 women per year, and Planned Parenthood Global released figures similarly demonstrating what it deemed the “far reaching” consequences of the anti-abortion policy. NCJW is opposed to all domestic and international efforts that decrease and stigmatize access to safe, comprehensive abortion care.
Immigration and Refugees
Negotiations to Protect Dreamers Continue
Members of Congress continued discussions this week on how to protect Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children. There are numerous bills in play in both the House and Senate, including the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers; the hard line Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) bill, which would simply extend temporary protections while cutting legal immigration and ramping up enforcement; and the more moderate bill offered by Reps. Hurd (R-TX) and Aguilar (D-CA) and Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Coons (D-DE), which would provide a path to citizenship in return for some investment in border security. Meanwhile, the White House refuses to shift from their “four pillars,” which provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion for a wall on the southern border, an increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, family reunification limits, and an end to the diversity visa program. NCJW supports passage of the Dream Act.
Trump Establishes National Vetting Center
On February 6, President Trump announced his intention to establish a national vetting center to improve vetting procedures for individuals seeking to enter the United States. The center would be a joint effort between the US Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, and other intelligence agencies.
Happy Birthday FMLA
February 5 marked the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the landmark law that guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a close family member without losing their job. NCJW helped pass the bill in 1993, a great first step for working families, but there is more work to be done. Take action to support the FAMILY Act (S 337/HR 947), which would provide 12 weeks of comprehensive paid family and medical leave to all workers.
Second Transgender Troop Ban in the Works
The Trump administration revealed that it planned to issue a new policy on transgender military service on February 21. The admission came as part of a court filing in a lawsuit over a current ban on transgender troops, issued in July 2017. February 21 marks the deadline for when the US Department of Defense must present its recommendations on transgender military service. NCJW opposes any attempts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
Senate Judiciary Committee Advances More Extremist Judicial Nominees
On February 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the following judicial nominations to the full Senate floor for consideration: Kurt D. Engelhardt (Fifth Circuit Court); Barry Ashe (District Court for Eastern District of Louisiana); Howard Nielson (District Court for District of Utah); and James Sweeney II (District Court for Southern District of Indiana). Nielson, who was voted favorably out of committee along party lines (11-10), is a staunch anti-LGBTQ rights activist and has even advocated for the use of torture. NCJW sent this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee strongly opposing Nielson’s nomination.
Sign On Letters
- On February 7, 145 organizations including NCJW signed onto a letter asking Congressional leaders not to weaken the Johnson Amendment through the appropriations process.
- On February 7, NCJW joined 55 organizations on a letter asking the Department of Labor to withdraw the notice of proposed rulemaking on the tip pooling rule due to data analysis being withheld.
- On February 7, 50 organizations including NCJW signed on to a joint statement in support of public education.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in Lexington-Fayette Urban County Civil Rights Commission v. Hands On Originals, a case before the Kentucky State Supreme Court about whether a printing business violated Kentucky civil rights law when it refused to print tshirts for a school’s gay-straight alliance.