Eight Days Left To Avoid A Government Shutdown
Current funding for the federal government runs out on January 19. Lawmakers continue to negotiate about how to move forward, which could include another short term continuing resolution assuming they can reach agreement. The largest sticking point is a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA, see below), with other outstanding issues including reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, more below), disaster relief, and funding for the opioid crisis.
Reproductive Health & Rights
Waiting For CHIP
This past week marked 100 days since Congress failed to extend funding for the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides over 9 million low-income children and pregnant people with comprehensive and affordable health care coverage. Some states have already begun the process of shutting down the program and notifying families of coverage loss. Children’s health organizations are advocating for an immediate 5-year extension of CHIP as a part of the spending bill vote on January 19th, when funding officially runs out. NCJW supports a 5-year extension of CHIP by January 19.
Anti-abortion legislators At It Again
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) plans to introduce HR 4712, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act on January 16 — the week of the March for Life, when thousands of anti-abortion activists descend upon Washington.This bill — similar to measures introduced in the past — would target abortion access and inject politicians into the doctor patient relationship.Specifically, the measure would amend existing law to “prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.” However, there are state and federal laws that protect all individuals once they are born, making this bill unnecessary and a blatant attempt to further stigmatize abortion and providers. NCJW strongly opposes any legislative effort to decrease access to abortion and supports the legal rights of providers to practice with conscience.
Alex Azar Nomination for Head of HHS Moves Forward
On January 9, Alex Azar, President Trump’s choice to be the next head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), went before the Senate Finance Committee to answer questions about his qualifications for the role. His responses solidified that he is not fit for the position and has every intention to continue sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. The Senate’s lack of action on Azar prior to recess meant his nomination was returned to the White House for renomination in the new year. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve his nomination along party line in the coming weeks. NCJW opposes the nomination of Alex Azar to be the next Secretary of HHS. Take action to stop his nomination HERE.
New Medicaid Work Requirements Hurt Poor People and Women of Color
On January 11, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued new guidelines for states that want to require Medicaid recipients work in exchange for the health insurance coverage. Under the guidelines issued, states can require Medicaid beneficiaries to work, volunteer, or participate in job training, and they encourage states to narrow eligibility and limit enrollment into the program. This could threaten the health care of women who gained coverage under Medicaid expansion, who provide home care for ill family members, and who have chronic illness. Further, the guidelines could increase burdens for those who face other barriers to work like transportation, housing, and education. NCJW strongly opposes this effort.
Immigration and Refugees
200,000 Salvadorans Face Deportation
On January 8, the Trump administration ended temporary protected status (TPS) for El Salvador, putting 200,000 Salvadorans at risk for deportation. TPS was created to provide protection to those in the United States when it is unsafe for their return home, and was granted to El Salvador beginning in 2001 after a devastating earthquake. NCJW denounced this decision, one of several that is transforming US immigration policy into a vendetta against those admitted by previous administrations.
Dream Act Negotiations Continue
This week, Congressional Republicans and Democrats involved in negotiations announced that they had agreed to certain parameters – including a path to citizenship for Dreamers and increased border enforcement – but are facing pressure against a deal from both the more conservative and liberal wings of their parties. President Trump has gone back and forth on his expectations for the bill, specifically as to whether he would sign legislation that did not include funding for a physical border wall. Negotiations have become acrimonious, with Trump declaring on January 11 that he only wanted certain types of immigrants in the US – i.e. not individuals from African nations or Haiti. NCJW condemns these crude and racist remarks.
Conservative DACA “Fix” a No-Go
On January 10, Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a conservative immigration bill that includes a number of White House immigration priorities, such as funding for a border wall and erecting barriers to family reunification. The bill is considered a nonstarter in the Senate, but could distract from House efforts to create a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children. NCJW supports immediate passage of a clean Dream Act (S 1615/HR 3440) – take action HERE to tell your elected officials to pass the Dream Act today!
Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and January 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day. To mark both, NCJW co-sponsored a briefing on the Stop Exploitation Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (S 1693), held on Capitol Hill with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Rob Portman (R-OH). Additionally, NCJW and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights — co-chairs of the Jewish Coalition Against Trafficking — shared a statement of values, by 17 Jewish organizations, with lawmakers and the administration.
Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Four Federal Court Nominees
On January 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Kurt D. Engelhardt (Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit), Barry W. Ashe (District Court for Eastern District Of Louisiana), Howard C. Nielson, Jr. (District Court for the District Of Utah), and James R. Sweeney II (District Court for the Southern District Of Indiana). The committee questioned Engelhardt, currently a district court judge, on his rulings related to sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. The committee also asked several questions of Nielson, who once argued that a gay judge should recuse himself from a case involving LGBT rights and is one of the NRA’s primary attorneys. Nielson argued that the views he’s espoused in court are those of his former clients, but refused to state whether he shares those views. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on these nominations before they will be considered by the full Senate. NCJW advocates only for judges who are unbiased, fair, independent, and understand that the Constitution is meant to protect all Americans.
Senate Judiciary Committee To Vote on Several Nominees Next Week
Next Thursday, January 18, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on several controversial federal judicial nominees including Kyle Duncan (5th Circuit Court of Appeals), David Stras (8th Circuit Court of Appeals), Matthew Kacsmaryk (US District Court for the Northern District Of Texas), Thomas Farr (US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina), and others. NCJW opposes Stras, Duncan, and Kacsmaryk, and is concerned about several others. Stay tuned for ways to take action next week.
- Voting Rights: On January 10, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a voter-purge case — Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute. The Court will decide whether revoking an individual’s voter registration on the basis of inactivity violates the law, and is expected to render its decision before the end of its term in late June 2018. NCJW believes that it should be as easy as possible for those eligible to register to vote and stay registered, and joined an amicus brief in support of the Randolph Institute.
- Voting Rights: On January 9, a panel of three judges on the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional Redistricting Plan unconstitutional because it had been drawn to seek political advantage. The court found that the map had been drawn to ensure Republican “domination of the state’s congressional delegation.” While racial gerrymandering cases are common, this is the first time a federal court has invalidated a congressional map on the basis of partisan gerrymandering. This is especially notable given that the US Supreme Court will rule on a partisan gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford, later this term.
- LGBT Rights: On January 8, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case arising out of a Mississippi law that permits businesses and government employees to refuse to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals because of their religious beliefs. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit previously ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit. This decision will now stand. NCJW opposes all policies that permit discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.”
- Immigration Rights: On January 9, a federal judge in California ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) must stay in effect nationwide while challenges to the program’s termination work their way through the courts. In its ruling, the court disputed the Trump Administration’s assertions that DACA’s initial implementation had been illegal. While this ruling is an important step in the right direction, NCJW continues to fight for the passage of a clean Dream Act.
Congress Committee Shake-Up
This week, Sens.Tina Smith (D-MN) and Doug Jones (D-AL) were sworn into office, and Senate committee assignments shifted accordingly to mirror the new ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the Senate. Perhaps the biggest change for the issues NCJW cares about is on the Judiciary Committee, which now counts Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) as members — the first black members of the committee since the 1990s, and only the second and third African-American members of the committee in history. This committee oversees judicial nominations and hearings, criminal justice, and immigration issues, among others.
Anti-LGBTQ Governor Re-Nominated to Become Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
This week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was re-nominated by President Trump to become the next Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, an appointment within the US State Department. Brownback was first nominated last July, but his nomination was returned at the end of the term last year. Brownback has a long anti-LGBTQ record, including opposing marriage equality and blocking nondiscrimination provisions for LGBTQ individuals.
Sign On Letters
- On January 10, more than 160 organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Commerce Secretary Ross urging him to reject attempts to add a citizenship questions to the 2020 census.