With funding for the government set to expire at midnight on January 19, the US House of Representatives passed a budget agreement, 230-197, on January 18. The measure would fund the government for four weeks, through February 16, extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 6 years, and delay some specific health-care taxes. As of this writing, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate where Democrats have made it clear that the measure must include a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Dreamers (see more below).
Reproductive Health & Rights
A New #RXforDiscrimination
On Thursday, January 18, the Administration announced a new “division” of the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to oversee enforcement of federal laws that allow providers to refuse to provide care based on religious or moral objections. The description of the new division’s mandate – the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division – cites abortion, sterilization, and physician-assisted death as examples of medical procedures that this office would cover. Further, the broad language used to describe the nature of the division could also allow a physician to opt-out of treating transgender patients, among other medical procedures.This is another attempt by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination against those seeking abortion care and transgender folks. NCJW opposes this effort and all others that legalize discrimination.
On Wednesday, January 18th the Senate Finance Committee approved Alex Azar (15-22) as the next Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. The vote followed party lines, with the exception of Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), who supported the nomination. Azar’s responses at last weeks Senate Finance Committee hearing solidified that he is not fit for the position and has every intention to continue sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. His nomination moves to the Senate floor, where a vote could occur by the end of the month. NCJW opposes the nomination of Alex Azar to be the next Secretary of HHS. Take action to stop his nomination HERE.
Immigration and Refugees
Path Forward for Dreamers Uncertain
In the past week, numerous bipartisan proposals and deals have been discussed in Congress and with the president to provide a permanent legal fix for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the US as children. While many in Congress want a fix attached to the must-pass spending bill to keep the government open after January 19, others are angling for a separate bill. Negotiations were complicated by President Trump’s reported racist comments concerning immigration last week.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration appealed a recent district court decision reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program straight to the US Supreme Court, who could hear the case this term if they accept. NCJW supports a path to legal citizenship for Dreamers, and believes Congress must take action as soon as possible.
Jewish Leaders Take Action!
Amidst the uncertainty of a solution for Dreamers, staff from NCJW Inc. joined nearly 100 Jewish leaders at an action on January 17 to advocate for the Dream Act. Activists occupied the Senate Russell Building Rotunda, and joined in song and protest as one-by-one they were arrested. We applaud and are awed by all who put their faith in action for Dreamers!
Agencies Fill Civil Rights Positions
On January 18, Ken Marcus, the nominee to lead the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Education, was confirmed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee along a party-line vote. His nomination moves to the full Senate next. NCJW joined other civil rights groups in opposing his nomination due to poor record on civil rights, particularly regarding students of color.
Also on January 18, Eric Dreiband was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its “monster markup” (see below for more details). Dreiband, the nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, was first nominated in 2017 and then renominated earlier this month. He is a controversial pick for the position given his professional background defending companies against discrimination complaints. NCJW joined other civil rights and LGBTQ organizations to oppose this nomination.
“Monster Markup” – Senate Judiciary Committee Markup and Vote on January 18
On Thursday January 18, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance seventeen of President Trump’s judicial nominees to the full Senate for consideration. A session of this magnitude is highly unusual and seen as an effort to quickly pack our federal courts with as many ideological and partisan judges as possible. Among those voted out of committee were several that NCJW deeply opposes, including David Stras, Kyle Duncan, and Matthew Kacsmaryk.
In particular, NCJW strongly supported the need for an additional hearing for Thomas Farr. Farr, a North Carolina judicial nominee with early connections to one of the most influential racist hate groups of the 20th century, was approved by the committee along party lines (11-10). Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) refused to hold another hearing on his nomination, despite extensive concerns by the public and senators on the committee.
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on January 24
The Senate Judiciary Committee posted notice of a hearing that will take place on January 24. As of this writing, the Committee has not indicated what nominees will be considered at this hearing. Such lack of notice precludes senators, especially those in the minority party, from having adequate time to prepare for hearing questions.
Sign On Letters
- On January 16, NCJW joined 36 organizations on a comment submitted to the US Census Bureau regarding recommendations for the American Community Survey Methods Panel Test plan.
- On January 16, almost 200 LGBTQ organizations including NCJW sent a letter to Congressional leadership urging them to pass a clean Dream Act.
- On January 17, NCJW and 24 Jewish organizations sent a letter to Congress urging passage of a clean Dream Act.
- On January 18, NCJW joined more than 100 organizations who work on reproductive rights on a letter urging Congress to pass a clean Dream Act.
- On January 18, more than 50 organizations including NCJW joined a letter to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security urging them to renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians in the United States.
- On January 19, NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman joined dozens of other faith leaders on a letter to Congress calling on them to immediately pass the Dream Act, fully fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), fund disaster relief in Puerto Rico, and pass a budget deal that protects critical non-defense programs.