Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: November 16, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Administration’s proposed rule denies private insurance coverage of abortion

On November 7, the same day the Trump administration issued a pair of federal rules on that allow some employers to deny insurance coverage of birth control on religious or moral grounds, they also proposed a new rule that would deny private insurance coverage for abortions through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) insurance Marketplaces. This new proposed rule would potentially deny coverage for more than one million women. Additionally, the rule would place onerous regulations on insurers, dissuading them from offering abortion coverage at all, and cause confusion among consumers — possibly delaying or preventing women from accessing the care they need. Access to high quality, affordable health care, including reproductive health care, is critical to an individual’s health, economic security, and dignity. NCJW opposes this proposed rule and will both submit an organizational comment and provide a template comment for members during the designated comment period, which ends January 8.

In the meantime, the health insurance Marketplace is still open for business. Help get the word out about open enrollment, which is available until December 15. Talk to your friends and family to make sure they get covered. Sign up now for enrollment information!


Federal Courts

Judicial confirmation votes expected on Senate floor

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear that he intends to confirm as many federal judges as possible before the end of the year. This includes several nominees that NCJW opposes, such as Wendy Vitter, Matthew Kacsmaryk, others. On the evening of November 15, McConnell filed cloture on the nomination of Thomas Farr, with 30 hours of debate before a Senate floor vote to begin likely after Thanksgiving given other pending nominees. Farr, nominated to the District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, has shamefully defended attempts to disenfranchise black voters, including late Sen. Jesse Helms’ campaign efforts to scare black voters away from the ballot box, and attacked workers’ rights and legal protections for workplace discrimination. NCJW strongly opposes Farr’s nomination.

Senate Judiciary Committee continues to disregard norms; rapidly advance nominees

On November 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Paul Matey of New Jersey, nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Matey’s hearing was held over the strong objections of his home-state senators, Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ), who were not consulted on his nomination and did not return their blue slips, therefore signaling their lack of approval. No circuit court judge has ever been confirmed over the objections of both home-state senators. NCJW strongly opposes the Senate Judiciary Committee’s reversal of its blue slip policy, as it was an important safeguard to ensure a balanced and independent federal bench.  

On November 15, fifteen nominees were listed for votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but were “held over” until November 29. These nominees include Chad Readler (6th Circuit), Eric Murphy (6th Circuit), Allison Rushing (4th Circuit), Eric Miller (9th Circuit), and others. Several of the nominees are moving forward despite home senators’ vocal opposition and withholding of blue slips. NCJW opposes Readler, Murphy, Rushing, and Miller, as well as the haphazard nature of the vetting for lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary.

Replacing Kavanaugh on the DC Circuit Court

On Tuesday November 13, President Trump announced the nomination of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao to fill the seat vacated by Brett Kavanaugh on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Rao, who has run OIRA since last year, has spoken in favor of the Trump administrations de-regulatory agenda.

Maryland Sues Against Whitaker’s Appointment; Part Of Ongoing ACA Case

On November 13, the state of Maryland sued to block the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as the new acting Attorney General (AG), arguing the Constitution requires Whitaker to be confirmed by the Senate. The challenge is part of Maryland’s ongoing federal lawsuit, filed in September, to force the Trump Administration to uphold ACA protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. In the suit Maryland highlights the importance of the AG to its case, and cites concerns about Whitakers qualifications, past statement made as a US Senate candidate, and questionable business practices. Trump tapped Whitaker to serve as acting AG after asking Jeff Sessions to resign his post.


Civil Rights

Sessions undermines critical civil rights tool

Before his resignation on November 7, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions took one last swipe at civil rights. In a memo, Sessions tightened the requirements for creating consent decrees, court-enforced agreements that allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to enforce changes at state and local government entities, including law enforcement agencies, accused of abuse. He also set a “sunset” provision limiting consent decrees to no more than three years. Under the Obama administration, consent decrees were used frequently to address long standing policing issues in Baltimore; Ferguson, MO; and beyond. NCJW opposes this effort, which we feared would happen during Sessions’ tenure, and opposes all attempts to undermine the core mission of DOJ.

Hate crimes increase for third year in a row

On November 13, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its 2017 Hate Crime Statistics report. Hate crimes overall increased 17 percent, and anti-Semitic hate crimes increased a staggering 37 percent. Crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color also increased. While the number of law enforcement agencies submitting data also increased, 87 percent of agencies reported zero hate crimes, and over a thousand did not report at all. Also reflected in the data is the persistent underreporting and undercounting of hate crimes by community members and law enforcement, respectively.


Immigration and Refugees

Trump issues “asylum ban”

On November 8 and 9, President Trump made an attempt to limit asylum seekers from entering the country. On November 8, the Department of Homeland Security posted an interim final rule (meaning it goes into effect immediately) stating that groups of people subject to a presidential entry ban would not be able to seek asylum unless granted a specific exception. Then on November 9, Trump issued a proclamation stating that individuals crossing the US-Mexico border between official ports of entry would not be eligible for asylum. This makes it much more difficult for people, including unaccompanied children, to seek asylum in the US. The ban will last 90 days, and can be extended.

The legal underpinnings of this attempt mimic those Trump used to successfully defend his Muslim Ban to the Supreme Court (and indeed the ban remains in effect today). However, the Immigration and Nationality Act specifies that individuals may apply for asylum “whether or not” they enter the US at a port of entry. The ACLU and others filed suit in federal court on November 9 and are seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from being in effect while the suit is heard. NCJW opposes this cruel and illegal ban.

Recourse for some asylum seekers?

In June, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed long standing precedent granting asylum to those who could prove themselves persecuted by ‘private actors,’ such as survivors of domestic violence, victims of LGBTQ or religious persecution, or victims of gang violence. Sessions ended this practice by issuing an order in a case he referred to himself, Matter of A-B-, for which NCJW signed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of the current practice. In August, organizations filed a suit challenging this decision in federal court. The hearing for the case, Grace v. Sessions, is scheduled for November 19.

Detained immigrants at record highs

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices reported to Congress this week that they were detaining more than 44,000 immigrants — nearly 4,000 more than Congress funded for fiscal year 2018. It’s unclear how the department is paying for these increased facilities. Meanwhile, of the thousands of children separated from their parents by the administration’s disastrous family separation policy this past spring, 171 are still in federal custody. They were supposed to be reunited with family by the end of July.


Sign On Letters

  • On October 30, the Declaration for American Democracy Coalition, of which NCJW is a member, officially launched its website and released its mission statement affirming a collective goal of creating a democracy that represents and reflects all people.
  • On November 13, more than 200 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by the #DefundHate Coalition (of which NCJW is a member) calling on Congress to reject funding increases for immigration enforcement during the lame duck session.
  • On November 15, NCJW submitted its comment expressing our strong opposition to the changes regarding “public charge,” which would make it more difficult for immigrants to attain or change legal status.
  • On November 15, 37 interfaith organizations including NCJW joined a letter to Congress organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (of which NCJW is a member) opposing increased immigration enforcement spending.

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