Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: August 3, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Trump moves to expand short-term health plans

The Trump administration released its final rule on August 1 expanding non-Affordable Care Act (ACA) short term health care plans.The plans can now remain in place up to 12 months, beyond the current limit of three months, and are renewable for up to 36 months. Because the plans don’t have to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions or certain health services, NCJW is concerned they will undermine the ACA by siphoning off healthy individuals and driving up premiums.


Federal Courts

NCJW rallies to #SaveSCOTUS

On July 9, President Trump announced the nomination of DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the US Supreme Court seat soon to be vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh is anti-abortion, anti-ACA, anti-gun safety, and more. NCJW strongly opposes his nomination. Read our full statement here. Check out NCJW at the rallies we cosponsored outside of the Supreme Court on July 9 and outside of the Capitol on August 1.


Despite the fact that Judge Kavanaugh spent five years as a political appointee in the George W. Bush White House, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley (R-IA) has only asked for records from two of those years — excluding the three during which Kavanaugh served as Staff Secretary to the President. On June 27, Senator Grassley sent a partisan letter (without Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA)) to the Bush Library requesting this limited set of records. Sending such a letter without the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member is a break in protocol; requests for now-Justices Alito, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Roberts all took the form of bipartisan letters. And, even this limited set of documents will not come through the National Archives, which is the norm. Instead, the President the Bush library, which does not have the same fiduciary duty to the American public, will be responsible for this limited request. On July 31, Judiciary Committee Democrats requested the National Archives provide all records related to Brett Kavanaugh’s service in the White House from 2001-2006, though this request does not carry the same weight or authority as that from Chairman Grassley.

On August 1, the National Archives officially posted how many Kavanaugh documents are in its possession: 60,000 pages from Kavanaugh’s time in White House counsel’s office (what was requested by Chairman Grassley), and 560,000 pages from his time as Staff Secretary. Those 560,000 pages are what Senate leadership is attempting to conceal.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would like Sen. Grassley to hold hearings in September with confirmation in time for the Supreme Court session beginning on October 1. However, it’s clear that Kavanaugh has an extensive record that requires close scrutiny.The Senate must have sufficient time to thoroughly review all of his materials, and Kavanaugh’s hearing must not be scheduled until the Senate has seen every single record it is entitled to see. The Senate Republicans decision to exclude a request for Kavanaugh’s records from his time as White House Staff Secretary, corrupting what should be a bipartisan process, leads one to question: What are they trying to hide?  Read NCJW’s full statement here.

New ways to take action!

  • Download this sign http://bit.ly/2Lxfr3y and share it with your networks.
  • Write why you oppose Kavanaugh, and then snap a pic!
  • Post it on your own social media with #StopKavanaugh (here’s an example), and either tag @NCJW or send it to us:

Ongoing ways to take action!

  • Visit NCJW’s #SaveSCOTUS page for education and action resources!
  • PLEASE KEEP CALLING YOUR SENATORS, and remind your networks to do the same! Senate offices are tracking these calls on a daily basis, and every single one counts! Call the Capitol Switchboard (#202-224-3121) and click HERE for a script.
  • NCJW is proud to cosponsor the national day of action to #StopKavanaugh on August 26 through Unite for Justice. Click here to see what’s happening in your city.

Senate confirms right wing judge to 11th circuit

On July 31, the Senate voted 52-46 to confirm Britt Grant to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Grant is 40 years old and on the president’s Supreme Court short list. After law school, she clerked for Judge Kavanaugh, and last year, after Grant was nominated to the Georgia Supreme Court, Kavanaugh wrote a three-page recommendation letter and drove to Atlanta from Washington to introduce her at her swearing-in. She has filed extremely conservative amicus briefs on nearly every issue that we care about during her time as solicitor general (prior to being appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court), including fighting to uphold racial discrimination in jury selection, among many others. Read NCJW’s full statement here.

#CourtsMatter to immigration rights

On July 27, a judge for US District Court for the Central District of California ruled that conditions at a migrant detention center for minors in Texas violated the Flores settlement, which dictates how the government must care for immigrant minors who entered the country on their own or were separated from their parents. The judge appointed an independent auditor who will oversee the treatment of children in immigration detention facilities, including three family detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). No immigrant minor detention facilities were shut down, but improvements were ordered to ensure that facilities comply with child welfare laws and regulations.

On July 27, a federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s anti-sanctuary city law in Chicago v. Sessions. The judge found that imposing immigration-related regulations on federal law enforcement grants to be unconstitutional. This means that it is constitutional for cities to refuse to share the immigration status of its people with the federal government. This ruling only applies on a city by city basis, based on the types of laws a city choices to pass. There is a case pending in the Seventh Circuit that could address sanctuary cities nationally.

In another Trump administration case against sanctuary cities, a three judge panel for the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on August 1 (2-1) that it is not within the president’s authority to withhold appropriately awarded government funds from cities in order to push their own policy agenda. Trump’s executive order sought to punish sanctuary cities by preventing them from receiving US grants if they continue to refuse to comply with a particular immigration law. Like Chicago v. Sessions, this ruling was limited to California.

#CourtsMatter to LGBTQ rights

On July 26, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to rehear a May decision supporting the rights of a Pennsylvania school district to allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identities. However, dissent from four judges on the case led to the original decision being replaced with one that toned down language regarding Title IX (which prohibits sex discrimination in education). The anti-LGBTQ organization Alliance for Freedom, which helped non-transgender students in the school district file the suit, has until August 9 to request a full court rehearing on the revised decision. NCJW submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief for this case supporting the rights of transgender students.

Also on July 26, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that transgender students should be allowed to use bathrooms that match their gender identities.

#CourtsMatter to gun violence prevention

On July 31, just hours before the August 1 deadline, a judge for the US District Court of the Western District of Washington ordered a temporary halt on 3D-printed gun designs online. Weapons made from 3D printers don’t require background checks, and are untraceable and undetectable because they can be made with no metal and without serial numbers, making theses “ghost” firearms a serious threat to global security. After negotiating the initial settlement that paved the way for ghost gun blueprints online, Trump flipped his stance and tweeted that he is looking into the issue. This case will also go back to court August 10 to determine if the nationwide halt will stand. NCJW opposes 3D printed guns and the release of online blueprints.


Civil Rights

Civil rights in education bill introduced

On July 25, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Education Department Civil Rights Transparency Act (HR 6537), which would require the Department of Education to disclose when schools are accused of violating students’ civil rights, as well as the outcomes of those complaints.The bill is in response to changes made by Education Secretary DeVos over how investigations are handled and disclosed.

LGBTQ data collection bill introduced in senate

On July 31, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Census Equality Act (S 3314) requiring the census and American Community Survey to directly ask about sexual orientation and gender identity. Advocates say this data would enable LGBTQ individuals to better access government services, such as Medicaid.


Gun Violence Prevention

Lawmakers address 3D-printed gun blueprints

The 3D Printed Gun Safety Act (S 3304), offered by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on July 31, would prohibit the publication of 3D printer plans for the printing of firearms. Though the Senator attempted to expedite his bill for Senate consideration, it was blocked by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Both companion and similar measures are expected to be introduced in the House soon.

Economic Justice

On August 2, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) introduced the Economic Security for New Parents Act (S 3345). The bill would allow individuals to “borrow” from their social security accounts to take parental leave, and then delay retirement by the approximate length of time of their leave. While Rubio is presenting this as a plan to help families, it would in essence create a retirement penalty for the 85% of workers who lack access to paid leave — disproportionately women, people of color, and low-wage earners.

Take action! Tell your lawmaker to pass the FAMILY Act, which would give millions of workers access to 12 weeks of partial paid leave to care for their children, parents, spouses, or themselves. People need both paid leave now and adequate Social Security retirement benefits later — one should not come at the expense of the other!


Religious Freedom

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a religious liberty task force on July 30 to enforce a Department of Justice 2017 memo implementing President Trump’s executive order on religious liberty. Sessions’ speech made clear he is more interested in implementing a narrow view of Christianity -— damaging to LGBTQ individuals and religious minorities — than pursuing actual religious freedom.


Human Needs

More tax cuts for the wealthiest?

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke on the record about the possibility of bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthiest Americans. NCJW opposes further tax cuts to the wealthiest which harm low-and middle-income families by raising their taxes and decreasing needed services.

Farm bill conferees named

Now that the House and Senate have each passed their versions of the farm bill, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, it’s time to iron out the differences ideally prior to September 30 when the funding runs out. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities, and it’s critical that the final farm bill protects and strengthens SNAP. Both the House and Senate have named conferees who will likely begin their work over recess, with negotiations expected well into September. NCJW supports the Senate-passed farm bill SNAP provisions — not the harmful and punitive House-passed provisions — in the final farm bill.

Take Action! Call your lawmakers (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) and urge them to draft a final farm bill that includes the Senate’s strong, bipartisan SNAP provisions.


Immigration and Refugees

Family separation update

This week, 650 children remain separated from their parents, including children whose parents were deported or whose families the administration deemed ineligible for reunification. The federal judge handling the case in California has requested weekly status reports on this group of children, as well as a list of parents who have been deported but cannot be located. Currently, the order delaying deportations of reunited families remains in effect. In addition, on August 1, the ACLU filed suit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for detaining immigrants in federal prisons.

On July 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on family separation and reunification, during which few concrete answers were shared. Following the hearing on August 1, a bipartisan group of senators submitted a letter to the secretaries of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services demanding twice-monthly updates on family separation. In addition, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the inspectors general of the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services requesting an investigation into allegations of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at immigrant detention facilities.

Trump planning to rescind regulation that helps women

On July 27, the Guardian reported that President Trump was considering withdrawing an Obama-era regulation that allowed the spouses of individuals in the US on H-1B visas to apply for work permits. (H-1B visas allow US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations like IT, mathematics, or medicine.) Rescinding the rule would leave tens of thousands of immigrant spouses, the majority of whom are women, stuck at home and deprive families of a second income.

Refugee admissions to be cut, again?

After setting the lowest refugee admissions target in modern history last year – 45,000 – President Trump is reportedly on track to do so again. On August 1, the New York Times reported that the administration was pushing a target of only 25,000 refugees. White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller is behind this dangerously low number; his xenophobic and anti-refugee views are well-known, and his successful efforts to place like-minded colleagues in positions of power across the administration enable him to execute his dangerous vision. The New York Times report comes as the world faces its worst refugee crisis in history, with more than 65 million people displaced.

Take Action!


Sign On Letters

  • On July 30, NCJW joined 78 organizations on a letter led by the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights calling on House leadership to hold oversight hearings regarding family separation and detention.
  • On August 1, 37 organizations including NCJW joined two letters organized by the National Women’s Law Center urging Congress and the Department of Education to hold hearings and investigate the sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University.
  • On August 1, NCJW and more than 140 groups joined a comment organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposing the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

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