Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: July 27, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

HHS taking comments on “domestic gag rule”

Last month, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule that would end Title X funding — our nation’s affordable birth control and reproductive health care program. This egregious rule would essentially “gag” any provider by denying Title X funding if they even mention abortion services or refer someone to an abortion provider. For the first time in nearly fifty years, health care clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, would be unable to provide critical and comprehensive reproductive health care to millions of individuals. HHS is taking comments through midnight on July 31.

Take Action! Click here to send your own comments to HHS in just 3 simple steps. Let HHS know we will not allow such blatant attacks on Planned Parenthood, abortion access, and low-income individuals.

Happy Anniversary Medicare and Medicaid!

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law legislation establishing the Medicare and Medicaid programs. For more than 50 years, these programs have been protecting the health and well-being of millions of American families, saving lives, and improving the economic security of our nation. Though they started as basic insurance programs for Americans who didn’t have health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid have changed over the years to provide more individuals with access to the quality and affordable health care they need.

Chipping away our health care

One year ago this week, a bipartisan majority in the United States Senate defeated President Trump’s top legislative priority, repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite the fact that the ACA is still the law of the land, the Trump Administration and Congress continue to chip away at health care in various ways. For example, just within the last two weeks:

  • References to the ACA have mostly been removed from the Medicaid.gov website, with other important information also missing, making it harder to find information on the site.
  • The administration proposed an overhaul of the Medicare payment system, which could underpay doctors and discourage them from taking Medicare patients.
  • President Trump joined Republican attorneys general and governors in 20 states to use the courts to repeal the ACA and strike down protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, women, and those over age 50. In response, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced a resolution to demand the Senate go to court and defend our health care law and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • The House passed three health-related bills on July 25 that would mainly benefit high-income taxpayers and corporations while doing little to help moderate-income families or the uninsured: HR 6199, Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018 (277-142); HR 6311, Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018 (242-176), and HR 184, Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2017 (283-132). The measures would raise contribution limits for health savings accounts and expand their allowable uses, suspend for two more years a tax on health insurance companies, and repeal the excise tax on medical devices — which would reduce revenues by about $85 billion over the next decade, increasing pressure for cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs.

House democrats launch medicare for all congressional caucus

On July 19 , Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and over 70 Democrats launched a “Medicare for All” Congressional Caucus. The effort compliments legislation introduced in both the House and Senate: the Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act (HR 676), offered by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and the Medicare for All Act of 2017 (S 1804), introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).


Federal Courts

Trump nominates conservative ideologue Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS

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-Affordable Care Act, anti-gun safety, and more. NCJW strongly opposes his nomination. Read our full statement here. And, if you missed us at the court on July 9, watch the livestream of the rally NCJW cosponsored here.

Take action! Visit our #SaveSCOTUS page for education and action resources, including:

Release the Records

This week in #StopKavanaugh efforts, the focus has been on the need to release all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley (R-KY) in a floor speech suggested that records from Kavanaugh’s tenure as a Staff Secretary in the White House would not be released. This is unacceptable. Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Feinstein (D-CA) have been speaking out to clarify that the American people have a right to see what the White House and Senate leadership is attempting to hide by withholding these records.  

It’s clear that Kavanaugh has an extensive record that requires close scrutiny. The Senate must have sufficient, adequate time to thoroughly review his materials. Kavanaugh’s hearing must not be scheduled until the Senate has seen every single record it is entitled to see. NCJW and over 100 other organizations sent a letter to Senators Grassley and Feinstein urging them not to schedule a hearing until the Senate is able to review all of Kavanaugh’s records from his time in the George W. Bush administration.

#CourtsMatter to reproductive rights

On July 20, a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that 13 anti-abortion protesters in Queens, NY, who blocked a clinic entrance with images of aborted fetuses and allegedly made death threats to clinic escorts, did not violate clinic access laws and would not be charged with harassment. The judge stated that the protests were protected under the First Amendment and there was insufficient proof that the protestors had the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm patients, companions or escorts around Choices Women’s Medical Center. This ruling reinforces the trials that women must face in order to obtain a safe and legal abortion.

#CourtsMatter to gun violence prevention

After a settlement between the US State Department and a private designer, blueprints for a 3-D printed gun will be available online starting August 1, 2018. Initially the blueprints were taken down as a violation of the Arms Export Statutes, but the designer sued the State Department stating his blueprints were protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. This settlement allows anyone, regardless of if they can pass a background check, who wants a gun to download and print their own.These self printed ‘ghost guns’ do not have serial numbers, are not subject to traditional gun violence protection laws, and would potentially be undetectable by metal detectors. NCJW opposes unregulated access to firearms.  


On July 24, a three judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns openly in public for self-protection, ruling that Hawaii overstepped its authority to regulate firearms possession outside the home. The decision reverses a lower court ruling applying only to guns kept in homes.


Human Needs

Senate aims to avert government shutdown

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  have agreed to merge the two largest appropriations bills — Defense and Labor-HHS-Education — into a single package in the coming weeks in order to avoid a government shutdown on October 1. It’s unclear if the House and ultimately the president would support such a package that while funding the Pentagon, also includes higher domestic spending levels than is in the president’s budget — and because the House has already passed a $675 Pentagon spending bill. This decision means that appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security needs to be passed separately, which gives greater leverage to President Trump for funding a wall on the southern border.There are less than two weeks left in the legislative session for Congress to avert a shutdown.


Immigration and Refugees

Administration misses reunification deadline

July 26 was the court-ordered deadline to reunite the 2,633 children separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s cruel zero-tolerance policy. So far the government has reunited 1,500 children, meaning 756 children are still waiting. Complicating matters is the fact that parents for 443 children were deported, two-thirds of whom were not even given the option to be deported with their children. The administration will meet with the judge who ordered the reunifications on July 27. NCJW condemns the administration’s failure to reunite families seeking asylum by the court-mandated deadline.

Homeland security appropriations bill advances

On July 25, the House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2019 Department of Homeland Security funding bill 29-22. The bill includes $5 billion for a border wall, 44,000 detention beds (10% more than there are currently and 30% more than just two years ago), and 400 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. A number of amendments, both positive and negative, were also adopted, including:

  • Prohibiting ICE funding to pay for abortion;
  • Adding report language to support the enforcement of border and immigration laws and the humane treatment of children and families and adding funding for health services, alternatives to detention, and family case management services;
  • Prohibiting funds for ICE to use restraints on a pregnant detainee in most circumstances;
  • Prohibiting funding for the removal of noncitizens who are DACA recipients; and
  • Expanding asylum definitions to include “credible fear” as an established reason for asylum, which would include threats of gang and domestic violence.

The amendment regarding asylum is particularly notable, as it essentially would deny the implementation of Attorney General Sessions’ harmful decision in Matter of A-B,a case in which NCJW joined an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief. The House leaves for a five week recess on July 26, so the bill will likely receive a full vote when they return.

Domestic and Gender Based Violence

On July 26, NCJW joined Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and our partners in the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, at a press conference in the US Capitol to introduce a measure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). From an increased investment in sexual violence prevention programs to provisions to hold offenders accountable on tribal lands to efforts to make our criminal justice system more responsive to survivors to updated definitions to protections for incarcerated survivors, the legislation includes the realistic enhancements survivors need and advocates have asked for. VAWA is set to expire on September 30. NCJW helped draft VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations.

Take Action! Call your representative (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) to urge them to cosponsor this critical legislation. Let them know we need VAWA reauthorized now before it expires — survivors can’t wait for lifesaving responses to sexual violence and communities can’t wait for prevention programs.


Sign On Letters

  • On July 19, 16 organizations including NCJW signed a letter organized by the Anti-Defamation League urging passage in the Senate of two bills related to combating anti-Semitism.
  • On July 20, NCJW joined 104 organizations on a letter demanding the disclosure of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s extensive responsive records to the Senate before any Supreme Court confirmation hearing is scheduled.
  • On July 23, NCJW submitted comments to the US Health and Human Services Department in response to the Trump Administration proposed domestic “gag rule” that would prohibit Title X medical providers from discussing safe, legal abortion with their patients.
  • On July 23, NCJW joined 37 organizations on a letter from the National Coalition for Public Education to senators opposing appropriations for the DC private school voucher program.
  • On July 23, 100 organizations in the Clean Budget Coalition, including NCJW, sent a letter to senators opposing ideological poison pill riders to the Senate FY 2019 minibus II made up of the Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Agriculture, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills.
  • On July 25, more than 300 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by CLINIC to Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen asking her to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guatemala.
  • On July 26, NCJW joined 211 organizations on a letter organized by the Family Equality Council opposing the Aderholt amendment to the House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which would allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against families.


Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to two briefs in the Northern District of California (California v. Ross and San Jose v. Ross) challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
  • NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) on a brief in Texas v. US defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, currently being challenged by Texas.

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