On the Hill Updates: June 15, 2018
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Anti-Choice Foley to oversee family planning program
Diane Foley, who ran a Christian organization operating two Colorado anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers,” or fake clinics, was recently installed as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Foley will oversee the Office of Population Affairs, which administers Title X, a program providing family planning and related services to more than 4 million primarily low-income people in the United States, many of whom face systemic barriers to health care. In May, the Trump administration announced new proposed restrictions — a domestic gage rule — on Title X. Comments on the proposed rule are due on July 31. NCJW opposes the proposed rule, and will be submitting comments as well as providing template comments for our field in mid-July.
More Judicial Nominees to be Considered By Full Senate
On June 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 11-10, to approve the nomination of Patrick Wyrick (Western District of OK) for a full Senate floor vote. Wyrick’s nomination has been noted as a major concern by environmental groups due to his close relationship with Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt. In addition, Wyrick has taken multiple actions against both workers’ and reproductive rights during his time as a lawyer and on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Wyrick is also on Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. He is 39 years old.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved, 11-10, the nomination of Allen Winsor (Northern District of FL). Winsor has worked on a number of cases in which he sought to make it harder for people to vote, particularly people of color. He is also a major concern for LGBTQ rights. Winsor defended Florida’s prohibition on same-sex marriage in many cases, including signing a brief in Brenner v. Scott which stated, “disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.”
Britt Grant (US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit), who is also on Trump’s short list for Supreme Court, was once again held this week and is expected to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee soon.
#CourtsMatter to voting rights
On June 11, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute that Ohio’s process to maintain its voter rolls does not violate the National Voter Registration Act, a federal voting rights laws passed in 1993. Currently, Ohio sends a notice after a voter skips a single federal election cycle. If they fail to respond and do not vote in the next four years, their names are removed from the rolls. The ruling means that this practice, which disproportionately disenfranchises low income people and people of color, will continue, and that other states may adopt similar, punitive purges. NCJW opposes this ruling and will continue our efforts to ensure that every eligible American is registered and able to vote despite this decision.
In contrast to Husted, on June 9, a federal district judge ruled that Indiana could not use the controversial voting tracking system Crosscheck to purge voters from the state rolls. Crosscheck, developed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (who headed the president’s short-lived voter “fraud” commission), has been found to report a majority of false positives, which leads to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
#CourtsMatter to Dreamers
On June 9, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would not defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in a lawsuit brought by Texas and six other states. DACA, which provides temporary status to young immigrants brought to the US as children, was created by President Obama in 2012. The administration now says the program is unlawful, which is consistent with President Trump’s decision to cancel DACA in September 2017 (which has since been challenged in court itself). NCJW supports a path to citizenship for these young immigrants.
#CourtsMatter to asylum seekers
On June 11, 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. NCJW condemns the decision to block an untold number of people from asylum, especially women and LGBTQ individuals, and will support further appeal of the case.
#Courtsmatter to health care
On June 8, DOJ announced that it will now refuse to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas. In a legal filing, administration officials said that key parts of the ACA should be invalidated. This rare and surprising move — switching sides on a case — is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to undermine access to health insurance for millions by dismantling the ACA. The administration is arguing that it is unconstitutional for the government to prohibit insurers from denying or dropping coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Should they prevail, being a woman will once again be considered a pre-existing condition and insurers will be able to price health plans out of reach for anyone with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma or other health conditions, or deny coverage altogether. Further, the health individual insurance marketplace will become even more unstable and premium rate hikes will skyrocket, especially for women and seniors. NCJW is outraged this administration would put 130 million individuals at risk of losing their health coverage instead of fulfilling their responsibility to defend the ACA, which is law.
#Courtsmatter to teen pregnancy prevention
A fourth federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP) at the end of May. Judge John Coughenour ruled that the administration unlawfully ended grants two years early for the King County Health Department in Seattle, which participated in the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last year sent notices to 81 TPP grantees, informing them that their five-year grants would end two years earlier than originally planned, arguing the program was effective.This ruling means that HHS will have to process King County’s application for the final two years of funding. A class action lawsuit brought by the remaining 72 grantees against the Trump administration is still pending.
SCOTUS cases left
The Supreme Court finished hearing arguments at the end of April, with the remainder of the 2017-2018 term devoted to issuing decisions. There are still a number of outstanding cases NCJW is following closely that are yet to be decided: Trump v. Hawaii (Muslim Ban); Janus v. AFSME (union fees); Gill v. Whitford & Benisek v. Lamone (redistricting); and NIFLA v. Becerra (free speech and reproductive rights). Keep an eye on NCJW Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.
Census citizenship question has murky origins
In March, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 Census would include a citizenship question, granting a request originally made by DOJ. Several lawsuits were filed in response, and last week the US Commerce Department released 1,320 pages of internal memos, emails and other documents related to Ross’ decision as a part of the suit. The documents show that Ross acted against the recommendations of Census Bureau officials in making his decision. They also show that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (who headed the president’s short-lived voter “fraud” commission) reached out to Ross several times urging him to add the question to the census. The citizenship question would have a chilling effect on non-citizen immigrants and their families, ultimately leading to undercounting these already vulnerable populations. NCJW has repeatedly opposed adding a citizenship question to the census.
Gun Violence Prevention
ATF issues proposed rule to ban bump stocks
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issued a proposed rule to clarify that conversion devices, like bump fire stocks, are included in the definition of “machine gun” under the National Firearms Act of 1934. This would effectively ban these dangerous weapons that enable semiautomatic weapons to mimic automatic fire. Bump stocks were used in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, enabling the shooter to fire over 1,100 rounds of ammunition in 11 minutes, killing 58 people and injuring over 500 more. Bump stocks and other conversion devices are designed to kill large numbers of people quickly and have no legitimate use in civilian hands.The comment period is open until June 27. NCJW submitted comments supporting the bump stock ban.
Take Action! Tell the ATF that ensuring bump stocks are illegal is a common sense move that would make America safer.
Senate farm bill preserves food security
On June 8, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. Unlike the failed House bill, the Senate’s version does not include harmful changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), ensuring nutrition assistance to more than 40 million American men, women, and children who need help putting food on the table. Senate Agriculture Committee consideration began this week, with a vote on the Senate floor expected this month. NCJW urges both chambers to advance the bipartisan Senate bill without poison pill amendments that undermine nutrition for millions of families.
Bill introduced to update family leave
On June 13, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Family Medical Leave Modernization Act. The bill would expand eligibility for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), cover parental involvement leave, and modernize the FMLA definition of family. NCJW endorsed this important bill, and will continue to advocate for policies that make it easier for working families.
House minibus passes
The first appropriations bills passed the House on June 8 in the form of a “minibus,” a bill that includes 3 appropriations measures: Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs.The vote (253-179) was largely along party lines. NCJW is concerned that increased security spending in the minibus will lead to flat funding and even cuts in priorities like Labor-HHS-Education appropriations.
Rescissions bill narrowly passes House
On June 8, the House narrowly passed (210-206) a $15 billion rescissions package (HR 3) offered by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which cuts funding to the Children’s’ Health Insurance Program (CHIP). According to the Congressional Budget Office, the measure will only save the government about $1 billion. HR 3, opposed by NCJW, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Immigration and Refugees
House Republicans plan for immigration votes
This week, lawmakers failed to garner the necessary number of signatures needed to send a bill to the floor that would in turn trigger a series of votes on various immigration measures. Instead, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) will bring two anti-immigrant bills to the floor next week. The first is a version of the Securing America’s Future Act (HR 4760), introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). The second, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, is closely based on the administration’s immigration priorities. Both bills would damage immigrant families and communities by limiting family-based immigration, funding the border wall and other interior enforcement measures, and supporting President Trump’s (and Senior Advisor Stephen Miller’s) deportation machine. NCJW opposes these harmful bills and urges Congress to pass a clean Dream Act instead.
Family separations continue
In the beginning of May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for individuals apprehended crossing the border outside an official point of entry. The result is mass family separation, as children are taken from their parents, who are then prosecuted and held in detention. Some of the nearly 1400 kids separated from their parents are currently being held in detention centers as well, in crowded conditions unsuitable for children.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
Senators introduce workplace harassment bill
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the EMPOWER Act (Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace harassment through Education and Reporting), bipartisan legislation that would help stop workplace harassment and provide greater transparency when it does occur.The protections in the bill would make a meaningful difference for women, including those who face the largest power imbalances in the workplace, such as domestic workers, farmworkers, and restaurant and retail workers.
Urgent need to fund services addressing family violence
The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), first passed by Congress in 1984, is the primary federal funding stream dedicated to the support of emergency shelter and related supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and their children. The FVPSA Reauthorization Act (S 2784/HR 6014), bipartisan legislation, was recently introduced to reauthorize funding to continue providing these life-saving services. FVPSA has not been reauthorized since 2010.
Take Action! Call your lawmakers using the Capitol Switchboard at 202- 225-3121 and ask to be transferred to the appropriate offices. Urge them to cosponsor this critical legislation which supports emergency shelters, crisis hotlines, counseling, and programs for communities throughout the United States, including US territories.
Sign On Letters
- On June 8, more than 100 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by the Leadership Conference urging President Trump to end the systematic and cruel separation of families apprehended at the US border.
- On June 11, NCJW submitted written testimony to the US Commission on Civil Rights regarding the importance of hate crimes data collection.
- On June 12, NCJW joined 128 organizations on a letter organized by Americans for Tax Fairness urging Congress to reject any so-called “Round 2” of tax cuts from President Trump.
- On June 12, 26 Jewish organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by the RAC, ADL, JCPA, and HIAS to Attorney General Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen urging them to stop family separation at the border.
- On June 13, NCJW submitted a comment to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging them to retain the voluntary sexual orientation questions for foster youth and foster and adoptive parents and guardians, as well as the data element on the reason for removal of a child from a home due to “family conflict related to child’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
On June 13, 45 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by the National Iranian American Council urging Congress to rescind the Muslim ban, end so-called “extreme vetting”, and conduct oversight hearings