On the Hill Updates: June 22, 2018
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
The latest attempt to sink the ACA
On June 20, the administration released its final rule governing association health plans (AHPs), which allow small businesses and the self-employed to purchase insurance collectively at less expensive group rates.The rule stems from an executive order that Trump signed in October aimed at providing alternatives to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in an effort to weaken the law. The administration hopes to encourage healthier individuals who may need less coverage to sign up for AHPs, leaving sicker people in the ACA exchanges without the benefit of younger, healthier individuals balancing the risk pool — resulting in weakened ACA consumer protections and increased coverage costs for those who remain in the exchanges. Expanded associated health plans can be offered as soon as September 1. NCJW opposes this rule, which is the administration’s latest attempt to dismantle the ACA.
Flake holds up judicial nominations
This week, Sen.Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that he will not vote to advance any circuit court nominees to the full Senate until the administration negotiates with him regarding travel restrictions to Cuba and tariff issues. As the Senate Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, any one Republican on the Committee has the ability to halt President Trump’s judicial nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) has indicated that he will not schedule any committee votes for judicial nominees until this issue has been resolved. So far, Flake’s position has delayed the committee vote on Britt Grant, who has been nominated to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, is on Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court nominees, and whom NCJW opposes because of her hostile record on reproductive rights, among other concerns.
#CourtsMatter to voting rights
On June 18, the Supreme Court decided in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone to send the cases back down to the lower courts to decide whether the voters challenging partisan gerrymandering have legal standing to do so. Plaintiffs argued in Gill v. Whitford that partisan gerrymandering suppressed votes based on party affiliation, which infringed on individual’s constitutional rights and burdened individual voters. The Supreme Court ordered that plaintiffs must present additional arguments to prove that partisan gerrymandering has caused them actual injury, thus giving them standing to bring this case, before the constitutional validity of partisan gerrymandering can be addressed.
Also on June 18, a US District judge for the District of Kansas ruled in Fish v. Kobach that a new voter law requiring voters to prove their citizenship is unconstitutional. The judge ruled that the Kansas voter law violates the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The judge also ordered Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (previously a member of Trump’s voter suppression committee), to attend six additional hours of continuing legal education pertaining to rules of evidence or procedure after Kobach failed to follow procedure repeatedly during the trial.
#CourtsMatter to LGBTQ rights
On June 15, a judge in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington upheld a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. The case, Karnoski v. Trump, is still ongoing in the district court.
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. On June 22, the US Supreme Court held in Carpenter v. United States that the Fourth Amendment’s right to privacy requires law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before searching one’s cell site location records. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.This is one of the cases that NCJW has been watching.
There are still three outstanding cases NCJW is following closely that are yet to be decided: Trump v. Hawaii (Muslim Ban); Janus v. AFSME (union fees); and NIFLA v. Becerra (free speech and reproductive rights). Keep an eye on NCJW Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.
Plan to restructure federal government
On June 21, President Trump announced a plan to restructure the federal government. One proposed change is to merge the US Departments of Education and Labor. Another is to consolidate all safety net programs under the Department of Health and Human Services (for example, food assistance programs are currently administered by the Department of Agriculture). These changes would require Congressional approval.
Farm bill passes House
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) tried once again to pass the House farm bill, and narrowly succeeded on June 21 (213-211). The House bill (HR 2) would further restrict eligibility for nutrition assistance programs, making it even more difficult for many families to put food on the table. In the Senate, a bipartisan farm bill (S 3042) that protects and strengthens nutrition assistance programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and is expected to come to the floor for a vote next week. NCJW opposes the House farm bill and supports the bipartisan farm bill being considered in the Senate.
Rescissions bill fails in Senate
On June 21, the Senate rejected (48-50) a $15 billion rescissions package (HR 3), which would cut funding to the Children’s’ Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other programs. The measure had previously passed the House of Representatives, 210-206. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the measure will only save the government about $1 billion. NCJW opposes HR 3.
Immigration and Refugees
Family separation chaos continues
At 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, with children are taken from parents, who are then prosecuted and held in detention. Some of the nearly 2,400 kids separated from their parents are currently being held in detention centers as well, in crowded conditions unsuitable for children.
In response to growing public outcry, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20, claiming it would end family separation. However, the order would instead increase family detention and seeks to overturn current limits on how long children can be held in detention. The order also fails to address the children already separated from their parents. NCJW decries these inhumane practices and efforts from the administration to cover up the true nature of its policies.
One anti-immigrant bill fails
This week, the House is considering two anti-immigrant bills. The first is a version of the Securing America’s Future Act (HR 4760), introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), which failed to pass the House (192-231) on June 21. The second, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (HR 6136), is based on the administration’s immigration priorities and scheduled for a vote next week. 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.
US on track to admit lowest number of refugees in modern history
June 20 marked World Refugee Day, a time to celebrate the contributions of refugees to our society and nation. Unfortunately, the world is currently undergoing the worst refugee crisis in history; with more than 25 million refugees worldwide, it has even surpassed the crisis after World War II. In September 2017, President Trump set a refugee admissions target for the year of only 45,000, the lowest in modern history. However, as of June 2018, the US has only resettled a little more than 15,000 refugees and is on track to only settle around 20,000 total this fiscal year. On June 22, NCJW sent a letter to Congress supporting refugees.
Take action! Tell President Trump to resettle all 45,000 refugees this year, set a target to resettle at least 75,000 refugees next year, and fully fund refugee resettlement programs.
Gender-Based and Sexual Violence
New director of Office on Violence Against Women named
On June 14, President Trump announced plans to appoint Shannon Lee Goessling to be the Director of the Office of Violence Against Women at the US Department of Justice. Of concern is her experience as Executive Director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, which has litigated against environmental protections and sanctuary cities, and in favor of the Muslim ban. Further, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in Obergefell v. Hodges advocating for allowing states to decide if there is such a thing as LGBTQ rights.
Sign On Letters
- On June 18, 16 Jewish organizations signed on to a letter organized by NCJW and the ADL opposing the nomination of Ronald Mortensen to lead the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
- On June 18, nearly 300 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by United We Dream to House and Senate Leadership urging them to cut funds to immigration detention and enforcement.
- On June 19, NCJW joined 225 organizations on a letter organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice to Members of the House of Representatives opposing Securing America’s Future Act (HR 4760), an anti-immigrant bill.
- On June 19, 17 interfaith organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by HIAS to the House Appropriations Committee urging them to extend the Lautenberg Amendment, which helps religiously persecuted refugees from the former Soviet Union and Iran.
- On June 19, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (of which NCJW is a member) released a joint statement opposing two anti-immigrant bills up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
- On June 20, 350 organizations including NCJW signed on to a joint statement organized by the Immigration Hub opposing one of the anti-immigrant bills up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
- On June 20, 55 national Jewish organizations including NCJW and 292 state and local Jewish organizations (including numerous NCJW sections) 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 22, NCJW sent a letter to Congress in support of refugees as part of an interfaith letter-a-day campaign.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in New York v. United States Department of Commerce, a case before the Southern District of New York challenging the Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.