On the Hill Updates: June 8, 2018
All aboard the minibus
With Congress back from recess, House leaders are moving quickly to address appropriations bills. Republicans hope to drive a ‘minibus’ spending package (which includes the appropriations measures for Energy & Water, Legislative Branch, and MilCon-VA) across the finish line to make headway on fiscal 2019 appropriations. However, the minibus would fail to fully fund critical domestic programs, includes policy riders that jeopardize environmental protections and public health, and would lead to flat funding and even cuts in other priorities like Labor-HHS-Education spending in order to increase Homeland Security spending.
Take Action! Contact your Representative (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) and urge them to vote NO on this spending bill that would shortchange domestic programs in the name of security spending.
Rescissions package pending
As of this writing, the House is expected to vote on HR 3, a $15 billion rescissions package offered by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). It currently includes a harmful provision that would rescind $7 billion in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), utilized by 9 million children, in order to pay for the tax cuts passed in January for the wealthiest Americans. Recent congressional action to pass a 10-year extension of CHIP was a major success — thanks to your efforts — but rescissions could undercut the program and undermine this success.
Take Action! Contact your representative (Capitol Switchboard #202-224-3121) and urge them to vote NO on the rescissions package which would cut CHIP. The health of our children is too important to be used as a means to pay down the deficit.
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Domestic gag rule published
On June 1, the US Health and Human Services Department issued a proposed rule which would bar (gag) clinics or programs that receive federal family planning funds (Title X) from providing abortions or referring women to places that do. For nearly fifty years, Title X has allowed healthcare providers to provide comprehensive information about a person’s pregnancy options. It’s an essential health care grant dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and related preventive services to individuals living with low-incomes. NCJW opposes this dangerous proposed rule, which directly targets Planned Parenthood. Comments are due on July 31. Watch this space for more information on how to submit your own comments!
Take Action! Sign our petition to stop the domestic gag rule!
Gun Violence Prevention
DeVos school safety commission won’t study guns
Yes, you read that right. On June 5, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told a Senate subcommittee that her federal commission on school safety — that does not include parents, teachers, or gun violence survivors — would not discuss the role guns play in school violence. The first session was held on June 6, without Secretary DeVos in attendance.
Ken Marcus confirmed to lead office of civil rights
The Senate on June 6 confirmed (50-46) Ken Marcus as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the US Department of Education. NCJW opposed Marcus as his record does not demonstrate a willingness and ability to enforce civil rights law and protect all students from discrimination.
More alarming nominees move through Senate committee
On June 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to bring to the Senate floor nominees Ryan Bounds for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and J. Campbell Barker for the Eastern District Court of Texas. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) held the hearing and vote on Bounds over the objection of both home state senators — another break in tradition to force through yet another unqualified, unfit nominee to fill a lifetime appointment. Bounds failed to disclose his controversial writings expressing hostility to diversity and advocating against academic sanctions for sexual assault perpetrators. Barker, the other nominee voted on, defended Texas’s egregious Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt before the US Supreme Court. He also signed a brief on behalf of the state of Texas in Zubik v. Burwell challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive-coverage policy.NCJW opposes these extremist nominees who would set a dangerous precedent for this country and our court system.
#CourtsMatter to LGBTQ rights
On June 4, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had not adequately taken into account the religious beliefs of baker Jack Phillips in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The case stemmed from the baker’s refusal to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple claiming sincerely held religious beliefs. While the ruling is narrow, NCJW condemns this decision, as it allows religious freedom to be used as a means to harm marginalized communities instead of a shield to protect religious minorities as originally intended. NCJW joined an amicus brief authored by Americans United in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
#CourtsMatter to reproductive rights
On June 4, the Supreme Court dismissed a lower court’s decision to allow an undocumented, detained minor to obtain an abortion. The minor had been raped and learned she was pregnant shortly after crossing the border. The Trump administration challenged her right to access abortion care while in federal custody, but she was able to obtain an abortion after the lower court ruling, though the case itself continued. NCJW is deeply concerned by this decision, which while not a decision on the merits of the case, throws out a precedent that might allow other teenagers in the same circumstance to obtain an abortion.
On May 29, the US Supreme Court decided not to hear a case regarding an Arkansas law that regulates medical abortions (i.e. abortions performed by administering drugs). Planned Parenthood of Arkansas initiated the case, the Eastern District of Arkansas overturned the law, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s decision. The law leaves only one abortion clinic left in the state able to perform medical abortions.
#CourtsMatter to immigration
The ACLU filed suit against the federal government over its ongoing policy of family separations for unauthorized immigrants at the border. On June 6, a federal judge in San Diego denied the government’s request to dismiss the case, writing that the policy “is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.”
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); NIFLA v. Becerra (free speech and reproductive rights); and Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute (voter roll purges). Keep an eye on NCJW Facebook and Twitter for breaking news.
Farm bill, round 2
Though the House farm bill failed to pass on May 18, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) plans to bring the same (or a similar measure) to the House floor as soon as June 18, following votes on immigration (see below). The measure would include drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, our nation’s largest nutrition assistance program serving millions. On Senate side, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KY) are expected to introduce a bipartisan bill with no major changes to SNAP.
Take Action! Use Faith in Public Life’s toll free number (1-833-638-7627) to reach your representative (after a short message, enter your zip code to be connected). Urge them to reject cuts to food stamps which provide nutrition assistance to children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.
Equal Pay Act turns 55
June 10 is the 55th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, the landmark law requiring men and women to be paid equally for equal work. Unfortunately, women earn only 80 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men — a gap which is even wider for women of color. The Paycheck Fairness Act (S819/HR 1869), introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in April 2017, would deter wage discrimination by updating and strengthening the Equal Pay Act. Take action to support the Paycheck Fairness Act!
Discharge petition nears threshold
On May 8, lawmakers in the House of Representatives filed a discharge petition to bring legislation to the floor that would then allow for a series of votes on immigration proposals. A discharge petition allows legislation to skip the committee process and move directly to the floor for a vote if it is signed by a majority of House members. The petition must have 218 signatures to succeed; as of June 7 it had 215, including more than 20 Republicans. This week, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) convened meetings on immigration in an attempt to get conservative and moderate Republicans in alignment.
If the discharge petition is successful, the legislation (H Res 774, introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)) would kick off a process known as “Queen of the Hill.” Under this rule, the House would vote on four immigration proposals: Securing America’s Future Act (HR 4760 – Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)), Dream Act (HR 3440 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)), USA Act (HR 4796 – Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-TX)), and a fourth bill of Speaker Ryan’s choosing. The bill receiving the highest number of votes exceeding 218 would pass. NCJW supports the Dream Act, tentatively supports the USA Act, and strongly opposes the Securing America’s Future Act.
Sign On Letters
- On May 29, 165 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights urging Education Secretary DeVos to publicly clarify that all children in the US have a right to a public education from kindergarten through 12th grade regardless of their immigration status.
- On June 6, NCJW joined more than 150 national and state organizations on a letter organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement to urging House and Senate leadership to review the recent worksite raid in Tennessee and demanding an end to future raids.
- NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in California v. Azar and Little Sisters of the Poor, a case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the US Department of Health and Human Services’ proposed religious and moral exemptions to the contraceptive-coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act.