Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: November 30, 2018

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

ACA open enrollment lags

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that 2.4 million Americans have selected health insurance plans through state and federal marketplaces, an 11%  drop from this point in 2017. Though the administration has starved enrollment efforts, shortened the enrollment period, and promoted short term and “junk” insurance plans, there are still two weeks left in the open enrollment period to get covered. Sign up today!

Scott Lloyd moved within HHS

On November 19, Politico reported that Scott Lloyd, formerly the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS, will be reassigned to the same department’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The shift is a result of Lloyd’s failure to reunite thousands of migrant families at the border. NCJW supports Lloyd’s removal from the ORR, but is concerned about the impact of his new position.

Health Equity Bill Introduced

On November 28, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced, with 9 cosponsors, the Senate 2018 version of the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA, S 3660). HEAA is a comprehensive and strategic legislative approach to eliminating health disparities and achieving health equity among racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, rural populations, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the House counterpart, HR 5942, in May. NCJW supports HEAA which builds on the progress of the Affordable Care Act by providing additional investments to create a sustainable, cost-effective health care system that is rooted in fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.


Federal Courts

In effort to protect Mueller, Sen. Flake protects courts

The Senate Judiciary Committee had been scheduled to vote on the nominations of six circuit and fifteen district court nominees on November 29. Among these nominees were Allison Rushing (4th Circuit), Eric Miller (9th Circuit), Chad Readler (6th Circuit), and Eric Murphy (6th Circuit), all of whom NCJW opposes. The committee votes were canceled the day before because of Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) refusal to advance any judicial nominees unless and until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) schedules a vote on the bipartisan bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller. Because Republicans have only one more member on the Senate Judiciary Committee than Democrats, Flake’s position makes it impossible for Committee to advance any judicial nominees, assuming that all senators vote along party lines.

Similarly, Vice President Mike Pence was called to the Senate floor on November 28 to break a 49-49 tie on the vote to advance the nomination of Thomas Farr. Farr’s final passage vote was then scheduled for November 29, postponed to the week of December 3, and is now off the table as Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has announced he will vote no on the nominee — leaving Republicans without enough support to ensure his confirmation. This is a huge win! NCJW strongly opposes Farr, who has dedicated his career to disenfranchising black voters, most notably through his work on the late Sen. Jesse Helms’ campaign.

Asylum ban halted, for now

On November 8 and 9, President Trump attempted to limit asylum seekers from entering the country by stating that individuals crossing the US-Mexico border between official ports of entry would not be eligible for asylum. Civil and immigrant rights groups filed suit, and on November 19, a federal judge from the Northern District of California temporarily blocked the ban until the case for a permanent block is argued in December. The Trump administration is appealing the temporary block. In the meantime, however, the southern border is experiencing an increase in asylum seekers and migrants, but official ports of entry are only processing limited numbers of people each day, putting migrant children and individuals at risk. Further, the administration has authorized troops at the border to use “lethal force.” NCJW opposes any attempt to ban asylum seekers from finding safety in the US.

Mississippi’s 15 week abortion law struck down

A federal judge on November 20 struck down a Mississippi abortion law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, one of the most restrictive in the United States. The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality, but not for rape or incest. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license. NCJW supports the rights of all women to make decisions about their body and health, including when and if to have a family.

Trump tries to speed transgender military ban

On November 23, the Department of Justice (DOJ) requested the Supreme Court bypass all lower appellate courts and quickly rule on the transgender military ban. The petition from Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued that the ban “satisfies the standard” for a fast-track through the lower courts. The proposed policy would disqualify transgender service members and require individuals to serve under their biological sex. The Trump administration continues to move forward with the ban despite a comprehensive conclusion from a RAND study that allowing transgender members has “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” NCJW opposes this cruel and unnecessary ban.

Voting rights lawsuit filed in Georgia

On Tuesday, Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit group formed during the 2018 midterm elections, filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia’s interim secretary of state on the basis that multiple federal laws were violated in the midterm election, including the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The lawsuit calls for sweeping voting reform throughout the state, in particular challenging Governor-elect Brian Kemp’s “exact match” and “use it or lose it” policies, which removed hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls. The suit aims to impose uniform standards for voting rights across all districts, end voter purging, and require Georgia to obtain federal preclearance before changing its voting laws.

Baltimore sues Trump administration over public charge

On November 28, the City of Baltimore sued the Trump administration over changes made to the State Department’s foreign affairs manual that allow officers to consider whether a visa applicant’s family received public assistance. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a similar rule for individuals seeking to apply for a visa or change their visa status in the US. NCJW opposes these cruel efforts to add an income test to become an immigrant.

Supreme Court will weigh in on element of 2020 Census litigation

A piece of the ongoing litigation over the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census has reached the Supreme Court. At issue is what evidence can be included in the trial. The plaintiffs, led by the ACLU, argue they should be allowed to collect sworn testimony from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about his decision to include the citizenship question. The government opposes this effort, arguing that it would undermine cabinet officials’ abilities to make decisions. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on this issue on February 19, 2019.


Immigration and Refugees

Shut down over border wall?

While Congress passed a number of spending bills for government fiscal year 2019, funding for the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, and a few other agencies runs out on December 7. At issue is President Trump’s insistence that he will only sign a spending bill that includes at least $5 billion for a wall on the US-Mexico border. While most in his party support this provision, many Democrats argue that wall funding should remain at the previously requested amount of $1.6 billion. If a deal is not reached by the end of next week, the government will partially shut down. NCJW opposes any funding to build a wall.


Gender-Based and Sexual Violence

Lawmakers ask DeVos to do more, not less

On November 29, the leadership of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), as well as Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and 77 of their House colleagues, sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos condemning her recently proposed rule rolling back Title IX protections for survivors of sexual harassment and violence in K-12 schools and on college campuses. The letter urges Secretary DeVos to withdraw her dangerous proposed policy changes and arrange meetings with a broad range of survivors and survivor advocacy organizations to develop meaningful guidance on Title IX that protects all students. NCJW opposes the proposed rule and will be submitting comments during the comment period.

Closing law enforcement consent loophole act introduced

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation on November 29 to prohibit federal law enforcement officers from claiming consent as a defense when accused of sexually assaulting someone in their custody or while exercising their authority under color of law. Over the last year, states including New York, Maryland, Kansas, and Louisiana have enacted legislation closing a loophole that allows law enforcement officers to claim that a sexual encounter with someone in their custody was consensual to avoid assault charges. While there is a federal law that prohibits sexual contact between corrections employees and those in federal custody, no such prohibition exists for other federal law enforcement officers. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) introduced similar legislation in the House.


Sign On Letters

  • On November 19, NCJW submitted written comment to the US Commission on Civil Rights in response to its November 2, 2018 hearing, “Are Rights a Reality? Evaluating federal civil rights enforcement.”
  • On November 19, 76 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by Lambda Legal to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar urging him to deny a waiver that would grant South Carolina an exemption from federal nondiscrimination provisions for child welfare providers.
  • On November 20, over 320 organizations including NCJW sent a letter organized by United We Dream to Leader Pelosi asking the incoming Democratic-controlled House of Representatives to bring to the floor and send to the Senate, clean, stand-alone legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) within the first 100 days of the 116th Congress.
  • On November 26, NCJW joined 122 organizations on a letter led by National Women’s Law Center calling on the Department of Education to extend the comment period on its proposed Title IX regulations from 60 to 120 days.
  • On November 27, 70 organizations including NCJW joined a letter organized by ADL urging Congress to pass two bills for combating global anti-Semitism.
  • On November 28, NCJW joined 111 organizations on a letter led by the ACLU urging the administration to reverse its policies of using information obtained from detained immigrant children to find, arrest, and try to deport their parents and relatives.
  • On November 29, 22 faith groups including NCJW joined a press statement organized by Muslim Advocates calling for Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker’s resignation for his stance on blocking non-Christian judges.
  • On November 29, NCJW joined 140 groups joined a letter organized by Center for American Progress urging Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to bring a resolution to censure Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to the House floor given the latter’s racist and xenophobic remarks.


Related Resources