On the Hill Updates: November 9, 2018
Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
Final birth control rules allow employers to discriminate
The day after the midterm elections, the Trump administration published two final rules on religious and moral exemptions to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit — despite two nationwide injunctions against the proposals. The rules, to take effect in about two months, would allow virtually any employer to refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive methods by claiming religious or moral objections. NCJW submitted comments opposing these rules which could leave millions of women without access to birth control, reverse important public health progress made under the ACA, and are a license to discriminate.
Health care galvanizes voters; time to #GetCovered
Among the issues galvanizing progressive voters in the midterms was expanding access to health care. Democrats in the US House of Representatives are expected to move quickly to defend the ACA’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions as soon as the 116th Congress starts in January. And, now through December 15 is the open enrollment period to get covered through the ACA’s health care marketplace. Learn more here!
Senate Judiciary Committee gets right back to work
The Senate Judiciary Committee will immediately resume its court-packing agenda when Congress returns from recess on November 13. The Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the nomination of Paul Matey of New Jersey, nominated to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is moving forward with the hearing despite Senators Menendez and Booker (both D-NJ) withholding their blue slip, which indicates their lack of support for this nominee. NCJW strongly opposes the Committee’s continued disregard for the norms that safeguard an independent and bipartisan judiciary, including the blue slip tradition.
#SCOTUS permits age discrimination case to proceed
On November 6, the US Supreme Court issued its first ruling of the term in one of the cases NCJW has been watching, Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido. Justice Ginsburg wrote for the Court, finding that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to all public employers ꟷ not just those with more than twenty employees, as alleged by the Mount Lemmon Fire District after it fired its two oldest employees. The decision means the lawsuit can continue. NCJW opposes discrimination on the basis of age, among other categories, and is relieved that this decision will protect more workers. Notably, Justice Kavanaugh did not participate in the decision, as he had not yet joined the Court when it heard oral arguments. Learn more about the other Supreme Court cases NCJW is watching this term.
Appeals court upholds DACA
On November 8, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s temporary order preventing President Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA granted temporary status to young immigrants brought to the US as children. The president terminated DACA last fall, but legal challenges reinstated the program as it makes its way through the courts.
Historic gains in midterm elections
Voter turnout on Tuesday was historic, with nearly 114 million people casting their ballots for this election — the highest turnout in a midterm election since 1966. This election cycle saw a record number of women and people of color voted into office, resulting in a more diverse Congress. Among those elected were many firsts, including the first Muslim and Native American Congresswomen, the youngest woman ever elected to the House, and the first female senators or governors of a handful of states.
NCJW leaders and sections across the country worked on more than two dozen ballot initiatives, many of which passed. Amendment 4 in Florida restored voting rights to 1.4 million people, Proposal 2 in Michigan created an independent redistricting commission while Proposal 3 enacted a slate of voting reforms, and Amendment 2 in Louisiana struck down a Jim-Crow era law by ending the practice of split-jury decisions. NCJW thanks members and leaders across the country for their efforts to register voters, get out the vote, and pass critical ballot measures.
Sessions asked to step down
On November 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions tendered his resignation upon President Trump’s request. Sessions executed the legal architecture for the president’s anti-immigrant agenda, and also oversaw the rollback of civil rights protections for people of color, LGBTQ folks, religious minorities, and more. In the short term, Matthew Whitaker (formerly Sessions’ Chief of Staff) will helm the agency. He is on record saying he only supports federal judges with a “Biblical view.” In the long term, numerous people are being discussed as possible replacements, including current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-led Trump’s voter “fraud” coalition. NCJW calls on President Trump to select a nominee for this position who will demonstrate a commitment to fundamental constitutional values and who are free of the taint of racism, transphobia, and bigotry.
New drug testing rule proposed Monday
This week the Department of Labor published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would allow states to decide when drug tests are required to receive unemployment benefits. The rule came after an Obama-era restriction on drug testing was reversed by congressional Republicans. The 60-day public comment period on the rule closes on January 4, 2019. NCJW opposes tying unemployment benefits to drug testing.
Immigration and Refugees
President moves forward on limiting asylum
On November 8, the administration released an interim final rule (which takes effect immediately) that bars categories of migrants from seeking asylum in the US if they are included in future presidential proclamations. President Trump is expected to issue a proclamation in the coming days stating that migrants who cross the border outside official ports of entry will be ineligible for asylum. Advocates are planning a response to this latest attack on immigrants — stay tuned.
Sign On Letters
- NCJW joined 34 organizations on a principles and priorities document calling for legislative action to eliminate workplace harassment.
- NCJW joined 34 organizations of the Interfaith Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence on a letter to Congress asking for support of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (HR 6545).
Israel Knesset’s Court Override Bill: a challenge to democracy
We have been anxiously watching various versions of the override bill as it wends its way through the Knesset over the past year. The basic concept of “override” is to allow the Knesset, the Israeli legislative body, to override decisions of the Supreme Court of Israel by a mere Knesset majority (61 votes or over). This would be an extremely significant and devastating blow to Israel’s democracy, its government already has little balance of powers. Right wing Knesset members have been trying to weaken the power of the Supreme court, mainly with regard to immigration and 2-state solution issues. Originally, anti-immigration Knesset members, angry that the Supreme Court was thwarting their plans to deport African asylum seekers without any due process, posed a narrow version of the override bill; this bill was not brought to the Knesset this past Sunday as expected. (There are 37,000 mostly African refugees seeking asylum in Israel who are in limbo.)
Instead, there are now 2 broader versions of the bill. This coming Sunday it seems, a version that would severely limit the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review is scheduled to be brought to a preliminary vote by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. If passed, it would go to the Knesset for debate and voting. This bill would require the Supreme Court to have a full panel unanimous decision to overturn a Knesset law, when it comes to legislation related to any Basic Law (Israel’s Basic Laws are deemed similar to the power of a constitution, which Israel does not have.) Currently, only a majority of Justices are required to overturn a Knesset Law.