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Jaime Ballew

Kavanaugh Confirmation Legislative Update: What Now?

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The Kavanaugh hearings have officially come to an end after no shortage of political theater by both Senators and paid disrupters. There’s still a lot that needs to happen before he can be confirmed. The Senate Judiciary Committee must give his nomination either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation to the entire Senate. This vote in the committee will be scheduled next week, but Democrats can object to a motion to proceed to a vote and delay the process.  If they do (and we fully expect that they will), the committee must wait one week before meeting again to consider the nomination. Once this time is burned, the vote can be taken, and then the committee can report the nomination to the full Senate.  Cloture can be filed the day after the committee gives their final report (cloture is a vote to end debate) and then the clock starts ticking to burn 30 hours of Senate floor debate.

It normally takes 60 votes to stop debate, but remember former Majority Leader Harry Reid changed the Senate rules in 2015 to allow for a simple majority (51) to end debate for lower court judges and cabinet nominees. When Democrats obstructed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice for the Supreme Court in 2017, Majority Leader McConnell was forced to change the Senate rules again to lower the cloture threshold for Supreme Court nominees to a simple majority. The vote to end debate on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination will require this same simple majority. After debate is over, the final vote will occur for confirmation; this vote also requires a simple majority of Senators present to pass.

This will likely take us into the end of September, and if all goes according to plan, including a successful floor vote, it appears that Judge Kavanaugh will be Justice Kavanaugh in time for the Supreme Court’s term beginning the first Monday in October (October 1).

Title X comment period ends with thousands of comments supporting Protect Life Rule

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Thank you all so much for your participation and work submitting comments to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the administration’s proposed Title X rule. The comment period for this rule closed on Tuesday. Just a refresher, Title X is a voluntary grant program that was enacted in the 70s to provide low income individuals with family planning services. The statute specifically says that abortion is not family planning and no funds can go toward abortion operations, but that hasn’t stopped the abortion industry from grabbing these funds and using them to prop up their abortion business. This new rule would require Title X grant recipients to detangle their abortion operations from Title X activity, better adhering to the law.

Concerned Women for America supporters were responsible for submitting thousands of comments supporting this rule; thank you!  HHS received over 200,000 comments and upon some brief preliminary investigation of our own, it appears that the majority of these comments are supportive of the rule. This was not the result we were expecting, but it is reflective of where the American people stand on taxpayer funded abortions and abortion activities. Polls continually show that about 6 in 10 Americans oppose taxpayer dollars from being used toward abortions, and that includes people who identify as pro-choice. Americans want out of the abortion business, and this proposed rule is an important step to detangle the abortion industry from government funding.

From here, HHS will review the comments and then they submit a final rule based on feedback. This will take at least a few months and then these rules will apply to future Title X grants. We hope that when grants are announced in August 2019 this rule will be implemented, and this program will no longer be used as a slush fund for the abortion industry. We do anticipate several states will sue HHS over this rule, which could delay implementation, but this rule is supported by Supreme Court precedent. In 1991 the Supreme Court upheld similar, more stringent rules, proposed by the Reagan administration in Rust v. Sullivan, and there have been no significant cases since then that would impact the precedent set by Rust.

It is unfortunate the pro-choice side had to resort to blatant lies and fear mongering in their opposition to this rule. They know that life is winning in America, and public opinion on abortion is shifting. We are a pro-life nation, and the abortion industry’s free ride on the backs of taxpayers is coming to an end.

Title X Comment Period: Now Open!

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You may remember last week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new proposed rule governing the Title X program that has the potential to make an impact on the fight against Planned Parenthood’s government funding. Today is the first day of the 60-day comment period, and now we have a unique chance to act and voice our support.

The Title X program is a voluntary grant program that was created to educate and provide family planning services. Even though the law says that abortion is not family planning, abortion giants like Planned Parenthood have used this grant program as their own personal slush fund.

But not under the Trump Administration. HHS proposed a new rule governing Title X funds. This rule, also referred to as the Protect Life Rule, proposes regulations similar to the “Reagan rules” that were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991 in Rust v. Sullivan. These new regulations require physical and financial separation between Title X recipients and abortion providers. Under these new regulations, abortion centers cannot serve as Title X family planning centers and recipients cannot refer for abortion. Additionally, grantees must comply with state/local abuse reporting requirements. This rule also repeals the Clinton-era regulations that require abortion counseling and instead makes this optional. This new regulation does not cut Title X dollars by a cent

This Protect Life Rule draws a bright line between abortion clinics and Title X dollars. By requiring physical and financial separation of Title X dollars, we can be sure that this taxpayer money is being used to help low-income women and not prop up abortion clinics.

After the comment period is closed, HHS will review the comments and issue a final ruling. This is why the comment period is so important: HHS’ final ruling is based off of what the public says. You know Planned Parenthood is out in full force; they even started accepting comments to submit before the comment period officially opened! We know that 60% of Americans want out of the abortion business and don’t want taxpayer dollars involved in abortions, so now it’s time for us to act.

For information on submitting a comment, a sample comment (you can use ours verbatim!), or more information on what exactly this rule will do if implemented, please visit ConcernedWomen.org/ProtectLifeRule.

Legislative Update – Title X

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On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) filed new Title X grant requirements similar to rules established during the Reagan era and upheld by the Supreme Court. This new rule requires physical and financial separation between Title X recipients and abortion providers in order to draw a clear line against federal tax money going to support abortion.   It also prohibits referrals for abortion to further disentangle federal taxpayer money from the abortion industry.  

For years abortion providers have used the fungibility of Title X funds to their financial advantage. Title X funding can be used for a number of things like utilities, advertising, staff salaries, and medical supplies. Basically, these grants can free up other funds and provide infrastructure for clinics like Planned Parenthood to promote abortion.

Title X has been Planned Parenthood’s second largest government funding stream.  They operate as if they are entitled to federal tax dollars and use these grants as their personal slush fund.   Under these new regulations, Planned Parenthood will have to play by the new rules or get out of the game.

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood wants you to believe abortion is just a small part of what they do. The reality is that over 90% of pregnant women who enter a Planned Parenthood clinic will receive an abortion.  It is not a “small part” of what they do, because if it were, these new rules would not make a big difference to their business model.  But we know otherwise.

This move by the Trump Administration is a promise kept. Almost 200 Members of Congress and 86 pro-life groups asked for these changes   Americans want out of the abortion business altogether.   Six in ten Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.  Title X funds have been tangled in big abortion for far too long.

While there is still more to do, this is a big step in the right direction.  Everyone is frustrated with the Senate’s failure to pass a bill redirecting Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding, and we are still furious that the omnibus allowed abortion providers to receive funding. Now the federal agency who controls who is eligible for Title X funding has responded. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to find new avenues to make progress against taxpayer funding of abortion providers.

“What are we doing about Planned Parenthood now?”

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One of the most common questions I get from grassroots advocates, supporters or even other D.C. folk is, “What are we doing now about Planned Parenthood?” Although we have proven we can get Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid reimbursement funding redirected to better healthcare providers through a House vote, the Senate makeup is not changing right now, so we are tackling this from a different angle.

According to their most recent annual report, in 2016 Planned Parenthood received approximately $543.7 million from the government. This is a big pot of money that is divided in a lot of ways. The main ways Planned Parenthood receives funding is through Medicaid reimbursement for services performed and through Title X (family planning) dollars and through other various government (state and federal) grants. The healthcare reconciliation bill that failed by one vote in the Senate last year tackled the largest portion: their Medicaid reimbursement, but we are not giving up because that bill failed.

The Title X Family Planning Program was authorized in 1970 and is intended to assist in “voluntary family planning projects,” offering “a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services,” and may not fund “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” The statute gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the ability to determine qualifications for this money. These qualifications are mostly outdated and although the statute firmly differentiates between abortion and family planning, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, is a large recipient of these funds. Obama regulations required all grantees to refer for abortion. This obviously deters many from applying for funds who do not believe abortion is a method of family planning.

Members of the House know this issue well and are currently circulating a letter to the Secretary of HHS to update these regulations. HHS recently issued new Title X regulations lifting the abortion referral mandate, but members of Congress are now asking for these funds to be fully separated from abortion clinics. As it stands, several Title X locations are also abortion clinics, but members are calling to renew similar Reagan Administration regulations (that the Supreme Court upheld) that require Title X service sites to be physically and financially separate from abortion facilities.

This is just one of the ways you won’t hear about on the news that we are working to cut off the government funding stream to Planned Parenthood. Their free ride on the backs of taxpayers is not forgotten in D.C. and is coming to an end.

CWA Advocates for Pompeo’s Swift Confirmation

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Moving this week is support for President Trump’s new nominee for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.  You will see CWA becoming more active later this month on the Hill when Pompeo appears in the Senate for his official hearings for his new position as Secretary of State.  This week we joined with other conservative organizations to lend our voice to his swift approval by signing on to a letter of support that will hit the Senate soon.

The letter stated that, “Mike Pompeo’s career also shows a regard for the sanctity of life, the solidarity of the family, and the solemnity of marriage.  These principles will be key in re-building a State Department that, under President Obama, actively pushed a radical social policy around the world.  His belief in religious freedom as a foreign policy priority is equally important in directing the State Department’s efforts to protect the freedom of all people.

“Mike Pompeo will be a positive agent for change at the State Department, and a valuable asset to President Trump in imparting his agenda at home and abroad.  We support his nomination and urge his swift confirmation.”

CWA Legislative Victory – Senate Passed FOSTA

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This week the Senate passed the House-passed Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA). We were apprehensive about the senate vote because Sen. Wyden (D-Oregon) has had a hold on this bill which prevented it from moving forward. Sen. Wyden, working with the tech industry, was planning to offer several amendments that would have drastically changed the bill and would have rendered it useless should they have been adopted. We worked with a pro-victim, anti-sex trafficking coalition to educate senators that these amendments were horrible and would significantly hurt the bill. The first amendment Sen. Wyden offered failed 2-97 and the second one was withdrawn, theoretically, because it would have suffered the same fate.

Sen. Wyden was one of the two senators to vote against final passage; the bill passed 97-2, and now the bill heads to the President’s desk to be signed. FOSTA provides survivors and law enforcement with new tools available to hold bad actor websites that are knowingly participating in sex trafficking accountable.

This is a victory for law enforcement officers who are working relentlessly to combat sex trafficking in their communities. This is a victory for prosecutors and the 50 state Attorneys General who support FOSTA who have asked for better tools and resources so that they can better prosecute those involved in sex trafficking. Perhaps most importantly, this is a victory for victims who have encountered substantial obstacles while trying to achieve justice against those found complicit in their trafficking.

Less than 24 hours after the bill passed, “adult” “escort” websites like cityvibe have already shut down because they know this bill will hold them accountable for selling human beings online. The language in FOSTA not only allows prosecution of websites who knowingly traffic humans, but also allows prosecution of websites who knowingly facilitate prostitution. We all know that backpage is responsible for trafficking women and minors, but this bill is about more than shutting down backpage, it is about stopping the next backpage, and it is clearly working before it is even the law of the land.

Another Hard-fought Victory This Week – Sex Trafficking

By | Blog, House Legislative Updates, Legislative Updates, News and Events, Senate Legislative Updates, Sexual Exploitation | No Comments

This week the House passed a sex trafficking bill (H.R. 1865) that would allow state attorneys general and victims to sue websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. This bill was created to target sites like Backpage.com, which is currently under Senate investigation because of the hosting of ads that promoted the trafficking of minors. The legislation passed changes Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which the first circuit ruled shields websites from lawsuits over user-generated content.

This bill was a fight from the very beginning. Fortunately, human trafficking is a big issue nationally, and generally, everyone agrees it is a horrid practice that must be stopped. However, this issue has a lot of money surrounding it, and that means there are a lot of anti-sex trafficking groups with a lot of opinions about how this type of legislation should be handled. This issue also touched the bipartisan golden child of Congress: the tech industry. Democrat and Republican leadership are both heavily funded by the tech industry, and, unfortunately, they hated this bill when it was originally introduced, so we had our work cut out for us.

CWA worked with Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Missouri) office almost weekly for a year, meeting and strategizing how to get people in D.C. on board with something for which states were asking. The original bill was altered several times to appease not only the trafficking groups, but also was altered per DOJ’s request. When it passed, it was supported by all 50 state attorneys general. The final bill is a reflection of what should happen in Washington. Everyone: groups, congressional Democrats and Republicans, and the administration, worked together (eventually, not everyone was on board initially) to make a stronger and better piece of legislation.

We were not happy with the Senate counterpart for the House bill. It is what I would refer to as a “pat ourselves on the back” bill; it seems like it is accomplishing something, and it sounds really good, but ultimately it was not as strong as the House bill, and we had major concerns. Unfortunately, we were one of the few who did have major concerns with only the Senate language, and many sex trafficking groups loved the Senate language, but we vocalized those concerns and worked with Rep. Wagner’s office to educate members and leadership on why the House bill is better.

H.R. 1865 passed the U.S. House by a vote of 388-25.   The Senate will take up the House-passed bill the week of March 12.  Congratulations to Rep. Wagner who led the charge on the passage of this bill.  CWA worked long and hard on this legislation.  We look forward to seeing it through to passage in the Senate, also.

 

CWA in the Budget Battle

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The house and senate again failed to agree on spending language by the midnight deadline, therefore shutting down the government for a few hours overnight. President Trump signed the continuing resolution into law a few hours later, but the spending battle is far from over.

This spending bill was paired with defense spending and a large relief fund for hurricane victims. Many of our faithful grassroots leaders were impacted by the hurricane, and we all remember stories of communities and churches coming together to help each other rebuild. Houses of worship were not immune from the impacts of the hurricane, and they should also be eligible for aid. The President himself noted this. Finally, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 includes language allowing for houses of worship and religious schools to be eligible for FEMA disaster aid. We will continue to work with House and Senate leadership to assure this provision makes it through the budget process.

What’s the latest on tax reform?

By | Blog, House Legislative Updates, Legislative Updates | No Comments

This week, the Republicans finished up their plan to overhaul the tax code. There is always a lot of work behind the scenes on big issues like this, and CWA has been working with the Senate, the House and the Administration to advocate for a pro-family tax code. Families are the foundation of civil society, and tax reform that is pro-family is an investment in our future.

A huge part of our work surrounds the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Concerned Women for America was an original advocator for the CTC, and we are continuing the legacy of our founder, Mrs. Beverly LaHaye, by continuing to work toward a tax system that does not penalize families. Not only are we working to increase the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 annually to $2,500 annually, we are also working to remove the cap on the number of children for which the credit applies; we are pushing to have this credit apply against payroll taxes, and we are working to get rid of the marriage penalty.

As a whole, this tax reform package must provide a net gain for families, because as any parent knows, having a child is expensive. The Department of Agriculture estimates that for a middle-income family to raise a child born in 2016 until he/she is 17, it will cost $233,610. The national average of the annual cost of childcare is 31% of the median household income, and in 33 states, the cost of infant care is higher than paying for college tuition. Increasing the CTC allows for more take home pay and, therefore, more financial flexibility raising children. For a family with four children, $4,000 annually may not make a huge impact, but $10,000 annually with the expanded CTC may allow a mother to work part time instead of full time and, therefore, spend more time at home with her children.

Ivanka Trump’s office has been leading the charge on this issue from the early days of the Trump Campaign and Penny and CWA’s legislative team (Caroline Aderholt, Ashley Traficant, and Jaime Ballew) have all met with Ivanka personally about modernizing our tax code so that it helps families. Additionally, Ashley and Jaime have been meeting with key Senate and House staff as well as senators and members of Congress to reiterate to the authors of this legislation that the tax code must help families.

Now that the tax reform package has been revealed, we will continue working with the administration, House and Senate leadership as well as with other groups to get the expansion of the CTC and tax reform, as a whole, accomplished.