Black cau­cus pushes Pelosi on mi­nor­ity hir­ing for com­mit­tees

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Brian DeBose

The Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus has asked Demo­cratic lead­ers to hire more mi­nori­ties to work for House com­mit­tees and on law­mak­ers’ staffs, say­ing the dearth of di­ver­sity on Capi­tol Hill is a prob­lem.

In a let­ter to House Speak­er­elect Nancy Pelosi and the lead­ers of the Demo­cratic Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, the CBC said the party must in­crease the num­ber of mi­nori­ties work­ing for com­mit­tees and sub­com­mit­tees, which will be con­trolled by Democrats.

The hir­ing of black, His­panic, Asian and other mi­nor­ity staffers has “been a ma­jor prob­lem” for years, said out­go­ing CBC Chair­man Melvin Watt, North Carolina Demo­crat.

“All you have to do is look at the com­po­si­tion of com­mit­tees, sub­com­mit­tees and lead­er­ship staffs,” Mr. Watt said, adding that the lack of di­ver­sity ex­tends to leg­is­la­tors’ staffs.

Al­though Mr. Watt did not pro­vide num­bers, com­mit­tee staffers who spoke with The Wash­ing­ton Times on the con­di­tion of anonymity said that fewer than 50 mi­nori­ties are among the hun­dreds of com­mit­tee staffers.

That num­ber does not in­clude staff mem­bers of the black, His­panic or Asian and Pa­cific Is­lan­der cau­cuses.

Mrs. Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, has promised to make mi­nor­ity hir­ing a pri­or­ity for in­com­ing com­mit­tee chair­man and has met with in­com­ing CBC chair­man, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kil­patrick, Michi­gan Demo­crat.

“This is the right time to ad­dress this, and we will be work­ing with the speaker to in­crease those num­bers,” Mrs. Kil­patrick said.

De­spite the Demo­cratic Party’s his­tor­i­cal ties to mi­nori­ties, Capi­tol Hill Repub­li­cans are said to have a bet­ter rep­u­ta­tion for hir­ing mi­nori­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to a run­ning joke one House staffer shared with The Times, “the only peo­ple who hire blacks and His­pan­ics around here are blacks, His­pan­ics and Repub­li­cans.”

Rep. Gre­gory W. Meeks, New York Demo­crat and a mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, did not dis­pute the charge.

“I’ve heard it, and I’ve looked around and found my­self scratch- ing my head,” he said. “That has been said and it is a chal­lenge for us to make sure our num­bers are bet­ter.”

The mis­sion starts with in­ter­view­ing and ac­cept­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of mi­nor­ity mem­bers and cur­rent staffers to build a larger pool of tal­ent, Mr. Meeks said.

Con­gres­sional jobs, he said, are of­ten won on the strength of who you know as op­posed to what you know.

Mr. Watt said he does not think that Repub­li­cans have a more di­verse staff than Democrats do, but cau­tioned that, “there should be no ques­tion about it” if his party is go­ing to stand on a plat­form built on di­ver­sity.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat and chair­man of the Demo­cratic Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, said there’s noth­ing to fix.

“I don’t be­lieve there is a prob­lem,” she said, adding that mi­nor­ity hir­ing al­ways has been and will con­tinue to be a pri­or­ity among Democrats.

“Our speaker-des­ig­nate has al­ways said that our mem­ber­ship on com­mit­tees and our com­mit­tee staffs should re­flect the di­ver­sity of the coun­try, so that has been, I think, an on­go­ing process and it will con­tinue to be,” she said.

A study by Diver­si­tyInc. mag­a­zine in June showed that 7.6 per­cent of a 1,000 Se­nate staff po­si­tions were held by blacks, His­pan­ics or Asians. No other stud­ies have been con­ducted in re­cent years, but the di­ver­sity ra­tios in the House are not much bet­ter in ei­ther party, say staffers.

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