House Democrats Adopt New Rule to Prioritize Staff Diversity

July 7, 2020 Updated: July 7, 2020

The House Democratic Caucus voted Monday, during their weekly phone conference, to include a diversity rule in the Caucus regulations, which encourages members to prioritize diversity in hiring practices for all levels of staffing.

“One of our Caucus’s top priorities has long been to promote diversity at every level of Congress so that these halls better reflect the dynamism and vibrancy of the American people whom we are privileged to represent,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Chairman Hakeem Jefferies (D-N.Y.) and Chairwoman Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) in a joint statement.

“This Diversity Rule is another key step toward ensuring that our Congressional community will be more inclusive, diverse, open and representative of the full range of voices and values of our communities,” they said in the statement.

Incorporating this new rule is part of an ongoing effort by Democrats to diversify Capitol Hill. At the start of the 116th Congress, when the Democrats gained a majority in the House, they voted to establish as part of the Rules Package a permanent House Diversity Initiative, which among other things, created a new House Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The House Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s goal was to formulate a diversity plan for House members, including policies on guiding House offices on hiring and retaining a diverse workforce and to act as a resource for employees on diversity issues.

Although Democrats have been steadily working on making the Congress more diverse, the death of George Floyd and the national protests that have followed, prompted the leadership to adopt the diversity rule (pdf), in an effort to counter “social injustices.”

“Our nation is currently experiencing one of the most important social justice awakenings since the Civil Rights movement that culminated in the 1960s,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday before the conference call.

“While it is true that we have the most diverse Congress in American history when it comes to diversity in our staff recruitment, hiring, and retention practices in our offices, leadership teams, and committee staff, we are failing,” continued Congressman Cárdenas.

Cardenas pointed to the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies survey, which found “that more than eight out of 10 chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors in the 115th Congress were white. In 2018, 84 percent of chiefs, 88 percent of legislative directors, and 87 percent of communications directors were white. Of the 1,110 senior staff positions, only 152 were people of color.”

Cardenas urged caucus members to support the formation of a member’s task force, its mission: “ensuring more equitable hiring practices and staff diversity. This task force will identify best practices in all aspects of staff recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotions. Every Member will be provided with every opportunity to build diversity in every team in the House. Diversity is our strength.”