Congressional Black Caucus pushes for hiring of more minority staffers

The Congressional Black Caucus is stepping up its pressure on fellow lawmakers and committees to hire more minorities, seeking hard data it can use to show that even after the election of a black president, the staff on Capitol Hill doesn’t reflect America.

The CBC is completing a survey of minority hiring by committees. And it recently got detailed diversity questions added to a compensation survey of all House offices done by the chief administrative officer (CAO) of the House, Dan Beard.

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CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said the surveys will be used to ensure a more diverse workforce on Capitol Hill.

“The lack of African-American staffers, particularly in senior positions, on Capitol Hill is apparent and of deep concern,” Lee said. “As a result, the Congressional Black Caucus has made several inquiries about staff diversity.”

The surveys will provide the first data on minority hiring in the House since a 2004 Congressional Management Foundation study found only 9 percent of House staffers were black.

The compensation survey had tracked diversity in hiring for decades, but the diversity questions were deleted in 2006.

The CBC, along with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus, pressed the CAO’s office to include questions about the race and gender of each staffer in this year’s compensation survey, and the CAO agreed. The surveys were due July 3.

The survey, generally completed by chiefs of staff, asks about the gender, age and race of each staffer, in addition to how much he or she is paid. It does not request the names of the employees, and the information will not be traceable to the offices of individual lawmakers.

 Additionally, the survey asks whether it is a priority for the racial make-up of the staff to “reflect your constituents’ demographics.”

It also asks whether the lawmaker provides “any type of leave that covers cultural or ethnic events/holidays,” and “If not, why not?”

The survey comes as the CBC has shown it’s ready to flex its muscles. Democrats are in the majority, with a president who used to be a member of the CBC. Among the CBC’s 42 members are four committee chairmen and 17 subcommittee chairmen.

An aide to a CBC member said that there is a general sense that there is a paucity of minority staffers, but not enough hard data.

“People look around and see there isn’t a lot, but there isn’t an accounting,” the aide said.

Lee recently took on the Sunday political talk shows, saying that African-American lawmakers, particularly chairmen and subcommittee chairmen, should be invited more often to speak on their areas of expertise.

Separately, a group of frustrated members, lobbyists and aides are pressing congressional leaders to adopt a version of professional football’s so-called “Rooney rule.” That rule requires that NFL teams interview at least one minority candidate when they are filling head coaching vacancies.

That group says more effort has been made in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a diversity officer to assist Democratic senators with hiring. That group’s efforts are geared more toward getting more minorities hired for senior roles, like chiefs of staff. Only five white lawmakers have black chiefs of staff.

The CBC, along with the CHC, challenged the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 for not hiring enough minorities, prompting now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to appoint an ad hoc panel of lawmakers to investigate concerns with DCCC’s management.

Still, some have criticized the CBC for not doing more to recruit African-Americans. Critics say the CHC has a better-developed internship process and actively aids those interns in finding a place on Capitol Hill.

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