Only 30 percent of Senate committee chairs and ranking members currently employ at least one person of color among their top committee staff.
WASHINGTON – The Joint Center launched its interactive report card (exclusively covered in Politico) allowing users to learn how U.S. Senate full committee chairs and ranking members are faring when it comes to hiring diverse top staff in their committee offices. We define top staff as the following job titles: staff director, deputy staff director, chief counsel, general counsel, and policy director.
Of the 39 Senate committee chairs and ranking members, only five matched or had a higher racial diversity score than the population of people of color in the U.S. (40 percent):
- Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chair, Indian Affairs
- Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Ranking Member, Special Committee on Aging
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair, Commerce, Science, and Transportation
- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member, Indian Affairs Ranking Member
- Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Chair, Veterans’ Affairs
Twenty-seven committee offices (11 Democratic offices, 15 Republican offices, and one Bipartisan office) have no racial diversity among top staff.
This is a bipartisan problem—most Democratic and Republican Senate committee offices do not have top staff that reflects the diversity of our nation. People of color account for 39 percent of registered Democratic voters and 14 percent of registered Republican voters. Unfortunately, 83 percent of the Democratic committee offices fail to reflect the nation’s diversity among their top staff (diversity scores that fall below 40), and 89 percent of Republican committee offices fail to reflect the nation’s diversity among top staff.
Diversity among top staffers of U.S. Senate full committees is critical because committee top staffers play essential roles in policymaking and in managing the confirmation process for federal judges, U.S. Attorneys, cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and other executive branch and independent agency leadership. These top committee staff think through how policies and appointments will affect various communities, and often hire, manage, promote, and dismiss other staff.
The Joint Center will release more detailed analysis and data disaggregated by race, position, and party affiliation soon in Dr. LaShonda Brenson’s forthcoming report Racial Diversity Among Senate Committee Top Staff. In that report, Dr. Brenson will reveal the percentage of top committee staffers by race/ethnicity and political party.
Since 2015, the Joint Center’s congressional staff diversity program has focused on researching and disseminating information on the importance of having a diverse congressional staff. Our findings can be found in our following reports: Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff (2015), Racial Diversity Among Top House Staff (2018), and Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices (2020).
Congress has since taken essential steps to improve transparency and staff diversity. For the past four years, Senate Democrats led both chambers by releasing racial/ethnic data about the staff in Democratic Senators’ personal and committee offices. Senate Democrats, however, have not disclosed the diversity of top staff.
Senators should work together and follow the lead of the U.S. House of Representatives by establishing an Office of Diversity and Inclusion that develops a diversity plan and helps Senate offices in recruiting, hiring, training, promoting, and retaining a diverse Senate staff. Earlier this year, the Joint Center organized a letter signed by over 35 civil rights groups addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging his office to establish a bipartisan Senate Diversity and Inclusion Office.