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Pelosi Touts House Caucus' Diversity Amid Grumbling Over Staff Hires

Pelosi touts female ranking member on Appropriations Committee, says diversity helps people feel like they have a voice at table

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Pelosi has been touting the diversity of the Democratic Caucus since Election Day, declaring it the most diverse “in the history of civilized government.” While some think that goes a bit far, the increase in diversity is a point of pride for the House conference.

Since Election Day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and top Democrats have been touting the diversity of the incoming Democratic Caucus, going so far as to declare it the most diverse political party caucus “in the history of civilized government.”

However, close observers say the party has more work to do at the staff level, and some feel that Pelosi’s praise of the incoming caucus has, at times, gone overboard.

Democrats say their inclusive conference provides a powerful symbol to voters, and the party believes a relatively large increase in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be particularly significant for the next Congress.

The number of women and minorities in the Democratic ranks is particularly pronounced in comparison with the upper echelons of the House Republican Conference, a point Pelosi sought to hammer home at a news conference Wednesday, with the new batch of Democratic ranking members assembled behind her.

Pelosi highlighted New York Rep. Nita M. Lowey, the first woman to lead Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, a clubby panel known for its male-dominated culture.

In contrast, House Republicans had no female committee chairmen until Speaker John A. Boehner appointed Michigan Rep. Candice S. Miller to head the House Administration Committee last week. Miller had made an unsuccessful bid to helm the Homeland Security Committee.

“It produces something that is really very important for our country,” Pelosi told Roll Call about the diversity of the Democrats in the 113th Congress. “One of the messages it sends, if you’re a woman, if you’re gay or if you’re a minority, you can have the comfort of saying: ‘Somebody like me has a seat at the table. Somebody who understands my aspirations, my hopes and dreams.’”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland established a résumé bank this fall to assist newly elected Democrats in hiring staff. The application process asks for optional demographic information, including, in an expansion from last week, whether applicants are members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Mr. Hoyer is proud that the House Democratic Caucus will be the most diverse Caucus in our history in the 113th Congress, and one of the primary goals of the résumé bank our office has established is to strengthen diversity in House Democratic offices,” said Mariel Saez, a Hoyer spokeswoman, in an email.

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