Tri-Caucus Chairs Announce New Initiative to Promote Diversity of House Committee Witnesses

Dec 12, 2019

WASHINGTON— Today, the Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – which represents over half of the Democratic Caucus and includes the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) – announced a new diversity initiative to track outside witnesses and experts invited to testify before House Committees beginning in January 2020. This initiative aims to ensure that a diversity of voices and perspectives are considered by committees as we work toward inclusive policies and legislation for the American people.

The letter, which was sent to all committees and subcommittees in the House, was led by Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and co-signed by Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu (CA-27) and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (CA-37).

“Right now, we have our most diverse Congress in history – and as Chairs of the Tri-Caucus, it is our responsibility to ensure that this House is doing everything possible to represent the full diversity of the American people. That is why we are calling on our own Committees, our own colleagues, to join us by inviting witnesses that reflect all the communities we represent: urban and rural, from every socioeconomic class, of every racial background, and evenly include experts of every gender,” stated the Tri-Caucus Chairs. “People of color and women are experts in their fields, but are not always called as witnesses before Congress. We hope that the Committees of the House will join us and keep diversity in the forefront of their work beginning in 2020.”

“As Speaker of the House, I am proud of the historic diversity and dynamism of our Members and their staffs, which enrich our institution and strengthen our Majority’s ability for fight For The People” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12).  “We are grateful to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus for taking this critical step to build on House Democrats’ diversity initiative by ensuring that the work of our committees reflects that same priority of diversity.  We must ensure that the Congress is listening to the full range of voices and values in our communities, so that the People’s House continues to be a reflection of the American people whom it is our great honor to serve.”

“I’m proud to be Majority Leader for a House Democratic Caucus that is the most diverse in American history, with a record number of women, LGBT Americans, and people of color. As we continue to promote a more diverse, transparent, and open Congress for the people, it is fitting that we ought to make sure that those who testify before the House on matters of great importance to the nation and our policymaking represent the full diversity of our country,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5). “I wholeheartedly support this effort by the Tri-Caucus to track the diversity of committee witnesses and recommend ways to ensure a fuller representation of views and experiences among those testifying before Congress.”

“As our country becomes more diverse, our Democratic caucus has gotten more diverse along with our staffs. We must ensure that the same diversity that lies within our caucus and nation is reflected in the witnesses that come before the Committees in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC-6). “I strongly support this initiative and know that we will benefit tremendously from having more diverse individuals provide their expert testimony before our Committees.”

“Through record engagement and activism, the women of this country helped deliver the Democratic majority and the most diverse Congress in history, including the 90 women in our caucus. Women excel in all areas, and it’s important to have women’s perspectives and experiences represented on every single issue,” said Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs Lois Frankel (FL-21), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and Jackie Speier (CA-14), and Vice Chairs Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Deb Haaland (NM-01). “This initiative will make sure those voices are heard and help us more effectively work For The People.”

“I know how difficult it was for me to imagine a Native American woman in Congress because it was something I had never seen before. In the same way that representation in our elected leaders is, it is equally important that Congress hears from these diverse voices at every turn whether it be at a briefing or in the committee room. That’s why we’re pushing for a radical shift in the way we approach hearings, so folks from all backgrounds have a seat at the table to share their expertise and experience. I’m grateful for the hard work it took to get to this place, and am proud to join the Tri-Caucus in their fight,” added Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01).

“I’m proud to serve in the most diverse Congress in our nation’s history, and to be one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress,” said Congresswoman Sharice Davids (KS-3). “As a co-chair of the largest Equality Caucus in history, I’m proud help ensure LGBTQ+ voices are heard as we work towards equality for every person in this country. However, having diverse members is just one step towards bringing meaningful representation to these great halls. We must also bring a broader diversity of voices to our Congressional hearings, and in order to do so, we need to collect information about the current the diversity of the outside witnesses and experts in our Committees.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.

Dear House Committee Chairman and Ranking Member,

As Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – composed of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) – we write to inform you about a Tri-Caucus diversity initiative we are planning to roll out starting January 2, 2020 to track the diversity of the outside witnesses and experts testifying before House committees and subcommittees. The policy making process will only benefit from ensuring diverse voices are part of Committee and subcommittee hearings. This will help ensure that our policies and legislation are inclusive and work for Americans of all backgrounds.

 

The 116th Congress is the most diverse in our Nation’s history. In the next few decades, the majority of the country will be composed of people of color. With an increasingly diverse population, a truly representative government must reflect the country’s changing demographics to ensure fairness and legitimacy. This is especially critical for the U.S. House of Representatives, a chamber that was specifically designed to reflect the most direct will of the American people.

Unfortunately, for many years, diverse communities have been marginalized or ignored during important policy making processes. This 116th Congress, it is imperative that we work to embrace, promote, and advance diversity in our halls and Committee panels.

Starting January 2, 2020, the Tri-Caucus will launch a witness diversity survey that all Committees will be able to share with expert witnesses they invite to testify at Committee hearings. The initial survey will only count outside experts and advocates invited by Committees to provide testimony and will not count Administration or agency officials. On December 12, 2019, we will send a sample of the survey to all Committee staff directors and arrange meetings to brief staff about the survey and how we will be using the data collected. Between now and January 2, 2020 we welcome any feedback or comments you may have about this diversity initiative.

If you have any questions about this process or the survey, please contact Stephanie Palencia at stephanie.palencia@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

Joaquin Castro              Karen Bass           Judy Chu

CHC Chair                   CBC Chair            CAPAC Chair