Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters, June 10, 2014.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate GOP follows House’s lead on diversity

Late last year, House Republicans announced their committee chairs for the 114th Congress, and when it comes to diversity, the GOP majority fell short: there are 21 House committees and 20 of them will be led by white men. The exception will be the House Administration Committee – responsible for overseeing the administrative tasks associated with the Capitol itself, including the cafeteria, office supplies, etc. – which will be led by a white woman.
 
As Rachel noted on the show after the announcements were made, “This is your Republican Party in Washington in all its glory. It should be noted, this is the cross-section of America they’re offering to the American people now that they’ve taken power.”
 
Senate Republicans didn’t announce their committee chairs until late last week, but I was curious to see if they’d fare any better on the diversity front.
 
And in a way, they did. The Senate, like the House, has 21 committees, but instead of 20 white men and one white woman, the upper chamber’s committees will be led by 19 white men and two white women. They’ll join the Senate Republicans’ five-member leadership team, which is comprised entirely of white men.
 
In fairness, one can argue that the deck was stacked against GOP leaders when making these decisions – committee chairmanships and leadership posts are often based on seniority, and given that the Senate Republican conference has been dominated by white men for quite a while, they’re necessarily the ones who are in a position to rise when powerful slots open up. Maybe it’ll be better in the future.
 
Still, Newt Gingrich’s comments from two years ago come to mind.
 
The former Speaker appeared on “The Tonight Show” shortly after the 2012 elections, and Jay Leno showed him a picture of the House Republicans’ committee chairs, dominated by white men. Gingrich conceded the point.
The GOP’s all-white, all-male lineup of House committee chairs represents “a real problem for the Republican Party,” Newt Gingrich told Jay Leno on Thursday night.
 
“The fact is, that picture is, by definition, not helpful,” Gingrich said, adding that he planned to spend the next few months studying where Republicans erred in this election cycle and “what we didn’t understand about how America’s evolving and changing.”
The fact that the Senate lineup is so similar – 19 white men instead of 20 in the House – only helps reinforce the broader concern.
 
Indeed, it’s not just committee chairs. Rebecca Leber noted a few months ago that when it comes to committee witnesses – experts called in to offer guidance to policymakers – Republican committee chairs invite men to testify 77% of the time.
 
Here’s Rachel’s segment from November when the subject last came up.
 
The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/18/14, 9:00 PM ET

Diversity not a priority in House GOP picks

Rachel Maddow notes that the newly announced House Republican committee chairs have a remarkable consistency about them, suggesting that maybe Republicans no longer feel that diversity is important to electoral success.
 

Senate and Senate Republicans

Senate GOP follows House's lead on diversity