[T]he bulk of an hour of debate in Wednesday's Appropriations markup was devoted to a two-word phrase the Library of Congress is trying to excise from its lexicon: "illegal alien." The Legislative Branch subcommittee's decision to insist that the federal library continue using the phrase prompted the panel's ranking Democrat to vote against the appropriations bill.
A House Appropriations panel this week took up a spending bill that should have been pretty uncontroversial: the package provides funding for basic federal functions such government printing, the Capitol Police, and congressional operations.
But Roll Call reported that lawmakers ran into an unexpected controversy.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who also happens to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee, reminded her colleagues, "We're appropriators. We're supposed to be deciding how much money we allocate for each of these agencies. It is not our place to be debating the two halves of a particular term."
Let's back up and consider how we got to this point. Late last month, officials at the Library of Congress, facing some pressure from immigration activists and research professionals at the American Library Association, agreed it's time to update their reference catalog. Going forward, they said, "aliens" will be labeled "noncitizens," while "illegal immigration" will be listed as "unauthorized immigration."
That apparently didn't sit well with 20 House Republicans, led by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who actually introduced federal legislation -- I'm not kidding -- that would require the Library of Congress to use the old language in its reference catalog, whether the institution likes it or not.
Rep. Tom Graves' (R-Ga.) appropriations panel sought to take care of this by adding language to this week's spending bill that "instructs the library to maintain certain subject headings that reflect terminology used in Title 8 of the United States code."
And since Title 8 refers to "illegal aliens," the Library of Congress would be required, by congressional mandate, to do the same thing.
This fight will now go to the full House Appropriations Committee, where Debbie Wasserman Schultz hopes members will "make a decision not to be the word police."