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Tri-Caucus leaders call for restoration of House diversity office

Minority groups blast Republicans over funding cuts and look to the future

Leaders of three powerful minority caucuses in Congress want to see a revival of the House’s diversity office. From left, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu arrive for a news conference at a Democratic retreat in Leesburg, Va., on Feb. 8.
Leaders of three powerful minority caucuses in Congress want to see a revival of the House’s diversity office. From left, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu arrive for a news conference at a Democratic retreat in Leesburg, Va., on Feb. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus are calling for the restoration of the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion after funding for the office was slashed.

Republican appropriators zeroed out $3.5 million for the diversity office in the fiscal 2024 package enacted in March, prompting an outcry from staff groups and Democratic lawmakers. As the budget process kicks off for fiscal 2025, chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus — which includes the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — want to see ODI revived in the 119th Congress and beyond.

“ODI’s work has helped tremendously to improve the congressional workplace through its mission and work in Member services, research and data analytics, and professional development for all Congressional staff,” wrote CAPAC Chair Judy Chu, D-Calif., CBC Chair Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and CHC Chair Nanette Barragán, D-Calif, in a letter to Democratic leaders Monday. 

“Despite ODI’s record of service, Republican lawmakers are so eager to score political points by eliminating all diversity and inclusion programs that they undercut a non-partisan office that dozens of their own Members have used to identify highly qualified candidates that they went on to hire,” the letter continues. It was addressed to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and House Administration Committee ranking member Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y.

ODI was created in the 116th Congress as an independent, nonpartisan office tasked with fostering “diversity among House employing offices,” according to its website. 

During the fiscal 2024 budget process, House Legislative Branch Appropriations Chair Mark Amodei, R-Nev., was critical of the office, claiming it had become partisan and questioning some of its expenses.

“This is a function that should continue, but this particular function needs some supervision,” Amodei said last year.

According to the Tri-Caucus letter, some ODI staff and “critical functions” were ultimately protected under the auspices of the Chief Administrative Officer this year. But Sesha Joi Moon, who had led the diversity office since 2022, announced in March her plans to depart the Hill.

“While I will off-ramp in coming weeks as part of my long-planned departure, some from the team will continue in the [House’s] commitment to ‘put the people in the people’s house’ by transitioning to the newly formed Office of Talent Management within the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer,” Moon wrote in a March statement.

“On behalf of ODI, it has been an honor to help ensure that the United States Congress embodied a qualified and representative workforce that reflected the country’s vast tapestry,” Moon’s statement continued.

Staff groups, meanwhile, have warned that dissolving the diversity office may exacerbate hiring and retention problems. The Congressional Black Associates, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, and the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus issued a collective statement in March noting that people of color continued to be underrepresented on the Hill. 

“Eradicating efforts that promote diversity and inclusion could reduce opportunities for staffers of color, creating further barriers to representation in a body that already does not adequately reflect the diversity of the country it represents,” the groups wrote.

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