By Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post Latino Voices
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced who will chair all of the major House committees in the next Congress. And it turns out they all have something in common besides party affiliation: they’re all white men.
There isn’t a single woman or minority included in the mix of 19 House committee chairs announced Tuesday — a stark reality for a party desperate to appeal to women and minorities after both groups overwhelmingly rejected Republicans just weeks ago in the presidential election. The one female committee chair that House Republicans currently have, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), is stepping down because her term is up. While there are still two lower-tier House committees awaiting a chair assignment — the Ethics Committee and House Administration — neither committee has any women or minority members.
“Disappointed to see House committee chairmanships in the 113th Congress will not include a single woman. -PM,” tweeted Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who included a link to Boehner’s press release announcing the chair posts.
A House Republican leadership aide declined to comment on the lack of diversity in the party’s committee leadership. The aide noted, though, that GOP leaders just put four women in party leadership. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) is the new House Republican Conference Chair, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) is conference vice chair, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is conference secretary, and Rep.-elect Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) will represent freshman members in party leadership.
To be fair, House committee chairs are typically chosen based on their seniority on the committee, and most committees don’t have Republican women or minorities at senior levels. In addition, there just aren’t that many House Republican women and minorities to go around. In the 113th Congress, which kicks off in January, House Republicans will have 20 women in their camp, compared to 61 House Democratic women. You can count on two hands the number of House Republicans who are minorities. By contrast, in the new Congress, the House Democratic Caucus will have a majority of women and minorities for the first time in history.
Still, that doesn’t mean Republican leaders couldn’t have picked at least one woman or minority for a committee leadership post. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who is currently eighth in seniority on the House Homeland Security Committee, had a decent shot at taking over that committee. Instead, the chair post went to Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who is ranked fifth in seniority.
House Democratic leaders haven’t announced who will be the ranking Democrats on each of the committees, but they clearly dominate on the diversity front. Out of the 19 major House committees, as many as nine of the ranking Democrats are expected to be a woman or a minority. Among the more powerful posts: Either Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) or Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) is poised to take the top Democratic slot on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) is expected to be the ranking Democrat on Financial Services and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is African-American, who will keep his top slot on Judiciary.
A senior Democratic aide reveled in the fact that Republicans can’t seem to figure out how to diversify.
“One would think House Republicans would learn from their mistakes. But they have elected a roster of committee chairs that represent their ranks: old white men,” the aide said.
Boehner announced his new chairmen after the House Republican Steering Committee met behind closed doors for most of Tuesday. Most committees will keep the same chairs they already have, but more than half a dozen will get new leaders: In addition to McCaul’s new post, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) will now chair Financial Services, Rep. Ed Royce (Calif.) will lead Foreign Affairs, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) will chair Judiciary, Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) will chair Rules, Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas) will lead Science, Space, and Technology, and Rep. Bill Shuster (Pa) will head up Transportation and Infrastructure.
House committee chairs are term-limited, so all of the new chairmen are replacing someone who had to step down. Still, one lawmaker obtained a waiver to go around House rules and stay on as committee chair in the next Congress, despite his term being up: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will remain atop the House Budget Committee.
This article was first published in Huffington Post Latino Voices.
Jennifer Bendery covered the White House and Congressional leadership for three years at Roll Call before coming to HuffingtonPost. Prior to that, Bendery reported for four years on the Texas State Legislature for GalleryWatch in Austin, Texas, and covered health care policy for a number of national weekly newsletters. She also worked in book publishing in San Francisco for three years.
[Photo by DonkeyHotey]