One of the U.S. Senate's newest members is proposing to shake up the chamber by mandating "diversity" quotas for everything from staffs to committees.
A proposal by Nevada’s freshman Democratic senator, Catherine Cortez Masto, could mimic efforts in corporate America. Large companies across the country, particularly those in Silicon Valley, have been under intense pressure to hire more minorities.
Cortez Masto thinks it should be a Congressional priority, too.
“We should be mandating diversity in our committees, mandating diversity in our hiring practices, mandating diversity throughout the United States Senate,” Cortez Masto told the podcast Women Rule. “You just have to walk in the room and look at the Senators that are there — the 100 Senators, right? You could see the lack of diversity.”
The senator said all members of Congress should make diversity a priority in hiring practices – whether it is staff members they are hiring for their office or staffers on Congressional committees.
Congressional legal experts say her proposal is almost identical to what many government agencies and private companies already do. One expert said that while he may not agree with it, why shouldn’t Congress be held to the same standard?
“This is obviously the outgrowth and natural conclusion of what’s going been on for a long time outside Capitol Hill,” said Professor John Eastman of Chapman University. “This is exactly what the 1964 Civil Rights Act said we cannot do, but we know that this is the way the law has nevertheless been applied throughout the rest of the country. So, why not hold the Congress to the same rules that apply to everyone else so the politicians can see the absurdity of it?”
Cortez Masto beat Republican challenger Joe Heck in a closely fought race last year to replace Harry Reid. Official exit polls showed there was an uptick in Hispanics who voted for Heck and President Trump when compared to 2012, though a decisive majority still voted Democrat.
Chapman and other political experts believe that aggressive diversity programs could backfire.
“The political leadership loves this stuff, but the rank-and-file tend to know it perpetuates discrimination and sometimes undermines their own successes because it feeds into the idea, ‘you just got this because you’re part of some kind of affirmative action program,’” Chapman said.
Cortez Masto, like many other elected officials from across the political spectrum, has been a vocal advocate for increasing diversity among elected officials and encourages minorities to run for political office.
But that does not mean, said her press secretary Sarah Zukowski, “that efforts to increase diversity should infringe on the democratic selection of Congressional members.”