Joint Center Praises Leader Schumer on Staff Diversity Rules Yesterday, Roll Call published the text of diversity rules adopted by the U.S. Senate Democratic Conference last Tuesday. According to Roll Call, the rule reads as follows: “to the extent practicable, [Democratic] offices shall: (1) engage with the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative to identify qualified candidates for vacancies; (2) engage with congressional staff associations and outside stakeholder groups that represent diversity to solicit résumés; and (3) interview diverse applicants for all vacancies.” The following is a statement by Spencer Overton, the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “The Joint Center commends Leader Schumer for his leadership in this significant step to help diversify Democratic staff. Currently, only one of the top 336 Senate staffers is an African American Democrat, and there are no Black or Latino staff directors of full committees–Democrat or Republican. Leader Schumer has stepped up and committed to expanding the pool of diverse candidates in the interview process for his personal office, continued the Senate Diversity Initiative, and advocated for the adoption of these new conference rules. The Joint Center looks forward to working with the Democratic and Republican Senate and House offices to identify strong candidates of color for vacancies.
Joint Center
Mar 9, 2017

The Problem


In December 2015, there were 336 top Senate staffers (Chiefs of Staff, Legislative Directors, Communications Directors, and Staff Directors), but only 24 staffers of color–12 Asian Americans, 7 Latinos, 3 African Americans, and 2 Native Americans.


Black Latino AAPI Native Am. POC
U.S. Population 13.3% 17.6% 5.8% 1.2% 37.9%
Top Senate Staff 0.9% 2.1% 3.6% 0.6% 7.1%

Currently, of the 39 Staff Directors of full Senate Committees (both Majority and Minority), none are Latino or African American.

This is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans. For example, although African Americans account for 22% of Democratic voters, they account for less than 1% of Democratic top staff. Of the 5 Black top staffers in the U.S. Senate, only one is a Democrat (the other four are Republicans). Democrats have:

  • No African-American Chiefs of Staff
  • No African-American Communications Directors
  • No African-American Staff Directors
  • Only one African-American Legislative Director

Why is this a problem?

Top staffers in Washington, DC:

  • Manage the Senate legislative agenda
  • Shape the $3.8 trillion U.S. federal budget
  • Provide oversight of all federal agencies
    • Collectively has over 4.1 million employees
  • Hire, manage, and dismiss Senate staff

Senate has the power to confirm:

  • U.S. Ambassadors
  • Federal Judges
  • Cabinet Secretaries
  • Other top federal agency commissioners and officials


All Senators should take several steps to increase diversity:


  • Interview and hire people of color as legislative assistants, so that at least half of the LAs in an office are POC
  • Be more transparent about who works in each office
  • Employ the National Football League’s (NFL) “Rooney Rule” in all hiring processes
  • Establish a competitive, senior-level minority fellowship, and hire interns and fellows from APAICS, CBCF, CHCI, and the GW Native American Political Leadership Program
  • Centralize diversity resources for Senators and staff
  • Develop and adopt a diversity plan for each personal office and committee office
  • Require implicit bias training for staff who make hiring and staff evaluation decisions
  • Support legislation for a Chief Diversity Officer for the U.S. Senate set to be proposed in 2017

Local civil rights groups can:

  • Provide quotes and be available to press
  • Ask your Senator for a regular check-in (e.g. conference call) about staff diversity and hiring
  • Generate local interest on the issue of hiring diversity

Media outlets can:

  • Educate the public about the importance of top staff and racial diversity, and ask your Senator about the status of the issue.

Click here for a printable pdf of this fact sheet.

Click here for Joint Center President Spencer Overton’s statement on Top Congressional Staff hires.



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