LACK OF COLOR

The congressional committees that write US laws, ranked in order of white-maleness

When, in May, a team of 13 Republican senators began drafting the first Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, something stood out: There were no women working on the bill. This was reflected in the bill’s text, which said virtually nothing about health care for women and mothers.

There are only 21 female senators out of 100 in the current Congress, of whom only five belong to the GOP. And things are no better when looking at the Congressional committees— of which there are 20 each in the Senate and the House—responsible for drafting laws that govern American lives. Both women and ethnic minorities are less than half as prevalent in Congress and on its committees as they are in the country as a whole.

However, it’s on the level of individual committees that the figures become truly skewed. Three committees have no minority members, and several have just one or two of either women or minorities.

Statistically speaking, this isn’t surprising. Given the low overall percentages of women and minorities in Congress, one would expect some committees to have almost none, simply by chance. But what this shows is that the political parties—which at the beginning of each Congress nominate members (pdf) to committees based on those members’ interests and internal party politics—care about diversity so little that they indeed leave it to precisely that: chance.

The result is that some of the most important lawmaking decisions, affecting the entire US population, are taken by groups consisting almost exclusively of white men. Spokespeople for both parties declined to comment.

All-white committees:

  • Agriculture (Senate)
  • Ethics (Senate)
  • Administration (House)

Committees with only one person of color:

  • Appropriation (Senate)
  • Finance (Senate)
  • Budget (Senate)
  • Health, education, labor and pension (Senate)
  • Veterans’ affairs (Senate)
  • Homeland security (Senate)
  • Indian affairs (Senate)
  • Rules (House)

Committees with only one woman:

  • Ethics (Senate)
  • Foreign relations (Senate)
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