"We should not just try to fill billets just to say, "˜We've got a black guy,' or "˜We've got a Chinese girl.' I think that that is demeaning to people. I think that people want to be known and recognized for their abilities," West said.
Andrews' and West's comments are common among Republicans, who have long stuck by the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" philosophy that does not advocate special accommodations for one group — as evidenced by the conservative arguments against affirmative action in the Supreme Court last week.
Of the 288 top staffers for House and Senate leaders and congressional committees profiled inNational Journal's 2011 Hill People report who provided their race when asked, 93 percent were white. But in recent history, the GOP has not enacted any initiatives to increase diversity hiring in Capitol Hill offices. On the other hand, Democrats have encouraged their offices to hire more minorities, but their words have sometimes fallen short of action.
Drew Hammill, press secretary for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when asked for comment on her staff-diversity record, said in an e-mail: "Be it gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, as Leader Pelosi says, "˜the beauty is in the mix.' "
As House speaker in 2010, Pelosi announced plans for an online résumé bank designed to hold the applications of minority candidates who might otherwise not hear about job openings on Capitol Hill. But at the end of her term as speaker, the site was not yet functioning, and she let the responsibility of managing the résumé bank fall to the new Republican majority at the Committee on House Administration. Republicans on the committee said that they were neither trained for nor given access to the site.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid successfully launched a résumé bank in 2007 that is still managed by one of his senior aides. Since the launch of the Senate résumé bank, more than 200 jobs in Senate Democratic offices have gone to minorities, most of them racial minorities. But it has failed to make an impact on positions held by senior-level aides — those most likely to be heard during big discussions like the upcoming debate over sequestration. Out of 53 chiefs of staff who attend meetings with the Senate Democrats, only two are racial minorities, according to David McCallum, Reid's deputy chief of staff.
"If you attend chief-of-staff or staff-director meetings and look around the room, it's pretty obvious there is still much to be done on the diversity front," McCallum said. "The lack of diversity at the very senior levels is something we recognize and seem to struggle with, but the commitment is there. We do hope that we are sowing the seeds in the lower- and mid-level positions so that in time some of those folks might rise to the top."