The 118th Congress is the most diverse in our nation’s history, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at committee leadership. Our recent analysis of committee chairs and ranking members — the most senior members of the majority and minority party in each committee, respectively — tells us that those who shape our laws do not reflect the demographics of the nation that must then follow those laws.
We often look at the top echelons of party leadership in each chamber — the speaker, the Senate majority and minority leaders — as those who set the agenda in Congress and make the most consequential political calls. However, that perspective overlooks the other leaders who decide which bills get heard and which bills die on the vine. These are the people who shape the substance of the legislation that eventually lands on the president’s desk.
- White members of Congress hold 95% of Senate committee gavels and 96% of House gavels – far above their roughly 58% share of the U.S. population.
- The ranking members of full committees in the House and Senate are more diverse than the committee chairs in each chamber.
- Signaling the potential for greater diversity in the future, the demographics of House subcommittee ranking members comes much closer to reflecting the diversity of the American public.
- The lack of diverse perspectives among leading policymakers leads to public policies that contribute to holding America back from reaching its full potential.