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April 30, 2024

WATCH: Pressley Highlights Importance of DEI, Touts Bills to Codify Equity Across Federal Agencies

“The truth is that America needs DEI to disrupt systems of oppression that are active in every facet of our society.”

“DEI initiatives are how we combat white supremacy, antisemitism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, and more.”

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, in a House Oversight Committee hearing, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) slammed Republicans’ coordinated assault on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, and underscored the importance of DEI initiatives to combatting white supremacy, antisemitism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Rep. Pressley also touted a pair of bills she introduced this month with Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin, which would codify equity across federal agencies and improve government services for underserved communities.

A transcript of the Congresswoman’s question line is available below and the full video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley Slams GOP Assault on DEI, Touts Bill to Codify Equity Across Federal Agencies
House Committee on Oversight and Accountability
April 30, 2024

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Miller, for joining us today.

I want to take a moment to discuss the critical importance of DEI work. 

My colleagues across the aisle have waged an all-out war on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am not sure if it’s that they just hate one aspect of it, like diversity, or if it’s the combination of all three. 

Regardless, this Republican majority has demonstrated it’s out of touch with the priorities of everyday people and has focused its effort on passing legislation and budgets to undermine DEI and entrench systemic discrimination against people of color, folks with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.

Republicans sought to defund the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education, which is essential to confronting the rise in antisemitism and islamophobia impacting our students. 

Republicans voted to stop the hiring of DEI personnel in the military, despite evidence that it will improve military readiness.

And Republicans consistently use harmful rhetoric, at every opportunity, to undermine the talent, knowledge, skills, and the training of professionals in every sector where DEI initiatives exist.

And they often pervert, mischaracterize, and weaponize the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., despite the fact that his children, his surviving children, have repeatedly asked them to cease and desist from doing so.

It is no surprise that the same people complaining about DEI are the same people who complained about the Me Too movement, about Black Lives Matter, about the ERA, about the gay rights movement, and so much more. 

The fact that as soon as someone who is Black or gay or has a disability earns a promotion, Republicans complain that they are unqualified and begin ranting about how diversity, equity, and inclusion is ruining the country.

It’s shameful. It’s untrue. It’s discriminatory. And we must not back down in our efforts to create a nation that respects all people.  

Might I add that the opposition is majority, overwhelmingly white and male.

Now, President Biden signed a historic executive order on his first day in office to take a whole-of-government approach that embodies equity in the Administration’s work to ensure all people benefit, not just the wealthy and well-connected. 

Mr. Miller, the Office of Management and Budget plays an outsized role in implementing and overseeing the executive orders on equity. Can you explain why equity is an important part of performance goals, performance goals, for agencies?

MR. MILLER: Thank you Congresswoman, and there is a phrase that you used that is central to explaining it. It’s that government should work for all Americans. 

So one example of something that we are doing is around accessibility associated with government services. We have many government digital websites and services where it’s hard for some people, including disabled individuals, to access those government services and we’re working to improve that. 

Our services aren’t working if they’re not serving all of America.

REP. PRESSLEY: Very good. I agree. What is an example of how President Biden’s executive order on equity has helped folks across the country?

MR. MILLER: Well, one of the things that we have done is to broaden, and discussed in this hearing, the way in which we are utilizing federal financial assistance to reach more broadly into communities, to improve performance of the dollars to make sure that community-based organizations that might otherwise not have applied for federal funds are able to access those funds and better deliver because they are better — they are closer to those in their community. That means better results, that means more efficiency, and frankly, that means less waste on useless overhead.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. The Executive Order, this is truly a first-of-its-kind. I am proud to partner with Ranking Member Raskin on legislation to codify key aspects into law so that they will exist in perpetuity. 

The truth is that America needs DEI to disrupt systems of oppression that are active in every facet of our society. DEI initiatives are how we combat white supremacy, antisemitism, ableism, sexism, transphobia, and more.

In the face of the opposition, I applaud those who are committed to doing this work, from college presidents, corporate executives, to community organizers and academic researchers.

And to those who are against DEI, I would love to know, really, what you are so afraid of. What are you so threatened by? 

Thank you and I yield back.