Memo 05.08.2023 5 minutes

Congressional Counteroffensive  


The House Anti-Woke Caucus is rooting out wokeness in the federal government.

The message that Republicans in Congress hear most often is: “Stop talking, start fighting.”

Republicans have spent enormous amounts of time, money, and effort debating ideas and policy. Well-reasoned and true ideas are essential to good governance, but they do not ensure policy victory. Winning requires an organized effort to implement the right ideas through the relevant political processes.

This is exactly why I launched a new group of conservative Republicans at the beginning of this Congress. I founded the Anti-Woke Caucus as a forum for common-sense legislators to craft the strategies needed to implement good policy.

How so?

First, via appropriations.

This summer, Congress will pass 12 separate bills to fund federal government programs in fiscal year 2024. In anticipation of that process, the Anti-Woke Caucus combed through all 12 of the bills that passed the then-Democratic controlled appropriations subcommittees in 2022 to identify woke funding requests.

As we say in the Navy, it was a target rich environment. Speaker Pelosi’s Democratic majority asked for $200 million for programs dedicated to increasing race-based hiring and recruitment in STEM; $200 million for the Department of State’s Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund; $8.6 million for gender advisor programs at the Department of Defense; ICE to detain transgender illegal aliens only at facilities with staff who have received LGBTQ sensitivity and awareness training and medical personnel who have experience delivering hormone therapies; $108 million for environmental justice activities through the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency; the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize projects that provide opportunities based on race; and the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a program to combat “online misinformation” and “extremism.”

Members of our caucus took these over 50 requests, which total over a billion dollars, and asked the new Republican leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to remove each of them and all similar programs from the House’s final appropriations package. Our group has drawn a line in the sand and identified the most egregious examples of Congress spending taxpayer dollars on divisive and partisan federal programs.

In addition to closely examining the appropriations process, Anti-Woke Caucus members have introduced important pieces of legislation to stop the Biden Administration’s woke agenda.

In February, I introduced the DEI Pay Cap Act to cap salaries of all diversity, equity, and inclusion-related staff in the Pentagon at $31,000 a year, the same amount that front-line soldiers make. This bill is a no brainer: bureaucrats teaching anti-Americanism are getting paid more than patriotic servicemembers who stand ready to fight and die for our country. It’s a travesty. It sends a dangerous message to troops and recruits about the Pentagon’s priorities and values.

In March, Oklahoma Republican Kevin Hern, the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative group in Congress, introduced the Work Not Woke Act. This bill nullifies several of President Biden’s worst DEI-related executive orders, including one to create a “Government-Wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Initiative and Strategic Plan.”

I also chair the Military Personnel Subcommittee, and discussions we have had within the caucus led me to hold a hearing on the Biden DoD’s embrace of DEI. At the hearing, my Republican colleagues on the subcommittee grilled Under Secretary of Defense Gil Cisneros about divisive and racist statements made by Kelisa Wing, the DEI Chief at the Department of Defense Education Activity, which operates a school system for the children of servicemembers and civilian DoD officials. Wing had tweeted that she is “exhausted with these White folx” and accused a “Karen” of “caudacity” for saying that “black people can be racist too.” The Biden DoD had refused to discipline Wing for her comments, but just a week after the hearing the Pentagon officially disbanded the DEI unit in DoD’s education department.

The episode taught me and the Anti-Woke Caucus an important lesson: Biden officials will lecture about “equity” ad nauseam, but they’re terrified of concrete discussions about DEI. Short of legislation, public oversight of woke Biden officials is the best way to beat back wokeness. The hearing proved that, but what explains its success?

There are two reasons Democrats are afraid of anti-woke oversight. First, wokeness, which Wing’s comments exemplify, is unpopular and politically harmful. The Biden DoD’s strategy had been to avoid talking about DEI-in-action while defending broader DEI efforts with vague buzzwords. That strategy doesn’t work while answering questions under oath. Furthermore, public testimony exposes the true intentions and nature of Under Secretary Cisneros, the author of DoD’s DEI Strategic Plan, which calls DEI a “strategic imperative,” who testified that he had “not come across a situation where people have been discriminated against.” The Biden Administration claims that DEI is about rooting out widespread discrimination, but the only example of discriminatory comments we heard at the hearing came from a Biden DEI official. 

While I’m happy that DoD’s education agency disbanded its DEI department, there’s a long way to go. Thanks to Joe Biden’s equity executive orders, similar cells are being established and strengthened in every federal agency and in every branch of our Armed Services. Executive Order 13985 directs the entire federal government to pursue “a comprehensive approach” toward implementing an “ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.”

House Republicans must be equally united around an anti-woke agenda.  

By the end of the Trump presidency, all Republicans recognized China as our greatest foreign adversary. President Trump’s leadership shifted opinion, and similarly, Joe Biden’s radicalism is convincing more and more lawmakers that wokeness is the greatest domestic threat America faces. Over the first two years of the Biden presidency, House Republicans became louder and more consistent in criticizing ESG, drag queen story hours, mandatory DEI training, and all the other far-left programs that fall under the woke umbrella. But we’d never turned our criticism into sustained, strategic, and organized opposition. That’s changing.

Anti-woke lawmakers now have a caucus, and we are using it to put our ideas into action.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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