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House escalates an already heated battle over federal government diversity initiatives

The House of Representatives is poised this week to resume — and potentially escalate  — a blistering debate over the use of taxpayer money for federal government programs and initiatives that seek to promote diversity and equity.  

On Monday, the House Rules Committee considered Republican amendments to remove funding for diversity and inclusion programs at the Federal Aviation Administration. The amendments were offered on a bill under House debate this week to authorize FAA programs, standards and initiatives.  

Just last week, in a near party-line vote, the House approved legislation to strip funding for inclusion and diversity programs at the Pentagon. The debate over the amendments, both on and off the House floor, grew contentious, with the House Democratic leader accusing Republicans of being "sympathetic to white supremacy" as Republicans accused Democrats of building a "woke" and "weak" military.

The debate hit a boiling point during a floor speech Thursday, when Rep. Eli Crane used the term "colored people" while discussing one such amendment. Crane later issued a statement that he "misspoke" and said "every one of us is made in the image of God and created equal."   

The response from some Democrats was sharp and emphatic. Rep. Joyce Beatty, Democrat of Ohio, asked that Crane's words be "taken down" from the record. Rep. Jamal Bowman, Democrat of New York, in an interview with CBS News, said of the statement and the debate, "They want to take us back to Jim Crow." 

The amendments to the FAA bill, authored by Rep. Mary Miller, Republican of Illinois, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Republican of Georgia, would limit or ban the use of taxpayer funding for diversity programs in the FAA. The amendment from Greene calls on Congress to "Prohibit funds from being used on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the FAA."  

Speaking with CBS News, Greene declared, "We're all equal. It's time for us to start acting like it." She said the FAA's mandated mission is to ensure safe airspace. "It doesn't talk about skin color," she added. 

Miller criticized diversity programs in the FAA, telling CBS News, "Implementing these policies has led to chaos within the FAA."

Rep. August Pfluger, Republican of Texas, told CBS News, "The Federal Aviation Administration should be laser focused on strengthening a safe, reliable, and robust airline industry—not advancing a woke, divisive agenda."

When asked Monday about the latest series of amendments targeting diversity, equity and inclusion programs, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, said he was unfamiliar with the specific proposals, but added, "Amendments offered on floor so people can debate them. I look forward to seeing them."

Greene, Miller and House Freedom Caucus members have taken aim at a range of diversity, equity and inclusion programs in Washington. Greene said, "They're in every branch of our government." And she indicated she would pursue efforts to defund the initiatives at other federal agencies, too.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, criticized Republicans last week for also including language in a separate appropriations bill funding the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department that would "prohibit funding for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the federal workforce." DeLauro decried the "absurd recissions" of funds. 

Rep. Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, told CBS News, "Common-sense bills that have decades of bipartisan support should not become the next frontier of the GOP's imaginary culture wars."

The fate of the amendments and House-passed legislation to defund military diversity programs is unclear.   The Senate takes up its own version of a military authorization bill Tuesday.  Such amendments are highly unlikely to be approved in a chamber controlled by a Democratic majority.  

At a news conference Friday, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, issued a scorching criticism of the House Republicans effort, accusing them of being "sympathetic to white supremacy."

After hearing of Jeffries criticism, Rep. Chip Roy told CBS News, "What we're trying to do is stop the extent to which the Department of Defense and its democratic administration have been injecting that kind of divisive social engineering into the Department of Defense."

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