HR Policy Association

Anti-DEI Republicans Introduce Sweeping Bill to Shut Down Federal Programs

Despite a new poll showing strong public approval of DEI programs, Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. Mike Cloud (R-TX) have introduced the “Dismantle DEI Act” (S. 4516/H.R. 8706) to “eliminate all federal DEI programs and funding for federal agencies.” The bill, cosponsored by 26 other Republicans in Congress, would also establish a broad prohibition against federal contractors’ DEI programs, such as anti-bias training, which the public supports.  

Public support for DEI: A new Washington Post Ipsos poll of 2,274 Americans indicates 61% view corporate DEI efforts as “a good thing.” The percentage increases to 69% when those efforts are described. Both anti-bias training and mentorship opportunities for underrepresented groups are supported by 75%. Similar majorities support internships for underrepresented groups (70%), recruiting underrepresented groups (67%) and employee resource or affinity groups for underrepresented groups (64%). However, companies have scaled back certain programs following the Harvard decision and pressure by anti-DEI advocates.

Impact on companies: The “Dismantle DEI Act” would prohibit federal contractors from requiring employees working on the contract to participate in DEI training programs or using federal funds to pay for the training or any other DEI functions. Contractors could use their own funds for those purposes.  

The bill broadly defines DEI as: 

  • Discriminating for or against any person on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, biological sex, or national origin, which is already a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;  

  • Requiring as a condition of employment, a condition for promotion or advancement, or as a condition for speaking, making a presentation, or submitting written materials, 

    • That an employee undergo training, education, or coursework, or other pedagogy, that asserts that a particular race, color, ethnicity, religion, biological sex, or national origin is inherently or systemically superior or inferior, oppressive or oppressed, or privileged or unprivileged; 

    • The signing of or assent to a statement, code of conduct, work program, or plan, or similar device that requires assent by the employee that a particular race, color, ethnicity, religion, biological sex, or national origin is inherently or systemically superior or inferior, oppressive or oppressed, or privileged or unprivileged.

Affirmative action & EEO retained: Significantly, the bill does not address the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs or the affirmative action requirements it enforces under Executive Order 11246. It also specifically retains the equal employment opportunity offices of the various federal agencies, “as historically organized and operated.” 

Harsh rhetoric: In a press release announcing the bill’s introduction, Sen. Vance asserts, “The DEI agenda is a destructive ideology that breeds hatred and racial division…Americans’ tax dollars should not be co-opted to spread this radical and divisive ideology” 

Rep. Cloud states, “These initiatives, presented as promoting fairness, have instead fostered division and racial bias within our institutions and culture. This bill is a necessary step to restore merit and equality, not equity, in America’s government institutions, and eliminate the DEI bureaucracy that sows division and wastes taxpayer money.” 

Outlook: Significantly, the bill is cosponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who, along with Sen. Vance, is a potential running mate with former President Trump. In view of the new poll results, the issue could become one of the most contentious in the 2024 election campaign. While action on the measure this year is highly unlikely, its components could reappear as funding prohibitions during the appropriations process. 

What’s ahead for DEI? Hear the latest on the future of DEI and challenges ahead at our session on Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace at HR Policy Association’s annual Washington Policy Conference on September 10-11. We’d love to see you there!

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Authors: Daniel V. Yager