How Republicans Feed the Beast of Political Correctness
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John Fund has an excellent column up at National Review Online on "How Republicans Feed the Beast of Political Correctness":
If Republicans in Congress wonder why so many conservatives are frustrated with them, here is one reason: GOP lawmakers generously fund the Obama administration’s most out-of-control elements while slapping down the conservatives who try to warn them away from such misjudgments. Consider, for example, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Last year, a Republican-dominated Congress voted to increase by 7 percent that office’s $100 million budget — a lavish hike when compared with the rest of the budget.
What had OCR’s notoriously left-wing staff done to deserve an extra $7 million? From a conservative perspective, nothing good. Over the past few years, it had issued a slew of “Dear Colleague” letters and other directives telling schools and colleges that their federal funding will be in jeopardy if they do not toe the line on race and sex issues. Nearly all of these directives have been foolish or bizarre.
Fund then describes in detail some of OCR's more important missteps, notably in regard to its overreaching guidance documents that essentially require racially proportional school discipline (regardless of actual misbehavior), its stifling of free speech in the name of cracking down on sexual harassment, and its misguided efforts to curtail ordinary schoolyard bullying from the federal level.
Fund also relates a story with which I have had some personal experience working as Gail Heriot's counsel at the Commission on Civil Rights:
It’s not as if Congress wasn’t informed of OCR’s shortcomings. Last year, the two conservative members of the eight-member U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow — sent a long epistle [link added -- AES] to Senate appropriations chairman Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) and House appropriations chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.). The letter detailed OCR’s activities, including its harassment policies that push colleges and universities to adopt First Amendment–flouting speech codes. It urged Congress not to increase OCR’s budget. The letter urging Congress not to increase the DOE budget was ignored. Make that: worse than ignored. The letter was ignored. Make that: worse than ignored. Buried in last year’s Senate budget report was a directive, apparently put there at the behest of Senator Barbara Milkulski, a Maryland Democrat, aimed straight at Heriot and Kirsanow: Don’t send any more letters on Commission letterhead; only the full Commission is authorized to send letters. This effort to silence the Commission’s conservative voices made no sense. There is nothing unusual about individual members of a federal commission using letterhead to express views that may differ from their colleagues’. Note that the Heriot-Kirsanow letter was in no way misleading. It began, “We write as two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and not on behalf on the Commission as a whole.” Only an illiterate could fail to grasp the distinction.
Nor was there was anything untoward about their commenting on whether another federal agency – OCR — is doing its job properly. Appraising the performance of federal civil-rights agencies is a core Commission function. When the full Commission ignored OCR’s problems, it was perfectly appropriate — indeed commendable — for individual commissioners to speak up. Was there some mistake? Did Senator Mikulski slip that language in when neither Senator Cochran nor Senator Richard Shelby (R., Ala.), who chairs the relevant appropriations subcommittee, was looking? Apparently not. When the conservative commissioners sought an explanation from Republican appropriations subcommittee staff members, they were met with stone-faced resistance. When this year’s Senate budget report came out, it doubled down. In addition to reiterating the original gag order, the new report requires the Commission to report “any violation of this direction.”
Alas, OCR is still clamoring for more money this year, although the transgender bathroom debacle may have taken some of the wind out of its sails:
Just prior to the issuance of the transgender letter on May, 22 senators, including Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, called for an eye-popping 28 percent OCR budget increase. Luckily, the uproar over transgendered bathrooms has stiffened some spines. The latest budget increase being proposed by the GOP Senate is only 3 percent. But you can bet if Democrats take control of the Senate this November, the sky will be the limit on any increase.
Further, as Scott Johnson notes at Powerline, "House Republicans may have learned something. I understand that House Republicans are trying to take back last year’s 7 percent budget increase." It remains to be seen what the final budget will be.