Sen. J.D. Vance's, R-Ohio, Dismantle DEI Act would rescind the Biden administration's diversity, equity and inclusion policies and make the federal government potentially liable to lawsuits.

Sen. J.D. Vance's, R-Ohio, Dismantle DEI Act would rescind the Biden administration's diversity, equity and inclusion policies and make the federal government potentially liable to lawsuits. Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

Republicans look to 'dismantle' DEI efforts at federal agencies

New bill would strike down President Biden's diversity efforts and create strict rules preventing such initiatives.

Congressional Republicans are looking to unwind President Biden’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within federal agencies, with lawmakers suggesting the administration’s push has led to discrimination in federal hiring. 

Biden is unlikely to sign into law any measure that undermines one of his signature initiatives to reform workforce policies within the federal government, but the bill—which won broad support within the Republican caucus—illustrates the legislation lawmakers will prioritize if former President Trump is reelected. Republicans have for years blasted DEI efforts in both the public and private sectors and sought paths to prohibit them. 

The Dismantle DEI Act, introduced by Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, would rescind not just Biden’s 2021 DEI executive order, but several other orders and memoranda related to discrimination based on sexual orientation; advancing opportunities for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders; establishing a White House Gender Policy Council; and other initiatives aimed at ending discrimination. All agencies would be forced to shutter their DEI offices, the Office of Personnel Management would have to close its Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, and no federal funds could be used on such efforts. 

Biden in 2021 signed a sweeping order to improve recruitment, retention and professional development of underserved communities, including providing more comprehensive health coverage to LGBTQ+ federal workers, boosting protections for feds with disabilities and pushing agencies to transition from unpaid to paid internships.

OPM and the Office of Management and Budget were tasked with developing a government DEI policy and each agency had to update their individual plans. The order created a chief diversity officer for the entire government and encouraged agencies to establish their own such officers internally. 

Biden's order followed one Trump signed toward the end of his presidency that barred agencies and federal contractors from engaging in diversity and inclusion training that involved the use of critical race theory or otherwise highlighted institutional racism in the United States. On his first day in office, Biden signed an order of his own reversing that Trump-era policy. It also directed agencies to advance racial equity and “address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs.”

The new Republican bill would rescind both of those orders, as well as others. 

“The DEI agenda is a destructive ideology that breeds hatred and racial division,” said Vance, who introduced the bill with five additional Senate colleagues. “It has no place in our federal government or anywhere else in our society.” 

Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas, introduced companion legislation with 15 cosponsors in the House. 

“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,” Cloud said. 

The measure would require OPM and OMB to create new regulations that “prohibit racist behavior and racist training in government” and ensure oversight that no DEI efforts take place at any agency. Federal contracts would be barred from including any funds or language related to DEI and federal grant recipients would have to sign an agreement asserting they would not use any funds to advance such efforts. 

The bill would also open the government to lawsuits, as any individual could open a case in federal court if they felt the provisions of the law were being violated. If successful, they would be entitled to at least $1,000 per violation per day. 

“DEI institutionalizes discrimination in hiring,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a cosponsor on the measure. “Taxpayers expect the most qualified candidates to be hired, not the most favored.”

A recent Government Accountability Office report found the federal workforce gradually grew more diverse from 2011 to 2021.