WASHINGTON — Republicans on a powerful House panel Tuesday narrowly defended a tea party-fueled move to tell the Library of Congress how to label immigrants living in the country illegally.
The GOP move is designed to force the Library of Congress to retain the term “illegal alien” for cataloging and search purposes, reversing the library’s plan to replace “illegal alien” with less prejudicial terms like “noncitizens” or “unauthorized immigration.”
Appropriations Committee Democrats tried to defend the library’s move, which came in response to a petition from the American Library Association, to change the immigration-related search terms. They lost by a 25-24 vote.
Conservatives were angered by the library’s move and sought the provision, which was added to legislation funding House and Senate operations and congressional agencies like the library.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said the library should “continue with its process of choosing subject headings without political influence.”
But Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., author of the provision, said the library had overstepped and had privately acknowledged its error.
The library said in a March 26 statement that “the phrase illegal aliens has taken on a pejorative tone in recent years” and added that “aliens” can be confusing since it can also mean beings from another planet.
The bill funding the operations of Congress is the most obscure and little-watched of the 12 annual appropriations bills, making news only because it contains a freeze on lawmakers’ pay and permits sledding on the Capitol grounds.
The panel also agreed by a nearly unanimous voice vote to boost their office budgets by 1.5 percent. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., sponsored the $8 million boost, saying that a clampdown on lawmakers’ office budgets has led to rapid staff turnover and a loss of expertise as salaries haven’t been able to keep up with Washington’s high cost of living.