Sen. John Cornyn is coming under fire for stripping the words "civil rights and human rights" from the name of a subcommittee he now heads.
The Texas Republican became chair of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution —
which until this week was named the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, International Business Times reports.
It's one of six within the Senate Judiciary Committee, overseeing national civil, individual and property rights issues as well as federal-state relations and constitutional amendments, IBT notes.
"We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights, including civil and human rights," Cornyn's press secretary, Drew Brandewie, told IBT. "We will focus on these rights along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution."
One activist, however, called the name-change "troubling."
"The new Senate Republican majority’s decision to expunge civil rights and human rights from this subcommittee’s name is a discouraging sign given the growing diversity of our nation and the complex civil and human rights challenges we face," Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement.
"Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws.... Changing the name of this subcommittee is a poor start, but the proof of the panel’s seriousness about addressing these issues will become apparent in its actual work."
Zirkin said the 2014 police fatal shootings of unarmed black suspects Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York "have spurred a movement across the nation calling for reforms to our nation’s justice system, which would likely fall under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction."
"We only hope that this troubling name change doesn’t foretell a heedless retreat on civil and human rights," she said.
Brandewie said Cornyn's subcommittee would uphold its focus on "all of the basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution, including human rights issues, civil rights issues and issues relating to other Constitutionally protected rights like the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition."
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