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Senate Subcommittee Drops "Civil Rights And Human Rights” From Name

Sen. John Cornyn, now the chairman of the subcommittee, decided to change the name. "The name of a subcommittee speaks to its priorities," one Senate Democrat aide said.

Posted on January 23, 2015, at 5:16 p.m. ET

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights is now just the Subcommittee on the Constitution.

A spokeswoman for Sen. John Cornyn, the number two Senate Republican and chairman of the subcommittee, defended the name change.

"The Constitution covers our most basic rights including civil and human rights," said Megan Mitchell, Cornyn's spokeswoman, in an email to BuzzFeed News. "We will focus on these rights along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution."

Now that Republicans control the Senate, senators who have ascended to the role of chair on the various committees are free to alter the names if they choose.

A spokesman for Sen. Richard Durbin, the ranking member on the subcommittee, said that despite the name change the committee would still work on civil and human rights.

"The name of a subcommittee speaks to its priorities," Ben Marter, a spokesman for Durbin, said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "Senator Durbin will make sure that civil rights and human rights aren't dropped from Congress' agenda."

A watchdog group, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, lambasted Cornyn for truncating the name.

"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," said Nancy Zirkin, the executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Names matter. This, after all, is a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the implementation and enforcement of many of our most important civil rights laws."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.