Washington D.C. — Today, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted down a Resolution of Inquiry—on a party-line vote 20-16—that would have forced the Trump Administration to produce documents relating to its sudden decision to add an untested new citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
On May 8, 2018, Oversight Committee Member Rep. Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) introduced H.Res. 877 seeking documents withheld by the Secretary of Commerce that refer or relate to the addition of the citizenship question. The resolution has 79 cosponsors, including all Democratic Members of the Oversight Committee.
A Resolution of Inquiry makes a demand of the head of an Executive Branch agency to produce to the House of Representatives specific information in the agency’s possession. Under the rules of the House, such a resolution must be brought before the House if the Committee to which it is referred has not considered it within 14 legislative days.
“The Trump administration’s continued efforts to compromise the 2020 Census with a citizenship question represent a flagrant attack on our representative democracy,” said Congressman Jimmy Gomez. “The members of the Oversight Committee – as well as our constituents – have a right to know the motivation behind such an egregious action. Unfortunately, every vote against this Resolution of Inquiry was a vote to abandon our constitutional responsibility to protect a nonpartisan census and silence the voices of those who deserve to be heard.”
“Adding a new, untested question about citizenship will discourage certain residents from responding, increase costs to the American taxpayers, and result in an inaccurate count that will negatively affect federal funding for red states, blue states, and purple states,” said Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings. “Unfortunately, Oversight Republicans continue to block our efforts to obtain critical information on how and why the Trump Administration added the citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census is too important to let politics play a role in its design.”
“Yet again, Oversight Republicans are blocking us from doing our jobs and conducting the oversight our committee is tasked with,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “Last week they blocked the subpoena I offered to compel John Gore from the Justice Department to answer our questions and now they refuse to get the documents we need to investigate how and why the citizenship question was added to the 2020 census. This is a dereliction of duty and inexcusable. The data from the census is too important for these political games.”
On March 26, when the Department of Commerce announced the Trump Administration’s decision to add an untested new citizenship question to the Decennial Census, Secretary Wilbur Ross issued a memo conceding that career officials at the Census Bureau “expressed concern” that adding a citizenship question “would negatively impact the response rate for noncitizens.”
On April 4, Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings and Committee Members Carolyn Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Wm. Lacy Clay, Gerald Connolly, and Jimmy Gomez sent a letter highlighting that the Trump Administration added the citizenship question despite concerns raised by the Census Bureau. They requested these documents by April 11, 2018, so all Committee members would have them prior to the Census Bureau’s scheduled briefing to the Committee on that date.
On April 11, officials from the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce briefed Committee Members, but they did not provide any of the documents requested. Instead, Members were told that the Department was collecting documents in response to separate requests associated with ongoing litigation, and that those documents would be provided to the Committee at the same time they were made public and provided to parties in the lawsuits.
On April 24, all Democratic Members of the Committee sent a letter requesting that Chairman Gowdy subpoena the documents originally requested on April 4. 2018. He did not respond. These documents are among those that would be required to be produced under H. Res 877.
On May 1, 2018, Committee Democrats wrote to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting documents relating to its decision to add a citizenship question to the decennial census. After the Department filed to respond, on May 15, 2018, they wrote to Chairman Gowdy requesting that he subpoena those documents. He did not respond.
On May 8, the Committee held a hearing—requested by Cummings—but John Gore, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at DOJ, refused to appear. Rep. Maloney sought to offer a subpoena motion, but withdrew her motion based on assurances by Gowdy that he would ensure that Gore would answer Members’ questions. Gowdy stated at this hearing: “He’s coming at some point to talk whether he wants to or not … I am happy to issue a subpoena.”
On May 18, 2018, the majority, on a party-line vote, blocked an effort to subpoena Gore. Democratic Members sought to compel him to answer questions regarding the rationale the DOJ had for requesting the inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census.
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