Senators Try to Unlock Census Director Nomination

Posted June 16, 2009 at 3:28pm

A bipartisan group of Senators met Tuesday to try to break Republican opposition to Robert Groves, the Census Bureau director hopeful whose nomination has been lingering for nearly one month. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) organized the meeting with the Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) “just to reiterate how important it is that we dislodge any hold and move on this nominee.— Carper sits on the Homeland Security panel, which has jurisdiction over Groves’ nomination. “I asked Sen. Collins if it appeared there was a real hold on this nomination or it appeared to be part of a blanket hold on the two dozen or so nominees,— Carper said, adding that “it appeared [Groves] is part of the blanket hold.— Carper added that he plans to reach out to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) later this week to discuss the matter. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to bring up Groves’ nomination June 4 but was tripped up by GOP-led opposition. Republicans have expressed concern that next year’s census will become a politicized project that unfairly favors Democrats, and an anonymous hold remains on Groves’ nomination. “I’m not certain where things are. I know there’s a hold on him, but I don’t know who or why,— said Collins, who supports Groves’ nomination. “I don’t understand any rationale for holding him up.— Collins said she was satisfied with Groves’ testimony before her panel — which unanimously approved the selection May 20 — and believed the nominee would not use racial sampling and conduct a census that yields favorable results for the Democratic Party. “His responses were very good, [and] I’m eager to get this qualified candidate on the job,— Collins said. Meanwhile, Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle said: “We’re working, as with all these nominations, to get an agreement. We have to consider them and hope to do so as soon possible.— The census, conducted every 10 years, assess the nation’s population and demographic makeup and influences the allocation of Congressional districts throughout the country. Groves, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, is considered a leading voice on statistical sampling. That type of sampling better captures undercounted groups such as minorities, which Republicans charge is unconstitutional and a political maneuver. Republicans grew particularly critical of the upcoming census earlier this year, after President Barack Obama sought to shift oversight of the Census Bureau from the Commerce Department to the White House. The administration later said control of the Census Bureau would remain in the hands of the Commerce Department. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said he was “concerned— with Groves’ “commitment to sampling— and wanted assurances that the nominee would not politicize the agency. Cornyn said Groves’ nomination isn’t the only executive branch appointment awaiting Senate action. “I’m concerned about a lot of vacancies, including the Treasury Department, where they don’t have enough people to keep track of [Troubled Asset Relief Program] funds,— he said.