Congress

House Democrats to continue census probe

Panel will resume query into why a citizenship query was added to next year’s census.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., plans to continue to explore the origins of a census citizenship question. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will continue to investigate the addition of a citizenship query to next year’s census, Chairman Elijah E. Cummings said Thursday in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to block the question.

[Supreme Court deals blow to census citizenship question]

The investigation has been a hotspot of conflict between the House and the administration. The committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt over document subpoenas earlier this month. Cummings, D-Md., called on the pair to comply with the subpoenas.

“[I]t is now even more clear that our Committee’s investigation must get to the truth of why the Trump Administration was pushing the citizenship question and why it is engaging in this coverup,” Cummings said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters after the decision, Cummings noted that the Supreme Court did not specifically bar the question but sent it back to a lower court. Ross has testified that a Justice Department request for its inclusion served as the sole reason for the question, but Democrats allege it was added for partisan redistricting purposes.

“Again I think it is clear that we need the documents, and we are going to insist on the documents and we are going to try to use every tool to get them,” Cummings said.

[Census may be delayed in Trump’s bid for citizenship question]

President Donald Trump said via Twitter on Thursday that he has ordered administration lawyers to consider delaying the census to win court approval for the question.

Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in a statement said it should not be controversial to add a citizenship question to the census and “the only people who don’t want to know are Democrats in Congress.”

Speaking to CQ Roll Call, Jordan said that most other countries ask the question and pointed to the fact that the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s rationale — to enforce the Voting Rights Act — and not the question itself.

“[Cummings] can continue his investigation, we will continue to argue for common sense,” Jordan said.

Over the course of the investigation, the panel has interviewed several current and former Commerce Department officials and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and issued a subpoena for DOJ attorney John Gore over his role in the formation of the citizenship question. In response to the committee’s subpoenas, the administration asserted executive privilege over the census decision documents, setting up a potential court fight down the road.

Meanwhile, Republicans have pointed out that the administration has produced more than 30,000 documents in response to congressional requests and contended that Democrats’ votes on contempt drove negotiations off the road.

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