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Committee Held Hearing with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.

Mar 14, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Mar.14, 2019)—Today, the Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, held a full committee hearing to discuss the ongoing preparations for the 2020 Census and the addition of the citizenship question with testimony from Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Secretary Ross refused to tell the Committee about conversations with senior administration officials, including Jeff Sessions, that led to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.  Secretary Ross cited vague concerns about “confidentiality” but provided no valid basis to withhold this key information from the Committee.
  • Secretary Ross would not commit to provide the Committee a copy of a secret memo that the Commerce Department hand-delivered to DOJ just weeks before DOJ requested a citizenship question.
  • Secretary Ross also claimed that he had not reviewed the President’s budget request for the 2020 Census.
  • During the hearing, the Committee released new evidence from a transcribed interview with DOJ official John Gore.  The evidence raises more troubling questions about the real reason Secretary Ross orchestrated the addition of the citizenship question.      

BACKGROUND

  • Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census was unconstitutional and illegal. Two federal courts have struck down the decision, finding it was arbitrary and capricious and that Secretary Ross missed a mandatory deadline to notify Congress. One of these courts found the decision also violated the Enumeration Clause of the Constitution.
  • Secretary Ross misled Congress about why he added the citizenship question. Last year, Secretary Ross testified that he added the question “solely” at the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ). But new evidence shows that he orchestrated a secret campaign to add the question as soon as he took office and engineered the request from DOJ as a pretext.
  • A citizenship question will harm the accuracy of the Census, which could impact communities’ representation in Congress and their federal funding.
  • Citizenship data from the 2020 Census is not necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA). DOJ has never used decennial census data to enforce the VRA, and it has no need for such data now.
  • The Trump Administration has obstructed this Committee’s investigation for months by withholding key documents and testimony.
  • Census preparations are behind schedule and underfunded. The Trump Administration has skimped on testing and failed to resolve more than a thousand security weaknesses, which could lead to serious problems during the 2020 Census.

 

WITNESS

The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

 

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

Watch Chairman Cummings’ opening statement.

Watch Chairman Cummings’ question line.

Watch Rep. Clay’s question line.

Watch Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s question line.

Watch Rep. Wasserman-Shultz’s question line.

116th Congress