Cummings Issues Statement on Supreme Court Decision to Prevent Trump Administration from Adding Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

Jun 27, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (June 27, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision prohibiting the Trump Administration from adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census based on the pretext of enforcing the Voting Rights Act (VRA):


“I am very pleased that the Supreme Court ruled today that the Trump Administration may not add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census based on the Administration’s claim that it was trying to protect voting rights.

“Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before Congress that the Trump Administration was adding the citizenship question to the census ‘solely’ at the request of the Justice Department to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.  The Supreme Court has now eviscerated this claim, calling it a ‘pretext,’ ‘contrived,’ and ‘incongruent with what the record reveals.’

“Some have suggested that Secretary Ross could go back and offer other reasons for adding the citizenship question.  However, any claim now that the Trump Administration had other reasons for adding the citizenship question would directly contradict Secretary Ross’ sworn testimony that helping the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act was the Administration’s sole purpose.

“The Administration has asserted to the Court that it must begin printing census forms this week.  I urge the Census Bureau to begin doing so immediately without any further delay so the census can be ready to count every single person as required by the Constitution.

“Finally, it 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.

“I urge Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr to finally comply with our Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas and produce all of the documents they are withholding so the House of Representatives will not be forced to vote on the contempt resolution currently pending before it.”

The Department of Justice warned the Supreme Court two days ago that “the Census Bureau needs to finalize the 2020 questionnaire by June of this year” and that “changes to the paper questionnaire after June of 2019 ... would impair the Census Bureau’s ability to timely administer the 2020 census.”


Today, the Court’s ruling stated:


  • “[T]he Secretary had made up his mind to reinstate a citizenship question ‘well before’ receiving DOJ’s request, and did so for reasons unknown but unrelated to the VRA.”


  • “[T]he VRA played an insignificant role in the decisionmaking process.”


  • “[T]he decision to reinstate a citizenship question cannot be adequately explained in terms of DOJ’s request for improved citizenship data to better enforce the VRA.”


  • “Several points, considered together, reveal a significant mismatch between the decision the Secretary made and the rationale he provided.”


  • “Altogether, the evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation the Secretary gave for his decision.”


  • “In the Secretary’s telling, Commerce was simply acting on a routine data request from another agency.  Yet the materials before us indicate that Commerce went to great lengths to elicit the request from DOJ (or any other willing agency).”


  • “[H]ere the VRA enforcement rationale—the sole stated reason—seems to have been contrived.”


  • “We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decisionmaking process.”


  • “[W]e cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given.”


  • “The reasoned explanation requirement of administrative law, after all, is meant to ensure that agencies offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public.”


  • “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise.  If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”
116th Congress