Maloney Announces Census Hearing After Administration Withholds Documents Regarding Data Errors and Delays

Nov 28, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Nov. 28, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the Committee will hold a hearing on December 3, 2020, to examine recent reports that career officials at the Census Bureau have identified a series of new “anomalies” that will push the delivery of census data to late January or early February, as well as efforts by attorneys working for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to withhold this information from Congress and potentially the Supreme Court, which is hearing a key census case on Monday morning. 

“Career officials at the Census Bureau reportedly have warned the Trump Administration that they have identified more than a dozen problems that will delay the reporting of census numbers until the end of January or the beginning of February,” Chairwoman Maloney said.  “Although we asked for documents relating to these problems and delays last week, we have now been informed that Secretary Ross’ lawyers at the Commerce Department are blocking their release ‘due to litigation concerns.’  Of course, the existence of separate litigation is not a valid basis to withhold documents from Congress.”

The New York Times reported last week that “Census Bureau officials have concluded that they cannot produce the state population totals required to reallocate seats in the House of Representatives until after President Trump leaves office in January.”  The report added:  “the Census Bureau told the Commerce Department that a growing number of snags in the massive data-processing operation that generates population totals had delayed the completion of population calculations at least until Jan. 26, and perhaps to mid-February.”

After the story became public, the Census Bureau Director, Dr. Steven Dillingham, posted a statement confirming that “anomalies have been discovered” during data processing.

Since none of these problems had been reported to the Committee, Chairwoman Maloney sent a letter to the Census Bureau on November 19 seeking documents relating to these anomalies and the predicted delays they would cause.  The Committee asked for these documents by November 24.  However, no documents have been provided.

On November 24—the date the documents were due to the Committee—staff received a bipartisan telephone briefing from the Census Director and other top Census Bureau officials.  These officials reported that documents responsive to the Committee’s request had been submitted to Secretary Wilbur Ross’ General Counsel at the Commerce Department, but they have not been cleared for release because of “concerns about ongoing litigation.”  When asked whether the Bureau had an expected date by which production might be possible, the officials could not provide an estimated date.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case about the Census Bureau’s method of calculating state population totals, Trump v. New York, on Monday, November 30, 2020.

Issues: 
116th Congress