Oversight Committee Takes Historic Step to Protect Census Bureau from Politicization
Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Committee voted favorably to approve her bills, the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, following the Committee’s release of a memorandum detailing the Trump Administration’s illegal efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The Committee also approved the Chairwoman’s the Justice in Power Plant Permitting Act, the Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act, and the Preventing Personal Conflicts of Interest In Federal Acquisition Act, as well as additional good government reforms:
“After the Trump Administration’s illegal efforts to weaponize the Census Bureau for political gain, it is clear we need stronger protections for this vital institution that impacts everything from congressional representation to the disbursement of public and private funding. I’m proud that the Committee took this important step to safeguard the integrity and independence of the Census Bureau.
“Today, we also took critical steps to prevent fraud, ensure consultants working for the federal government do not have conflicts of interest, and achieve environmental justice for communities exposed to dangerous power plant pollution. With 1.2 million New Yorkers living within a mile of dangerous smokestacks, and millions more people living near these sources of pollution nationwide, the Justice in Power Plant Permitting Act is a community-driven solution to make sure families can breathe a little easier. I will continue to work towards pushing these essential reforms to the House floor for a vote.”
Ensuring the Independence and Integrity of the U.S. Census Bureau
The Committee approved the Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, a bill introduced by Chairwoman Maloney and endorsed by four former directors of the Census Bureau. The bill protects the Bureau from partisan interference by preventing the removal of a Census Director without just cause, setting qualification requirements for the position of Deputy Director, and limiting the number of political appointees within the Bureau. The bill would also provide transparency into the budgetary and operational planning of the Bureau by requiring five-year projections with every submitted budget. Additionally, the bill would require that the Secretary of Commerce certify that any new questions on a decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested in accordance with best practices.
Advancing a More Equitable Transition to a Clean Energy Economy
The Committee approved the Justice in Power Plant Permitting Act, a bill introduced by Chairwoman Maloney to ensure that the federal government is a partner in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous air pollutants by requiring it to use 100% renewable, air pollution-free energy by 2030. Fine particulate matter air pollution is responsible for up to 200,000 deaths per year. Communities of color are disproportionately harmed by pollution across the United States, and recent studies reveal that Black Americans and low-income communities face significantly higher exposure than other communities. This legislation would also advance the equitable transition to a clean energy economy by preventing the permitting of fossil fuel-fired power plants and other major sources of air pollution within one mile of an existing major pollution source if the cumulative effects of such pollution would harm local communities.
Preventing Fraud and Conflicts of Interest
The Committee approved the Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act and the Preventing Personal Conflicts of Interest In Federal Acquisition Act, both introduced by Chairwoman Maloney. Together, the two bills would significantly strengthen federal law on the conflicts of interest of government contractors. The Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act would standardize and improve the rules on avoiding and mitigating contractor conflicts of interest across executive agencies. The Preventing Personal Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act would prohibit contractors that are advising an executive agency on regulatory and policymaking functions from concurrently working with entities regulated by the agency. This bill would also ensure that individual employees of contractors are free of personal conflicts. The two bills address findings from the Committee’s investigation into McKinsey & Company’s egregious conflicts of interest in advising both the Food and Drug Administration and opioid manufacturers.
The Committee also approved the Strengthening Tools to Obstruct and Prevent Fraud Act of 2022, a bill introduced by Chairman Gerald E. Connolly to reduce improper payments and fraud by removing unnecessary compliance requirements and incentivizing the use of data analytics and other tools to proactively prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs. The legislation would set clear standards for designating programs as high or low risk for fraud and improper payments and require agencies operating programs with fraud risk to implement appropriate proactive, preventative, and analytics-driven measures to respond to fraud threats.
In addition, the Committee approved the Improving Digital Identity Act, a bill introduced by Representatives Bill Foster, John Katko, James Langevin, and Barry Loudermilk, to establish the Improving Digital Identity Task Force to facilitate a government-wide effort to protect and verify digital identity. The Task Force would convene representatives from federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, as well as nongovernmental experts, to issue recommendations to improve digital identity verification and enhance privacy, cyber security, equity, and accessibility.