Oversight Dems grill Ross over Census

As a legal battle over the addition of a question on citizenship heads to the Supreme Court, the Commerce Department chief faced questions on Capitol Hill about how and why the question came to be added to the basic 2020 population survey.

Census 2020 By Maria Dryfhout Stock photo ID: 790714156
 

As a legal battle over the addition of a citizenship question heads to the Supreme Court, the ultimate boss of the Census Bureau faced questions on Capitol Hill about how and why the question came to be added to the basic 2020 population survey.

At a March 14 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified that his department "asked [the Department of Justice] whether it would have interest in obtaining more granular citizenship data."

Ross previously testified to Congress that the DOJ "initiated" the reinstatement of the citizenship question in December 2017, and that in adding a question about the citizenship of respondents to the basic Census questionnaire, he was responding "solely" to its request.

Overall, Ross stuck to the narrative spelled out in a March 2018 memo explaining the decision was made to enforce the Voting Right Act of 1965.

"I have not approached this in a partisan manner," he testified. "If I had a nefarious purpose, I certainly wouldn't have added $3.2 billion to the budget" originally set at the outset of the decade.

This would be the first time since 1950 that a question on citizenship has been posed on the decennial questionnaire mailed to every household. Multiple courts have ruled the decision illegal. The bureau's own scientific advisors and former directors have said such a question will decrease response rates and count accuracy.

While some Republicans voiced support for the question as a way to better inform immigration decision-making, Ross tried to distance the decision from immigration policy, insisting that census responses would remain confidential, a key risk area for the bureau.

Census officials have said they will probably need a decision by June in order to have adequate time to print and distribute all the forms needs to mail to every household. The Supreme Court plans to take up the question in April.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) questioned the administration's budget proposal of $7.2 billion for the entire bureau, falling short of Ross's own request of $7.4 billion for just the decennial operation.

"I have no idea why the president's budget is below the request," Ross said, adding he did not have input in the White House's budget. "I believe that the total budget that we requested and had been approved by the Congress is adequate."

The Census Bureau plans a number of operational tests in 2019, both examining the impact of the question's addition and a series of cybersecurity and IT systems readiness. And as Census prepares these expanded operations, Census watchdogs fear the White House budget would shortchange them.

One of the bureau's largest contracts is its technical integration contract, an $890 million deal to make sure all of the IT systems work in conjunction with one another.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) questioned Ross about whether the bureau has a plan to fill the persisting vacancies in the office, about half of the total positions, overseeing this IT contract.

"This IT integration is critical to ensure there is an accurate count," she said.

Ross noted in his response that the Senate recently confirmed a permanent director, and that he "did not recall the exact number" of vacancies.

NEXT STORY: FCW Insider: March 14

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.