Senate Dems push administration on Census director
- By Chase Gunter
- May 18, 2018
More than a year after the last permanent Census director announced his resignation, nearly two dozen Democratic senators urged Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross to nominate a nonpartisan, experienced and scientifically qualified candidate.
In a May 17 letter addressed to Ross and John DeStefano, director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, 21 Democratic senators emphasized the importance of getting a timely nomination and confirmation through the Senate for a successful 2020 count.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the committee that would hear the confirmation of a nominee for the Census director post, are among the signatories.
"The candidate must be both experienced in both technical expertise and leadership" in accordance with federal law, the senators wrote. "In addition, as the premier statistical agency in the federal government, the candidate must be scientifically qualified to understand both the data and the integrity of data collection methods."
The bureau has been without a permanent director since John Thompson's resignation June 30 — and without a permanent deputy director since January. Ron Jarmin and Enrique Lamas have been serving in the bureau's top two positions on an acting basis.
Given the series of pared down in-field tests of the count’s IT systems — as well as fears from civil rights groups and certain populations about the reinstatement of the citizenship question – "the next director must ameliorate these concerns with a commitment to political neutrality," the letter reads.
Late last year, the administration actually came up with a nominee, but “that fell away during the vetting process,” Ross told a congressional panel last October.
And at a May 10 Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Ross said another nominee is imminent. "We have proposed to the White House a candidate," he told lawmakers, "and they’re processing the candidate as we sit here."
Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.