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All Oversight Democrats Urge Gowdy to Subpoena Documents on Census Bureau’s Concerns About Citizenship Question

Apr 24, 2018
Press Release

All Oversight Democrats Urge Gowdy to

Subpoena Documents on Census Bureau’s

Concerns About Citizenship Question

 

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 24, 2018)—Today, all Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter asking Chairman Trey Gowdy to issue a subpoena to compel the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau to produce documents they have been withholding for nearly three weeks relating to concerns raised by the Census Bureau itself about the Trump Administration’s sudden decision to add an untested new citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

The Democrats asked Gowdy to issue the subpoena this week so Committee Members could review these documents before the Committee’s hearing on May 8, 2018.

“We understand that you declined to join our request for documents on April 4, 2018,” the Members wrote.  “However, we believe these documents are critical for our Committee to understand the concerns raised internally by career experts at the Census Bureau itself about the dangers of adding this untested new citizenship question to the census—as well as why the Trump Administration disregarded these concerns.”

On April 4, 2018, six Democratic Committee Members wrote to Commerce and the Census Bureau requesting documents relating to concerns raised by career experts at the Census Bureau before the Trump Administration decided to add a new citizenship question to the census. 

The letter was based on a memo issued by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acknowledging that the Census Bureau “expressed concern” that adding a citizenship question “would negatively impact the response rate for non-citizens.”

The Members originally requested these documents by April 11, 2018, so they would be able to review them before a briefing that Commerce and the Census Bureau were scheduled to provide on that day.

Commerce and the Census Bureau briefed the Committee on April 11, but did not provide the documents.  Instead, they informed Committee Members that they were collecting documents in response to separate requests in ongoing litigation, that they hoped to provide these documents to parties in the lawsuits by Memorial Day, and that they would provide copies to the Committee and the public at about the same time.  They explained that they would provide documents they considered to be part of the “administrative record.”

The Members wrote in their letter today that the Administration’s response is “inadequate” for three reasons:

  • “First, Congress in general—and our Committee in particular—has an independent responsibility under the Constitution to conduct oversight of the census, and we are not limited to obtaining only those documents that the Trump Administration is required to provide to litigants or the public.  We are charged with serving a role that is separate and distinct from the Judicial Branch, and we regularly conduct our own investigations that may run parallel to outside litigation.”
  • “Second, the Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the census on May 8, 2018, and we will be prevented from adequately preparing for this hearing if the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau continue withholding the documents we requested.  We should not be required to wait until Memorial Day merely because there is litigation that is separate from the Committee’s constitutional oversight role.”
  • “Third, our request for documents is different—and in some cases may be much broader—than the “administrative record” relating to the addition of the citizenship question.  For example, we have requested “all” documents and communications in the custody, control, or possession of all officials at the Commerce Department and Census Bureau relating to any concerns expressed regarding the addition of a citizenship question.”

 Click here to read today’s letter.

115th Congress