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Senate Dems call Trump's reported Census Bureau pick 'deeply unqualified'

Senate Dems call Trump's reported Census Bureau pick 'deeply unqualified'
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Two Senate Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to reverse course on reported plans to name Thomas Brunell the deputy director of the Census Bureau.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossFlurry of lawsuits filed over citizenship question on census Commerce bars U.S. companies from selling to ZTE Farmers and ranchers can’t afford a trade war MORE, Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls The Hill says goodbye to 50 Most Beautiful MORE (N.J.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenators grill alleged robocall kingpin Senate Dems push bill to make it easier for FCC to go after robocalls Dem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance MORE (Hawaii) called the University of Texas at Dallas political science professor “deeply unqualified.”

“Dr. Brunell’s well-established partisanship, indifference toward civic engagement, and lack of managerial experience make him ill-qualified for the responsibility of carrying out a decennial census already in peril,” they wrote.

Citing people who had been briefed on the administration's plans, Politico reported in November that the administration was leaning toward Brunell. 

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The Democrats cited a Mother Jones report detailing Brunell's past work defending North Carolina’s voter maps in 2011, which were ultimately struck down by federal courts as racial gerrymanders.

Schatz and Booker also noted Brunell’s 2008 book, “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America,” in which he argues for more hyper-partisan districts in which the same party always wins.

“The person charged with operational oversight of the governmental undertaking responsible for apportionment in our government’s highest legislative body should be committed to fair and accurate representation for all Americans,” they wrote. “Dr. Thomas Brunell is not that person.”

Legal advocacy groups, including the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, raised concerns over the legality of the Commerce Department naming a deputy director ahead of a Census Bureau director.

“First, a provision of federal law duly passed by the Congress and signed by the President requires that the '[Census] Bureau shall be headed by a Director,'” the groups wrote. “This is not permissive statutory language—it is mandatory.”

The groups also note that federal law prohibits the director’s duties from devolving indefinitely to the highest-ranking official remaining at the Census Bureau.

Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson retired in June to pursue opportunities in the private sector.