Commerce chief Wilbur Ross seeking to postpone Oversight appearance

Commerce chief Wilbur Ross seeking to postpone Oversight appearance
© Greg Nash

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCommerce Department to develop stats on income inequality Huawei posts double-digit gain in sales despite US sanctions Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records MORE is seeking to delay his appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee for a hearing slated for March 14, according to a letter sent Tuesday and obtained by The Hill.

The committee intends to question Ross over the Commerce Department’s intention to add a citizenship question to the census. The Commerce Department also cited a letter it received from Democrats requesting documents and information ahead of the hearing.

ADVERTISEMENT

“In the days following our receipt of that letter, it became clear that the Committee intended to expand the scope of the March 14 hearing to ask the Secretary questions about his personal finances and ethics obligations – topics that we did not anticipate nor expect to be covered in such detail and depth based on the frequent and cordial communications between our staffs,” the Commerce Department letter addressed Tuesday reads.

“As soon as we receive, in writing, a complete list of the subject matter and scope about which the Committee intends to question the Secretary, my office will work with your staff to confirm a hearing date.”

ABC News was the first to report that Ross was seeking a postponement for the hearing, which could make the Commerce secretary the first member of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE’s Cabinet to appear before the House in this congressional session.

The Democratic-led Oversight panel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.

The Commerce Department’s announcement last March that it intended to put a citizenship question on the 2020 census sparked backlash, with Democrats and other critics arguing that the government was seeking to not count immigrants in the decennial population tally. 

The move also garnered a court challenge after Latino and Asian-American groups filed a lawsuit against the government. They claimed the question would disenfranchise minority residents who are not citizens and lead to underrepresentation in Congress and unfair allocation of federal funds to communities of color. The Supreme Court announced last month it will hear the case this term after the solicitor general ripped a district court judge’s ruling against the citizenship question.

The Commerce Department’s letter comes as the Trump administration and House Democrats are gearing up for a protracted battle over congressional oversight.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) requested information and documents Monday from 81 people in Trump’s personal and political orbit, and the chairmen of three other House committees also requested records and interviews regarding Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president signaled Tuesday the White House may not comply with House Democrats’ demands

“It's a disgrace to our country. I'm not surprised that it's happening. Basically, they've started the campaign. So the campaign begins,” Trump told reporters at the White House.