Ross refuses to testify on administration's budget proposal, saying it would be a distraction

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Democrats accuse administration of burying climate change reports Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt MORE is refusing to testify before a House subcommittee about President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE’s proposed budget, escalating a feud with congressional Democrats. 

Ross sent a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies on Tuesday accusing the panel of turning down testimony from several other department officials who spoke in front of the subcommittee’s Senate counterpart.

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“Unfortunately, the House Subcommittee appears unwilling to receive any of these witnesses to answer its budget and operations questions. Instead, the Subcommittee apparently intends to recognize an ‘empty chair,’ thereby forgoing the opportunity to ask meaningful questions about the Department’s budget and operations priorities,” Ross wrote. 

“This development affirms that my appearance at this time would unfortunately distract from the Department’s important business before the Subcommittee,” he added. “You and I both care deeply about the Commerce Department’s mission and budget, and I know our bureau heads can provide all the information your members need to carry out their appropriations duties.” 

The House Appropriations Committee fired back at Ross, tweeting Wednesday that “government funding IS the business of the Appropriations Committee.”

Democrats have pounced on Trump’s budget, which he released in March and includes a conservative wish list of priorities including domestic spending cuts, curtailing food stamps, repealing the Affordable Care Act, reducing environmental protections and boosting funding for a border wall.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Ukraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) characterized the budget as a “cruel and shortsighted ... roadmap to a sicker, weaker America.”

Ross is currently fielding a range of requests from other committees on several other issues.

Besides the House Appropriations subcommittee, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies is seeking testimony on the budget and the House Oversight and Reform Committee wants testimony about the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

Ross last week declined to appear before the Senate subcommittee, sparking a harsh rebuke from the panel’s ranking member.

“Secretary Ross: You’re not an investment banker anymore,” Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “You serve the American people, and part of your job is to be accountable to Congress and the American people. What do you have to hide?”

He also last month sought to postpone an appearance before the House Oversight panel that was scheduled for March 14. The committee is still seeking testimony from Ross over the Commerce Department’s intention to add a citizenship question to the decennial population count in 2020.