House panel to vote on subpoena over census question

The chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee has threatened to subpoena a slew of government officials for testimony and documents related to the administration’s proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Oversight Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis MORE (D-Md.) announced Friday that his panel will vote on a resolution next week allowing him to issue subpoenas to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore for testimony and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrKamala Harris: The right choice at the right time Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossBipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline NOAA hurricane forecast predicts record number of storms in 2020 33K laptops meant for Alabama distance learning are stuck in customs, could be held until October MORE for records as part of the committee’s probe into the census question.

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In a letter sent to Ross on Friday, Cummings said the panel “is seeking to understand the real reason that you added a citizenship question to the 2020 census” and accused the Commerce Department of withholding documents related to the Oversight panel's investigation.

The Maryland Democrat gave Ross until Tuesday to agree to provide the unredacted documents and to make witnesses available for transcribed interviews.

The Commerce Department told The Associated Press that it delivered more than 11,000 pages of documents to the panel relating to its request. It noted that Ross also testified on the issue at a March 14 hearing, adding that the department has cooperated with the panel and would do so in the future.

Ross has said the addition of the question to the census came in response to a Justice Department request that said it would help the enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, Cummings said records contradict that claim and that Ross’s agency pushed for the citizenship question’s addition. 

The administration is currently in a legal battle over the citizenship query. The Supreme Court announced last month that it will review a district court ruling that bars the administration from adding the question to the decennial population count. Another federal district court also ruled the question’s addition was illegal.

“Our government is legally entitled to include a citizenship question on the census and people in the United States have a legal obligation to answer,” Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement to The Hill in January.

Ross first announced in March 2018 that he would return the citizenship question to the census, though the query had not been included in a census of all U.S. households since 1950. Critics say the administration’s intent was to undercount immigrant communities and possibly reduce their resources and representation in Congress.

The census will help determine the number of congressional seats and electoral votes that each state gets, making it critical to how votes will be counted in the decade after it is taken.