Pelosi: House will 'soon' vote on contempt for Barr, Ross over census docs

Pelosi: House will 'soon' vote on contempt for Barr, Ross over census docs
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Yellen to Congress: Raise the debt ceiling or risk 'irreparable harm' MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday that the House will vote “soon” on a contempt resolution for Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump: Washington/Lincoln ticket would have had hard time beating me before pandemic Trump says Barr 'never' told him he thought he'd lose election Speeches aren't enough: Biden must ditch bipartisanship, endorse ending filibuster MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossChina sanctions Wilbur Ross, others after US warns of doing business in Hong Kong DOJ won't prosecute Wilbur Ross after watchdog found he gave false testimony Commerce Department unit gathered intel on employees, census critics: report MORE for failing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents on the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

“Before the break, the Oversight Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to hold the Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce in contempt of Congress for defying the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas for documents that would shed light on the real reason the administration added a citizenship question,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to other House Democrats. “We will be moving forward in the whole House soon.”

However, the Speaker did not provide details on when that vote will be held, or what kind of contempt resolution lawmakers might be voting on.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Hill has reached out to Democratic leadership for comment.

Pelosi earlier Monday also criticized the Trump administration over the citizenship question, calling it an attempt to "make America white again."

The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted last month to hold the administration officials in contempt for failing to hand over the documents on officials’ efforts to add the question to the 2020 census.

The resolution advanced by the committee would allow for lawmakers to refer the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for potential prosecution, and to file a lawsuit seeing enforcement of the congressional subpoenas. However, it's highly unlikely that federal prosecutors would take up the case, as they would be pursuing charges against their own administration.

Both the Justice and Commerce Departments maintained at the time of the contempt vote that they were working to comply with the document requests, and that they had already handed over thousands of pages to lawmakers. And Republicans cast the contempt resolution as an attempt to influence the Supreme Court decision on the citizenship question.

But Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee Five big questions about the Jan. 6 select committee MORE (D-Md.) said many of the documents were already publicly available, heavily redacted or not in line with what the subpoenas had requested.

And just hours before the contempt vote, the two federal agencies informed lawmakers that Trump had asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month to block the citizenship question from appearing on the census, finding that the administration’s argument for the question’s addition — enforcing the Voting Rights Act — didn’t match up with the evidence in the case. They left the door open for the administration to provide another line of reasoning for the question’s inclusion.

Opponents of the question argued that asking about citizenship would cause non-citizens and immigrants — primarily Hispanic communities — to skip the question or the census altogether. That would lead to an inaccurate population count, and likely undercounting of minority communities.

The DOJ initially said that census materials would be printed without a citizenship question, appearing to put an end to the legal fight. But Trump later said the efforts would continue, and the administration directed Justice lawyers to find a new reasoning to add the question to the census.

The House last month also voted to authorize Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHere's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Activists see momentum as three new states legalize marijuana Supreme Court expansion push starts to fizzle MORE (D-N.Y.) to go to court to enforce congressional subpoenas on the unredacted report and underlying evidence from former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE. Some Democrats at the time cast the measures as a civil contempt resolution, a characterization disputed by legal experts.

That measure also empowered Democratic committee chairs with new legal authorities to enforce their subpoenas, as Trump has vowed to not comply with any subpoenas issued by Democrats investigating him or his administration.

—Cristina Marcos contributed reporting.