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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Malaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations MORE (D-Calif.) said Monday that the House will vote “soon” on a contempt resolution for Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump says he has 'total confidence' in Barr In defense of William Barr Trump suggests he may sue over Mueller investigation MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossCan the US slap tariffs on auto imports? Not anymore On The Money: Slowing economy complicates 2020 message for Trump | Tech confronts growing impact of coronavirus | Manufacturing rises after five-month contraction The Memo: Trump threatens to overshadow Democrats in Iowa 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.

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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 CummingsHouse to vote next week on bill to create women's history museum The Hill's Morning Report - Icy moments between Trump, Pelosi mark national address Baltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings 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 NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer 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) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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.