Democrat vows to withhold funds for census citizenship question

Democrat vows to withhold funds for census citizenship question
© Stefani Reynolds

The top House Democrat overseeing spending for the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau vowed Tuesday to block funds to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science, warned of a cost of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars if the Trump administration tries to amend the form after printing has already begun without the citizenship question.

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"I want to make one thing clear: I have no intention of allowing this flagrant waste of money. I once again urge the Trump Administration to give up this fight and allow for a depoliticized and accurate census, as we always have," Serrano said in a statement. 

House Democrats previously passed a spending package last month that includes a provision to block the Census Bureau from including a citizenship question on its 2020 survey. Democratic lawmakers, like other critics of adding the question, argue that asking about citizenship would suppress responses from noncitizens and immigrants, leading to racial minorities being undercounted. 

The push to block funding comes as the House is expected to vote in the coming days to hold Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out US imposes new sanctions on Cuba over human rights, Venezuela Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality MORE and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump MORE in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to adding the citizenship question.

House Democrats' determination to confront the Trump administration over the citizenship question on the census could be another flashpoint in efforts to prevent a government shutdown in October, when current funding is set to run dry. 

House Democrats will have to reconcile the spending bill for the Census Bureau that they already passed last month with Republicans in the Senate and the White House in negotiations to keep the government funded.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Trump lashes out at Pelosi as she visits Jordan to discuss Syria Thomas D'Alesandro III, brother of Nancy Pelosi, dies at 90 MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday called the Trump administration's push to add the question as an attempt to "make America white again," playing on the president's campaign slogan.

"They want to make sure that certain people are counted. It's really disgraceful. And it's not what our founders had in mind," Pelosi said at an event in San Francisco. "What they want to do is put a chilling effect so certain populations will not answer the form."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month to block the citizenship question from the 2020 census. The court ruled that the Trump administration's argument that the question is necessary to enforce a federal voting rights law lacked sufficient evidence.

The Trump administration initially then appeared to relent and began printing the questionnaires without the citizenship question. But then the Justice Department reversed course last week following a tweet from President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE, who vowed to ensure that the question would be included. 

Trump said last week that he is considering an executive order to make sure the citizenship question is included on the census.