Two Senate Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to reverse course on reported plans to name Thomas Brunell the deputy director of the Census Bureau.
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHouse panel, Commerce Department reach agreement on census documents China 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 MORE, Sens. Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (N.J.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzHotel workers need a lifeline; It's time to pass The Save Hotel Jobs Act Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Scientists potty train cows to cut pollution Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (Hawaii) called the University of Texas at Dallas political science professor “deeply unqualified.”
“Dr. Brunell’s well-established partisanship, indifference toward civic engagement, and lack of managerial experience make him ill-qualified for the responsibility of carrying out a decennial census already in peril,” they wrote.
Citing people who had been briefed on the administration's plans, Politico reported in November that the administration was leaning toward Brunell.
The Democrats cited a Mother Jones report detailing Brunell's past work defending North Carolina’s voter maps in 2011, which were ultimately struck down by federal courts as racial gerrymanders.
Schatz and Booker also noted Brunell’s 2008 book, “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America,” in which he argues for more hyper-partisan districts in which the same party always wins.
“The person charged with operational oversight of the governmental undertaking responsible for apportionment in our government’s highest legislative body should be committed to fair and accurate representation for all Americans,” they wrote. “Dr. Thomas Brunell is not that person.”
Legal advocacy groups, including the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center, raised concerns over the legality of the Commerce Department naming a deputy director ahead of a Census Bureau director.
“First, a provision of federal law duly passed by the Congress and signed by the President requires that the '[Census] Bureau shall be headed by a Director,'” the groups wrote. “This is not permissive statutory language—it is mandatory.”
The groups also note that federal law prohibits the director’s duties from devolving indefinitely to the highest-ranking official remaining at the Census Bureau.
Former Census Bureau Director John Thompson retired in June to pursue opportunities in the private sector.