A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Attorney General William Barr seeks to force them to comply with the panel’s subpoenas for documents and information related to the 2020 Census.
“I am filing this enforcement action today because the Trump administration’s brazen obstruction of Congress must not stand,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, according to Politico. “President Trump and his aides are not above the law.”
In July, the Democrat-controlled House voted to enforce the Oversight Committee’s subpoena seeking information regarding the Trump administration’s effort to include a citizenship question on the U.S. Census questionnaires next year. The vote held Ross and Barr in contempt for refusing to comply.
“The committee is investigating the attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, both to conduct oversight of the executive branch and to determine whether legislation may be necessary to amend the census process or to provide additional safeguards in light of defendants’ conduct,” the committee wrote in the complaint.
The panel specifies the need for information on “the Commerce Department’s process for soliciting and evaluating input regarding the citizenship question,” and its “efforts to affect the accuracy of the enumeration, and improper political influences on the census.”
“This information is critical to the committee’s oversight and legislative interests in furthering an accurate enumeration,” the complaint further states.
“Without the information, the committee cannot fulfill its constitutional duties to oversee DOJ and the Commerce Department and to remedy through legislation any defects in the administration of the census — tasks that are at the foundation of American democracy.”
Democrats are opposed to the inclusion of a citizenship question on the Census next year. But the White House says the question is vital in order to obtain specific information so it can comply with regulatory and legal voting requirements.
“This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed,” then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in March 2018.
“We’ve contained this question that provides data that is necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters and specifically help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act.”
Republicans also say the citizenship question is vital to determining proper distribution of House seats.