The Slatest

House Committee to Vote on Holding William Barr and Wilbur Ross in Contempt Over Census Citizenship Question

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross waits to speak at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2019 Hurricane Season Outlook press conference May 23, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is in charge of overseeing the census.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House Oversight Committee will hold a vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to cooperate with the panel’s investigation into the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings said Monday. The committee subpoenaed documents on the Trump administration’s effort to get a citizenship question included on next year’s census, but neither Barr nor Ross complied with the order to turn over documents. Cummings said Monday that the pair would have until Thursday to comply with the subpoena otherwise the panel would proceed with contempt proceedings.

Democrats have argued that the citizenship question is unnecessary and designed to deliberately undercount areas that traditionally have large immigrant populations in an effort to boost Republican representation. Just last week, new evidence showed the Trump administration was pushing the citizenship question specifically to benefit white Republicans. A 2015 study on the question’s impact that was circulated in the Trump administration said registering citizenship would help entrench GOP majorities. A now-deceased Republican operative working on gerrymandering even helped write a draft of a DOJ letter to the Commerce Department that came up with the rationale currently in use by the White House for the question’s inclusion—that it was needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

“The escalation between the Oversight Committee and Trump’s two Cabinet members comes just weeks after the House Judiciary Committee also voted to hold Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full, unredacted report. The full House is expected to vote on that contempt citation next week,” the Washington Post reports. “Democratic lawmakers have accused the Trump administration of stonewalling their efforts to investigate Ross’s March 2018 decision to add the citizenship question, which the government says it needs to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.”