The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted on Wednesday afternoon to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for their failure to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents related to a proposal that a citizenship question be added to the 2020 census.
The contempt vote, which mostly followed part lines, came after the Justice and Commerce Departments announced that President Donald Trump had exercised executive privilege over the documents Congress was demanding.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was the only Republican to vote to hold Barr and Ross in contempt.
The Commerce Department said it turned over nearly 14,000 pages of information to the House Oversight Committee, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) complained that some of the information is redacted and many of the documents give information that is already public.
Congressional Dems and the Trump administration have been in a bitter battle ever since Ross announced the citizenship question last year.
Ross has said the citizenship question was added to the 2020 census after the Justice Department recommended it as a way to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Justice Department said the information would give them more accurate citizenship data.
Critics have argued that the question will lead to a low response rate from both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants. They argue that without these people weighing in, they will not be counted for congressional apportionment, which is the process by which a state’s number of congressional seats is determined. They argue such a question would heavily favor Republicans in coming elections.
Cummings called the citizenship question a “scheme.”
“Although we have limited information about this scheme, we have been blocked from fully determining the real reason the administration sought to add the citizenship question,” Cummings said at the Wednesday hearing. “That is because the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce have refused to turn over key documents requested by the committee.”
“How do we get to the point today where we’re going to hold the Secretary of Commerce, the Attorney General of the United States in contempt, because we don’t want to ask the question that everyone in the country thinks we’re already asking and in fact we are?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ranking member of the committee, at one point.
“Today, the Democrats maintained their shameless, weekly attacks on this administration without consideration for the truth,” Ross said in a public statement responding to the contempt decision. “I don’t even think members of Congress can keep track of which committee is holding a show trial on any given day. Here’s the bottom line: The Democrats have continued to attack this administration on dubious grounds, and they aren’t going to let the facts get in the way of their own concocted stories.”
The citizenship question fight will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court, which is crazy when you think about the fact that this fight is over an incredibly simple question — are you an American citizen?
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