House OKs bill to limit political interference in the census

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed legislation to make it harder for future presidents to interfere with the once-a-decade census that determines political power and federal funding, a move that comes in response to failed efforts of the Trump administration to ask a question of citizenship. part of the 2020 squad.

The legislation passed 220-208, with only Democratic lawmakers voting in favor. The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to certify to Congress that any new questions sought in a future census are adequately researched and tested, and that the Government Accountability Office conduct a review of the certification.

It also seeks to limit political influence by requiring that a director of the US Census Bureau can only be fired for breach of duty or professional misconduct. It delegates all technical, operational and statistical decisions to the director and indicates that an assistant director must be a career staff member with experience in demography, statistics or related fields.

“Partisan manipulation of the census is just plain bad,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, DN.Y., who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, which has been investigating the Trump administration’s efforts to add the question of the citizenship. “My bill would protect the census and ensure that this does not happen again, regardless of which party is in power.”

Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, saying it gave more power to unelected bureaucrats, thereby reducing accountability.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said the changes are designed to make it easier for future census results to favor Democratic-leaning states over Republican-leaning states by making it harder to overthrow the director even when the President or Congress is concerned about decisions that they believe will result in an unfair or inaccurate count.

The bill faces a tough climb in the evenly divided Senate given the party-line vote in the House. But Sen. Gary Peters, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said “clearly, we’re going to be looking at it very seriously.”

The census determines the number of congressional seats each state gets and the breakdown of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. Its results are used to redraw political constituencies. The 2020 census was one of the toughest in recent memory due to attempted political interference, the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters.

In the years leading up to the 2020 census, the Trump administration tried unsuccessfully to add a question about citizenship to the census questionnaire, a move advocates feared would scare Hispanics and immigrants from participating. whether they are legally in the country or not. The Supreme Court blocked the issue.

The Trump administration has also tried unsuccessfully to get the Census Bureau to illegally exclude the nation’s residents from the population figures used to allocate congressional seats among states, also known as apportionment numbers. The Trump administration has attempted to end data collection and processing earlier than the revised schedule released by the Census Bureau in response to the pandemic, a move critics have seen as an attempt by the administration to release distribution figures while President Donald Trump was still in office. .

The breakdown figures were released in April 2021, four months after President Joe Biden took office and Trump left.

Critics claimed that the citizenship issue was inspired by a Republican redistricting expert who believed that using voting-age citizen population instead of total population in an effort to redraw congressional and legislative districts could benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

Even though many of the Trump administration’s policy efforts have failed, some supporters believe they have had an impact, with a much larger undercount of most racial and ethnic minorities in the 2020 census compared to the census. of 2010.

The black population at the 2020 census had a net undercount of 3.3%, while it was nearly 5% for Hispanics and 5.6% for American Indians and Native Americans. Alaska living on reservations. Those who identified with another race had a net undercount of 4.3%.

With the legislation, “we reaffirm our commitment that every person in every community is counted,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, and chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

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