Under Obama’s plan, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who has yet to be named, would report to White House senior management in addition to the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau.
A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing next month on the potential change. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are also pushing for an investigation.
GOP leaders sent Obama a letter to the White House on Wednesday demanding a reversal of the plan.
“If the president doesn’t acquiesce to our letter, then we will seek the courts,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at a news conference Thursday.
“Ultimately I don’t think there’s any question among federal courts about whether or not this is a personal power of the presidency or whether or not executive privilege would be waived if he started doing functions like this,” Issa said.
A spokesman for Issa told FOXNews.com that the lawmaker wouldn’t initiate a lawsuit but would lend his support to any individual or group that did.
At the news conference Thursday, House Republican leaders announced the formation of a census task force to keep an eye on developments. Republicans displayed a large placard with a 2006 quote from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that read, “If you think redistricting is always partisan and political which it is…it’s going to be on steroids this time.”
Just in from Bruce Chapman, former Census Bureau director whose work on this topic exposed Obama’s designs:
The announcement today by Sen. Judd Gregg that he is withdrawing his name as the president’s nominee to be Secretary of Commerce–and citing the Census issue as one reason–is going to increase scrutiny of the White House’s plans to try to change the way the 2010 Decennial Census is conducted. Clearly the president has done little to alleviate concerns of Gregg, a Republican, that the Census might be conducted in a politicized manner.
It is now unavoidable that the White House statements claiming oversight of the Census preparations were not flukes caused by ignorance or naivete. They must have been serious or Sen. Gregg would not have decided to withdraw. One previously could give the president the benefit of the doubt. He was too busy with other matters to make his position clear. Now he has lost another cabinet nominee–not because of faults in the nominee, but because the nominee didn’t want to be part of the Administration that ignored the chain of command and tried to micro-manage a function traditionally left to career scientists.
It is also possible, however, that Gregg didn’t quit, but was shoved. The West Wing officials by now may have figured out that there are legal as well as political risks if they try to change the plans for the Census from the White House instead of the Commerce Department. Lawsuits were threatened today by House Republicans.
It would be more expedient for the White House to have a pliable Secretary of Commerce in place if the aim is to “re-evaluate” the conduct of the 2010 Census in order to introduce adjustment of results through sampling and computer modeling. Gregg presumably would not have gone along–and would have been hard to run over.
But the legal issues will remain even if a willing partisan is nominated and confirmed as Commerce Secretary. There is a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that would make sampling-based adjustment difficult in the absence of compelling evidence that the customary hard count would be less credible. And that evidence not only is lacking, but a three year statistical study that was finished in 2003 to respond to this issue concluded just the opposite: adjusting the Census numbers through sampling and computer models could lead to a less credible Census result. A hard count has always been legally defensible. An fuzzy “adjusted” Census–where figures at the Census tract and block level would be plaining erroneous in many cases–could invite endless litigation and bad will.
Another problem for the Obama White House if it wants to change the Census approach: planning for the 2010 Census has been underway for years and now is in preparation for testing. The disruptions caused by an Administration decision to change those plans would cause great problems and probably agitate the resistance of career statisticians charged with responsibility for conducting the Census.