WASHINGTON—House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings disputed last Thursday that he and his committee want to influence the Supreme Court census question case by threatening Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross with a full floor contempt charge.
Democrats on the Oversight Committee already voted last week to charge Barr and Ross in contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena issued by the committee for information related to reinstating the citizenship question to the 2020 census. President Trump has already asserted executive privilege over the documents the committee requested.
Officials from the Commerce and Justice departments say they handed thousands of pages to the oversight committee already claiming the specific documents Democrats want are part of litigation and cannot be released.
“The contempt citation is the culmination of the Committee’s effort to use its oversight authority to influence the Supreme Court—first by gathering information the ‘courts can use’ 1 and then by picking a public fight with the Administration to generate controversy around the issue,” House Oversight Committee Republicans said.
“I’m not trying to influence anything. I’m just trying to do my job. I’m just trying to do my job. That’s all. I’m not trying to influence anybody–Nobody. I’m just trying to do my job. We are doing an investigation and we’re following up on it. That’s all,” Cummings responded. Cummings also denied that the outside groups filing multiple lawsuits against the administration on the matter is using his committee to gain access to information.
“They aren’t using me. I haven’t talked to them,” Cummings said.
The U.S. Supreme Court releases its decision on the administration’s move to add a citizenship question to the census. Democrats and their allies from activist-immigration organizations claim the administration wants the citizenship question included so illegal aliens, most of whom live in Democratic districts, refuse to fill out the census.
This could greatly affect the number of Democratic congressional House seats and federal funding to Democrat districts.
Cummings denials come in the face of remarks made by California Democratic Rep. Jimmy Gomez who told NPR back in March that he hoped Sec. Ross’s testimony before Congress “reveals something that the courts can use.”
The Census Bureau announced last year it would add the citizenship question to the upcoming decennial census and lawsuits, spearheaded by left-wing organizations and Democrat attorneys general, followed. Although they have achieved some legal victories in the lower courts, the high court is another question.
Back in April, the court heard oral arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York and the court’s conservatives appeared to believe that Commerce Department has a broad mandate to choose which questions go on the form.
Activist immigration groups are now trying to bring a case to the lower courts citing new evidence found in the computer files of the late Republican consultant Thomas B. Hofeller. They claim the files show a 2015 study that concludes that adding a citizenship question to the census would benefit Republicans at the ballot box.
The Justice Department responded to the filings as baseless and “a last-ditch effort to derail the Supreme Court’s consideration of this case.”
The DOJ added that Hofeller’s 2015 study “played no role in the department’s December 2017 request to reinstate a citizenship question to the 2020 decennial census.”
Democratic presidential candidates have already pledged they would remove the question from the census should the Supreme Court rule that the citizenship question can remain on the form.
“Well, I think for a start, even before we worry about what I do after I’m president, we should talk about what might be able to be done in the next several months. And that is, the Congress has the ability to pass language which says, ‘We will not fund something unless something is eliminated.’ And I’ve done that over the years,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Let’s let the Supreme Court make a decision. But do understand this: If the Supreme Court decides to go forward and let that question be added and it’s — and we know it will suppress the response, I’ve been thinking hard about this. And I will have a plan to deal with it. But this is really important,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.
California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell argued for a “recount” of all persons in the country.
“We’ll recount it if we have to. We’ll count it until we get it right. Every person will be counted in America if I’m president,” Swalwell said. “The new American majority is going to be a Latino majority. The president knows this and he’s trying to hold us back. But we’re not powerless. So in the Congress right now, we’re not gonna fund discriminatory census practices.”