Ross Won't Disclose What White House Convos He Had About Census Citizenship

Wilbur Ross speaks at an event in National Harbor Md

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, appearing before the House Oversight Committee Thursday, defended efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a controversial effort that is facing legal challenges.

Questioned by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, Ross defended his earlier testimony: "I testified truthfully to the best of my ability in response to my understanding of what the questions were".

Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said the citizenship question was proposed to reduce immigrant response rates, so areas where they live will be short-changed on measures allotted by population such as congressional representation and federal funding.

The Justice Department said the question was necessary in order to effectively enforce the Voting Rights Act.

The Census Bureau initiated a review to consider alternatives to DOJ's request.

"This is because the census is used to reapportion Congressional seats, and Democrats know that Congressional apportionment according to the population of citizens, rather than total population, will cause them to lose seats in Congress", the column said, alleging that Democrats need the votes of non-citizens, who are not now allowed to vote, "to survive as a party".

Two federal judges have ruled that Ross' planned addition of the question violated administrative law and was unconstitutional.

Ross and his agency have repeatedly said the change to the questionnaire will help the Justice Department enforce the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, but critics believe the proposal will lead to low response rates among immigrants and distort congressional apportionment to favor Republicans.

"For the life of me, I don't why the Democrats don't want to know how many citizens are in this country", said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who suggested the census should go even further in its questioning.

Clay cited an internal email from May 2017 - seven months before the Justice Department request - in which Ross spoke of "my months-old request that we add a citizenship question".

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Clay said Ross failed to mention the memo when testifying to Congress previously. "Kobach is clear about his reason for adding the citizenship question in his correspondence to you", Ocasio-Cortez said.

"I have never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath", Ross said.

"I do not know anyone who believes that the Trump administration is interested in enhancing the Voting Rights Act", Cummings said, adding: "The administration has done everything in its power to suppress the vote".

"Obtaining complete and accurate information for use in determining citizen voting populations to enforce the Voting Rights Act is a legitimate government goal", said Ross.

This would be the first time since 1950 that a question on citizenship has been posed on the decennial questionnaire mailed to every household.

Democrats also released a memo noting that a Department of Justice official told committee staff last week that in the fall of 2017, the Commerce Department's James Uthmeier hand-delivered what Cummings called a "secret memo and handwritten note" on the citizenship question to John Gore in the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

However, emails revealed during the course of lengthy litigation over the matter showed that Ross directed his staff to demand that the DOJ send in the formal request.

In return, Cummings said, "We expected you to answer all our questions" related to the citizenship question.

"The objective of the data collected by the citizenship questionnaire is, after all, to ensure everyone's vote is counted fairly and no one suffers discrimination at the ballot box, said Jordan".

"For the life of me, I do not know why the Democrats don't want to know how many citizens are in the United States of America", said Rep. Jim Jordan of OH, the ranking Republican.

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