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Gregg Confirmation Flashpoint Emerges as GOPers Decry White House Census Move

CQ, which first reported on Gregg's opposition to emergency funding for the 2000 Census, got the Obama administration to reveal that the director of the 2010 Census would report directly to the White House rather than the Commerce Secretary. Moving the sensitive business of population-counting away from Commerce would help assuage the concerns of black and Latino groups that were less-than-pleased with Gregg's nomination ... but Republicans haven't forgotten that the Census results determine how congressional districts are re-drawn within each state.

And who's in charge at the White House these days? Emanuel, the two-term chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee, who pressed for Dem-friendly congressional redistricting in his home state three years ago. First Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) cried foul in a letter to Obama:

The constitutionally-mandated decennial Census needs to be fair, accurate and trusted. By circumventing the secretary of commerce's oversight of the Census Bureau and handing it directly to a political operative such as Mr. Emanuel, you are severely jeopardizing the fairness and accuracy of the 2010 Census.

Now House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has chimed in with a warning that Census oversight will be an issue during Gregg's confirmation. Without mentioning Emanuel, Boehner said ominously that the Census "should not be directed by political operatives working out of the White House."

House Republicans won't be in the room for Gregg's confirmation hearing, however, and their Senate counterparts have yet to raise similar questions about White House supervision of the Census.

John Cornyn (TX), the Senate GOP's current campaign chief, told me that "I don't think it's right to play politics with the Census" but added that he hadn't heard in full about his House colleagues' apprehension. The ultimate decision on the issue may rest with another Texan, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior Republican on the Commerce panel.

Late Update: Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), one of the first to question Gregg's past stances on the Census, just released a statement defending the White House move as in keeping with precedent.

There is precedent for the director of the census and the White House to work closely. It therefore makes perfect sense that the president would seek to exercise as much oversight of this core function of our democracy as possible.

Late Late Update: A Senate source makes the relevant observation that the Census isn't actually under Commerce's jurisdiction -- it belongs to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which won't get to hold a confirmation hearing on Gregg.

Still, there's only one Republican who would know that: Sen. John Ensign (NV), who's a member of both committees. And he also happens to be Cornyn's predecessor in the GOP campaign chief's post ...