Reid Refuses To Honor Republican Holds On Census Nominee

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office just told TPMDC that the senator will file for cloture on the nomination of Robert Groves, whom President Obama tapped to be director of the Census Bureau on April 2.

Groves, the 60-year-old director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, sailed through confirmation hearings in mid-May, but shortly thereafter, anonymous Republican senators held up his nomination, preventing a confirmation vote and leaving the bureau without a director. Earlier today Roll Call (sub. req.) reported that those holds were placed by Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA).

The census, performed every ten years by Constitutional mandate, is not merely an exercise in demography: The populations of states and counties are used to determine Congressional reapportionment and redistricting, which will happen again before the 2012 election cycle. Moreover, state population totals affect the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to states for highway construction and renovation, Medicaid, and education, among other expenditures.Publicly, Republicans attribute their opposition to Groves to his statistical expertise and his history at the Census Bureau. While an associate director at the bureau in the early 1990s, Groves advocated the use of his specialty, statistical sampling, which can be used to compensate for undercounted demographics, such as illegal immigrants and the poor. (Republicans have effectively prevented census sampling for decades.) But in his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Groves promised not to use sampling. And Commerce Secretary Gary Locke–whose department oversees the census–noted that the Supreme Court had rejected sampling as a method to determine Congressional district reapportionment (though it left unclear whether the method could be used to determine redistricting or federal funding for states).

Yet, despite Groves’ pledge, Shelby and Vitter have maintained the hold for nearly two months. At least one prominent Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has spoken out in favor of Obama’s nominee. “I do not know who has placed a hold on Mr. Groves’ nomination, nor do I understand the rationale for holding him up,” she told the Associated Press in June. “I am very eager to get this qualified candidate on the job.” Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which considered Groves’ nomination.

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