Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee in March over the Trump administration’s controversial decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the committee announced Tuesday.
Ross will be called to “provide complete and truthful answers to a wide range of questions, including questions regarding the ongoing preparations for the census, the addition of a citizenship question, and other topics” at the March 14 hearing, the committee announced Tuesday.
This announcement comes a week after a federal judge blocked the addition of the citizenship question, issuing a scathing 277-page ruling accusing Ross of violating the Administrative Procedure Act.
Critiquing Ross’ motivation for adding the question, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said that the Commerce Secretary “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.”
The Census Bureau had repeatedly advised Ross against adding the question, which immigrant and voting rights advocates warned would likely lead to an undercount of immigrant populations in the Census.
The administration maintains that the decision to do so was to assist the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Memos and emails submitted as part of multi-state lawsuits challenging the citizenship question have undermined that explanation.
Democrats on the Oversight Committee signaled that investigating the exact circumstances surrounding the census question would be a priority now that they’re back in control of the House of Representatives.