On Monday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated that the House will vote “soon” on a contempt resolution for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr. The contempt is a result of both men failing to comply with congressional subpoenas for documents on the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
“Before the break, the Oversight Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to hold the Attorney General and the Secretary of Commerce in contempt of Congress for defying the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas for documents that would shed light on the real reason the administration added a citizenship question,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to other House Democrats. “We will be moving forward in the whole House soon.”
Pelosi did not go into any real detail on when the vote is scheduled to take place or what kind of contempt resolution lawmakers will be voting on.
Earlier in the day on Monday, Pelosi criticized the Trump administration over the citizenship question. She called it an attempt to “make America white again.”
Just last month the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to hold the administration officials in contempt for failing to hand over the documents on officials’ efforts to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The new resolution advanced by the committee will allow lawmakers to refer the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for potential prosecution, and to file a lawsuit seeing enforcement of the congressional subpoenas. It is, however, highly unlikely that federal prosecutors will take up the case because by doing so they would be pursuing charges against their own administration.
According to The Hill, “both the Justice and Commerce Departments maintained at the time of the contempt vote that they were working to comply with the document requests and that they had already handed over thousands of pages to lawmakers. And Republicans cast the contempt resolution as an attempt to influence the Supreme Court decision on the citizenship question.”
However, Elijah Cummings, the Oversight and Reform Chairman has stated that many of the documents were already publicly available, heavily redacted or not in line with what the subpoenas had requested.
Reportedly, just hours before the contempt vote, the two federal agencies informed lawmakers that Trump had asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents.
Last month the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to block the citizenship question from appearing on the census. They found that the administration’s argument for the question’s addition didn’t match up with the evidence in the case. They did, however, leave the door open for the administration to provide another line of reasoning for the question’s inclusion.
Opponents of adding the question to the 2020 Census say that the question would cause non-citizens and immigrants to skip the citizenship question or the census altogether. This would then result in an inaccurate population count, especially in minority communities.
The Department of Justice originally stated that the census would be printed without the citizenship question and their statement appeared to put an end to the legal battle. Trump later announced that the legal fight would continue and that the administration had directed Justice lawyers to find a new reason to add the question to the census.