WASHINGTON – The House Oversight and Reform Committee late Wednesday afternoon approved a resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents related to the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census.
The resolution passed 24-15.
All Democrats voted yes, as did GOP Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.).
Earlier Wednesday the Justice Department informed the committee that President Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege over the documents. That resulted in the vote being postponed for several hours.
The Justice and Commerce departments have made several requests to delay contempt proceedings since the committee first requested the documents in early April.
In March 2018, Ross told the committee the addition of the citizenship question to next year’s Census would help to better enforce minority protections under the Voting Rights Act.
Ross said the question was added at the request of the Justice Department. However, the committee later received emails that reportedly showed that Ross pushed for the addition of the question prior to the time he said DoJ had made the request.
In March 2019, Ross sought to clarify his earlier testimony, telling the committee he “never intentionally misled Congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath.”
Opponents of the citizenship question maintain it would discourage many Hispanics and undocumented residents from participating in the Census.
The issue is currently the subject of a lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case within the next few weeks.
The resolution the committee passed must be approved by the full House in order for contempt citations to be issued.