House votes to hold Barr and Ross in contempt over Census dispute

House votes to hold Barr and Ross in contempt over Census dispute

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President Donald Trump announces his retreat on adding the citizen question to the 2020 census in the Rose Garden of The White House. He is flanked by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr, July 11, 2019, (Photo ©2019 Doug Christian)
President Donald Trump announces his retreat on adding the citizen question to the 2020 census in the Rose Garden of The White House. He is flanked by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr, July 11, 2019, (Photo ©2019 Doug Christian)

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives Wednesday evening approved a resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for their refusal to turn over documents related to a plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.

The resolution passed 230-198.

All Republicans voted no, as did four Democrats.

The vote comes one day after a federal district court issued a ruling permanently barring the question from being added to the Census.

President Donald Trump announced last week that the administration had backed down from attempts to add the question to the census. Trump instead issued an executive order that requires all federal agencies to submit data on citizenship status to the Department of Commerce.

Trump’s announcement was preceded by a Supreme Court decision that blocked the citizenship question from being added.

The decision left the door open for the administration to return to court with new arguments for adding the question.

Democrats have said despite Trump’s reversal and the two court decisions they still want to know why the administration wanted to add the question. They hope the contempt resolution will expedite their request for documents.

A criminal contempt citation allows for the affected party to be prosecuted; however, such action is highly unlikely as Trump’s Justice Department would have to sign off on the citation.

Opponents of the citizenship question maintain it would discourage many Hispanics and undocumented residents from participating in the Census.

The administration has maintained that adding the question would help to better enforce minority protections under the Voting Rights Act.

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