Commerce Secretary Ross Testifies on 2020 Census CSPAN March 14, 2019 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT
illegally or not, is that correct? >> that is correct, sir. we are not asking legal status of people whether citizens or not. >> in fact, a large percentage of those people who may check that they're not citizens will be here legally because they've either got a green card or some other legal means of being here in the united states, is that correct? >> that's correct. they could be here on a visa or on any variety of things. the purpose of the census is not as a tool for enforcement of the immigration laws. the census is simply to provide aggregated data. >> i yield back. i thank the gentlewoman for yielding. >> mr. craig? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, on march the 20th, 2018, you testified in front of a subcommittee of the house appropriations committee,
and here is what you said -- >> we are responding solely to the department of justice's request not to any campaign request, not to any other political party request. >> two days later. we are responding solely to the -- >> okay. two days later you testified before the house ways and means committee and here is what you said. >> the department of justice, as you know, initiated the request for inclusion of the citizenship question. >> on may 10th, you testified -- >> the department of justice -- >> you testified in front of the senate appropriations committee and here's what you said then. >> well, the justice department is the one who made the request
of us. >> now -- now i would like to talk about what you did not tell congress. you wrote the following e-mail to your staff on may the 2nd, 2017, you wrote and i quote, i am mystified why nothing has been done in response to my month's-old request that we include a citizenship question. why not? end of quote. so you requested the addition of the citizenship question prior to may of 2017, correct? >> no, sir. what i was referring to was that i was frustrated that i had not gotten an answer to the question would the department of justice formally request the question to be re-instituted or would they
not. that's what i had in my mind now. >> wait a minute now. this was more than seven months before doj sent this letter in december of 2017, though, correct? >> that was part of my frustration i had been seeking to get clarification on what was the interest, if any, of the department of justice in the question because the census has to be done on a specific day, starting on a specific day and on a specific year and there are also congressional reporting. >> i'm well aware of that -- >> wait, no. i have the time. i'm well aware of that because in 2010, i oversaw that census, but when you testified last year you failed to mention any of this, is that correct? >> what was contained in the decision memo of march 26, 2018,
was the basis for the decision. >> mr. secretary, you wrote to the committee a few months ago that the reason you did not mention all your efforts to add a citizenship question before doj's letter was because these efforts were merely, and i quote, informal and hypothetical discussions with all due respect with that explanation does not pass the last test. >> well, that is the fact, sir i'm sorry that you're dissatisfied with it. >> well, you testified three times and each time you withheld critical information that congress needed to oversee preparations for the 2020 census. mr. secretary, will you take responsibility today for misleading congress, whether
intentionally or not about the process you follow to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census? >> i have never intentionally misled congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath. >> mr. secretary -- mr. secretary, you lied to congress. you misled the american people and you are complicit in the trump administration's intent to suppress the growing political power of the non-white population. you have already done great harm to the census in 2020 and you have zero credibility, and you should, in my opinion, resign. i yield back. >> is there a question in that, sir? >> i'm next. >> mr. chairman, we've been at this now for somewhat more than
>> this house oversight committee hearing, i should say, is expected to resume shortly after a brief break. t they're hearing testimony from commerce secretary wilbur ross about the 2020 census. until we resume we'll show you a portion of this morning's "washington journal." >> the republican of indiana and sits on the arms services and veteran affairs committee. congressman, we'll start with the budget. the president wants to increase defense spending by 5%. we are winding down two wars.
why do we need to increase defense spending by 5%? >> the president's number is $750 billion is really right where it needs to be as we prepare for the threats of the future. while we might be winding down efforts in places like afghanistan, syria, iraq, the threat still remains in those places, but the strategic nature of our competition with places -- with countries like china, russia, iran and a renewed focus on those -- on those adversaries means that we have to rebuild the military, and i'm still new in washington, d.c. my first term was last term. so i'm in the third year in my time on capitol hill and what i learned among everything else is that defense spending is one area of the pie that was cut over the past ten years. so we're in a rebuilding phase and the president's $750 billion baseline for defense spending gets us right back on track to where we need to be. >> where does the money go?
>> overall, it's rebuilding capabilities, improving readiness of the military. all across the board. so whether it's rebuilding the force structure of the army or rebuilding the nature of the navy, modern ieizing the navy a the platforms and really $750 billion goes to all of the above and all of the areas that you think of with defense and with modernizing national defense that the money goes to all of the above. >> it would cut non-defense spending by 9%. however, "the washington post" notes that it would project deficits with $1.1 trillion in 2020 or 4.9% of gross domestic product, and would exceed 1 trillion for the next three years. does that concern you? >> absolutely. spending remains a problem and has been a problem for republicans and democrats in washington, d.c. the president's budget does, though, balance around the 12th
year and it gets close to balancing at the ten-year mark. so that part of it i like, but when we talk about the budget caps and we get back into that, the complicated nature of the budget caps, that's where this budget proposal gets tricky and that's why the non-defense cuts at one point, 1 trillion and the increase in defense cuts and it's all a part of that budget cap equation. by the way, the budget caps go away at the 2021 mark. so we're not that far away from this really, in my opinion, ridiculous and disastrous deal that was passed around 2011 long before i got to congress came about. it was the defense spending at that point. about a 25% cut in defense spending over the past ten years. so a lot of us who are defense hawks on capitol hill are looking forward to that point where the budget caps -- the budget cap deal goes away and makes this a lot less complicated in how we approach
budgets and spending on capitol hill. >> i want to invite everyone it on participate. democrats, 202-748-8000 and republicans, 202-748-8001. trump vowed to save medicare, medicaid and social security without cuts. have to do it, he said. people have been paying in for years and now many of these candidates want to cut it, but his 2020 spending requests floats spending $845 billion less on medicare and a $1.4 billion cut to medicaid and a cut to social security. are those cuts needed to spend more on defense? >> not at all, and those cuts aren't cuts to those programs for anyone that relies on them today. these are many reforms that are necessary to maintain these programs and make them sustainable well into the
future, and that's where i haven't been critical of the administration because these are steps in the right direction, but we have to take much more significant steps in the direction of reforming social security, medicare and medicaid, and not just to address the $22 trillion national debt, but to save those programs for my daughter's generation and for future generations and the president's budget proposal this year takes small steps in this direction. those aren't cuts for those programs. those are reforms for the programs that will make them sustainable into the future, and it won't cut programs for those individuals that rely on programs today. >> let's take a call. we'll go to delana, democrat. you're up first. >> thank you very much. i'd like to mention that the pentagon has never been audited because they can't audit it. there are so many holes in the system. my brother-in-law was a commander in the navy with mccain, and his comment was any
war is better than no war at all. nothing, nothing we do, just like wells fargo, once the consume are protection act got into that system, they absolutely -- they almost destroyed the -- pelosi and feinstein were sitting right underneath that and it's amazing, the waste, fraud and abuse. thank you very much. >> your thoughts? >> well -- [ inaudible ] >> it seems a little bit hypocritical considering two weeks ago michael cohen was sitting in that chair and with that i would like to get back to something that was said earlier about the record and the supreme
court and trial court cases. as far as we know, there's at least one pending lower court case going on and obviously which i'll get into in more detail in oral argument in front of the supreme court, and to say that this deposition which is what it is, or this under oath testimony isn't part of the record is absolutely true for the supreme court case. however, everything here can continue to be used in any pending lower court case, not to mention and probably more importantly, i've spent time in trial court and i've spent time in front of appellate court judges and to think that this isn't going to come up in oral arguments is actually folly. i'm assuming lawyers on both sides of this case have taken appellate accuracy and anything that's being done here under oath is going to be more than free game in front of oral arguments. so we have justice department drafting essentially that says -- going back as far as 2000 is what i found that we always have to satisfy legitimate legislative interests
while protecting certain confidentiality interests and disclosures which may compromise open, civil litigation and that's one of the reasons they do that, and i emphasize the word may because i will be the first one to admit that if we could never call an agency in front of here that had any pending litigation going in any way, shape or form we wouldn't have many executive branch agencies here at all, but we don't have to go to any kind of hypothetical. we have it specifically written and just to back up a little bit, this -- the first case, i believe, was filed on march 26, 2018, and since that date whenever a pending case exists there is a competing interest between what is going to be discoverable in a federal courtroom and what is being requested in front of a congressional hearing and the reason i bring that up is because those things are absolutely not mutually exclusive. anything provided to a congressional inquiry at that point in time is going to end up into the federal case.
that's just the way it's going to happen. so whenever lawsuits are filed there as the competing interest between legislative's oversight role and what is pending in the criminal case, and in the supreme court stay, they specifically stated that they stayed secretary ross' deposition and i tend to agree with the concurrence where they said they should stay all extra record discovery considering that there's not a lot of distinction between secretary ross and the agency as a whole and much of what went on in that case in the lower court decisions talk about what's in the hearts and mind regarding adding the citizenship question, and i don't know what's in the hearts and minds of my friends in this room on both sides of the aisle, but what i can tell you is the effective result of this is an absolute end run around the stay on a deposition. this information is here. it's under oath and to think it's not going to be used in the criminal area in a pending litigation is just not true.
and again, we don't have to go to hypotheticals regarding this. it was specifically stated in the current opinion, and the concurring opinion from justice thomas and justice gorsuch was very specific and one of the things they said is protecting the very review which the supreme court is inviting at this time. so i have one question and then i want to end with a little bit. secretary ross, do you believe that anything that is going on here today will be used in either the lower court opinion or oral arguments at the supreme court? [ inaudible ] >> so i bet that would require a legal opinion. i'm a civilian. >> i would like to point out that a lot of the protection available in the deposition are not available in a hearing under oath in front of congress, and i'll end with this. if the supreme court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in this
case, oversight from this committee is absolutely appropriate. if the supreme court rules in favor of commerce or doj, oversight from this committee is absolutely appropriate. what is not appropriate is weaponizing this congressional hearing to effectively create an end run around the supreme court order staying the deposition of secretary ross. with that, i yield back. >>. >> mr. raskin? >> thank you, mr. chairman. do i have the opportunity to respond? >> this is your time. >> am i recognized for my time? >> let me start with this, then. secretary ross, you asked for a memo on the citizenship question from your office of general counsel and you got it back from james meyer on august 11, 2017.
what did that memo say? >> we produced some 8,700 documents here and gathered that there are more that the committee may wish for? you are willing to produce that memo then, too. >> sorry, i didn't hear the question, sir? >> are you willing to produce that memo that was written to you by james ruth meyer about precisely what we're investigating here today, the citizenship question? >> i will take it up with taf and with counsel following this hearing and we will -- >> no. i've seen from the record that you're quite effective at getting your staff to do things, for example, moving on the citizenship question. will you tell them to turn this memo which deals precisely with what we're investigating over to the congress of the united states? >> i will be delighted to take it up with my staff after the hearing and we will consult with counsel and they will give you a -- >> okay. well, i understood your testimony that you would refuse to turn it over on the grounds that there's ongoing litigation
and we just heard that argument echoed by the gentleman from north dakota, and i must say, mr. chairman, i'm quite astounded by this line of argumentation today by our colleague. to begin with, the supreme court has been perfectly clear in a series of cases including hutchison versus the united states in 1962 and sinclair versus the united states in 1929, that the fact of ongoing litigation is not a valid grounds for withholding documents from congress. are you aware of, that secretary ross? >> that requires a legal opinion, sir. i will have to refer that to -- >> okay. well, that principle goes back at least 90 years and we can give you countless examples of investigations by both republican and democratic chairmen of this committee as well as dozens of other commites in congress that have received documents while there was ongoing litigation. for example, chairman chaffetz
had an epa rule while it was being litigated and got documents there. he did the same thing in the keystone excel pipeline hearings when there was ongoing litigation and the chairman did the same thing with the equifax data breach. so you are not a lawyer. you may not be aware of congress' power to appeal documents including the so-called secret memo which is being held now, but our colleagues should be perfectly aware of that fact and the representative from the district of columbia is right. they are the facts in the record of the case all the more so in an appeal of the administrative procedure act and decision where everything is in the administrative law record. that record also is very clear about what you had done. that record said that your decision to answer a citizenship question was capricious and you
violated the public law, you violated the public trust and you stated rationale to promote the movement, a smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut apa violations, but you are aware that when the supreme court treats this matter it will treat it as a matter of fact on the four corners of the administrative law record, are you not? >> that's a very lengthy question, sir. i think it calls more for a legal opinion than my opinion. >> your decision was also struck down on the basis of the enumerations clause. it was constitutional, as well. is there anything that you would tell us that would somehow alter the supreme court's interpretation of whether or not your judgment to add the citizenship question is constitutional? >> i don't quite understand the question, sir. could you repeat it? >> okay. let me ask you this. the california district court said what ensued was a cynical
search to find some reason, any reason or an agency request to justify a pre-ordained result. so let's just put it in very simple terms and i'm not going to ask you about the law. obviously, you don't want to talk about the law and that's fair enough, but did you not have a search. i describe it as cynical. did you not have a search to get to a pre-ordained result. it wasn't the purpose to get the citizenship question added, regardless of what was found in the administrative law process? >> the gentleman's time has expired. you may answer the question. >> the -- the rationale for my decision is encompassed in the march 26, 2018, decision memo. that's the basis in which the decision was made, sir. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. secretary.
mr. secretary, we know that the census data is used to approach and apportion congressional seats. each state gets one seat and the remaining 385 seats are divided among the 50 states based on total population. for over 150 years the standard has been to count every person residing in the united states. every person regardless of legal statute in the united states. this whole time we've been counting legal and illegal immigrants to apportion congressional districts yet only citizens can vote. so we count illegal immigrants, but we don't want to ask questions about citizenship. we don't even ask legal status. mr. secretary, this seems like a huge problem and i for one am very supportive to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census and so is my delegation. this is the reason the citizenship question is such a
threat. the democratic majority believes if we only count citizens we'll lose the majority in congress. the whole hearing is transparently political, it's beyond legitimate overstate, so my question is to you, secretary ross. would you agree that the main purpose of the census is to get accurate data about the u.s. demographics? >> the constitution mandates for the census is to try to count every person residing in the u.s. at the place of residence on the dates when the census is conducted. it is not to be used for immigration enforcement. it's not to be used for any other kind of enforcement or for that matter, for any other purpose. we -- everybody with access to the data takes a lifetime oath not to disclose individual's private data, and the punishment
for doing so under title 13, as i understand it, could be a com bin auction of a prison sentence at a substantial time. >> so the basis of this is to better govern, would that not be the case? >> i'm sorry. i couldn't hear the question. >> would the basis of the question we can look at is to better apply governing to the people? >> we are glad, sir, to count every person who is here regardless of citizenship status and regardless of anything else. >> right, and that's my point. that the resources are better distributed to govern the people. >> i believe that was the congressional intent, but i wasn't there at the time. so -- >> do other nations query their populations for census demographics about citizenship? >> we do -- would you repeat the
question? >> the other countries query their populations for citizenship? >> oh, yes. the u.n. encourages all countries to ask the citizenship question and quite a few do. a few of those they can recall offhand include australia, canada, france, germany, ireland, mexico and the united kingdom. i'm sure there are others, but those are ones that occur to me off hand. >> so i want to make sure i heard that right. united nations pushes that initiative, right? >> the united nations recommends the countries ask the citizenship question. yes, sir. >> wow. >> did thomas jefferson have the federal government ask about citizenship as far back as 1800? >>. >> yes, the question has been asked, i believe since 1820. so -- >> in one form or another, in
one venue or another. >> so this administration should be given credit for following thomas jefferson's footsteps, should it not? >> well, i'm a good admirer of thomas jefferson's, is there a question, sir? >> this administration is following in the footsteps of thomas jefferson by asking this question. i believe that we are doing it for the reasons that were outlined in my march 26, 2018 decision memo. those are the reasons why i did it, sir. >> and my last question, is it true that states often have to bear the cost of non-citizens including providing health care, food stamps and housing? >> i believe that all people are counted for those purposes, sir. >> thank you very much, mr. secretary. >> before we -- >> thank you very much. >> before we go to -- i want to thank all the members for many
of you have changed your schedules just to be here, and i really do appreciate that, and i think it's very important, and i'm talking to both sides. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. before i go on to my questioning, mr. ross, you are aware that thomas jefferson said that slaves were counted f for 3/5, so i'm not sure that thomas jefferson should be the litmus test for what we should be doing for counting census. i want to ask you about the citizenship piece that you have here in the question. i note that you have delineations of categories for individuals. where would the individuals born in the district of columbia fall under? >> i didn't understand the question. >> where would individuals born in the district of columbia fall under your census, your citizenship question? they are not born in a state nor are they listed as puerto rico,
guam, the virgin islands, murrietas or were they born abroad? >> i think that would require a legal decisions. >> so, but that's the question as how you have it outlined here. the different buckets that individuals could put down. >> oh, yes. the reason that we had for using those particular dockets is those were the oneses that were asked repeatedly in the american community survey. >> so where would someone from the district of columbia check? >> i'm sorry, ma'am. >> i just need an answer to that. where would they check? >> i'm trying to answer your first question, if i could be permitted. >> where would they check on your list? >> we use the exact same question -- >> i don't. i'm not interested in why you use the question. i just want to know if someone born in the district of columbia where would they check off on the listing that you have here? >> i think the list speaks for itself, ma'am. >> it doesn't speak for itself because you have born in the united states. are you saying that people who
are born from puerto rico, guam, the u.s. virgin islands and northern marianas are not born in the united states, that's a separate one, where would an individual from the district of columbia. i think you are showing that even from this alone you don't think of individuals born in the territories as being part of the united states and i'm just wondering where someone from the district of columbia, if you were to make the argument to that is a state. >> would the gentlewoman yield? >> no, i will not yield. i don't have a lot of time. i want to ask you about the census bureau chief science report that you discussed. you wrote about the cost and accuracy of the census. he estimated that the addition of a citizenship question would lower response rates by approximately 5.1% and quote, reduce the quality of the resulting data and lower self-response rates and degrade data quality because data obtained from nrfu non-response
follow-up have whole-person rates. mr. secretary, is that the -- is that what the memorandum stated? >> chief scientist abound testified under oath. mr. chairman, with your permission -- >> no, i saw that. i just want to know is that correct that he stated what i read to you. >> can you refer me to the second of the memo that says that, ma'am? >> i think the memo is listed in the record and in that memo he states the lore response rate to be approximately 5.1%. mr. secretary ross, i understand that you're a businessman and as such you understand the cost and accuracy and the need for a cost effectiveness. why would you be in favor of something that was more costly and diminishing the accuracy of your census by putting in the
citizenship question? >> the reasons for including the citizenship question are the ones that are outlined in my march 26, 2018 decision memo. those are the bases on which i concluded that it was appropriate to ask the citizenship question. >> your chief scientist -- >> -- may i finish my answer? >> you may not because you're taking quite a while to answer the question, and most of my questions do not require that much of a response. so i need to get to other questions in here. but the reason i'm asking that is because you testified before this committee in october that most of the census budget is spent on encouraging the last few million households to respond whereas it says in the scientific report of dr. abudde that it would cost you 27 million additional funding to pick up the inaccuracy at that,
and in the court's opinion, which is -- which is the court's opinion of the state of new york versus the department of commerce and new york immigration versus the united states' department of commerce that it's unlikely to remedy the reduction self-response rates that hundred of thousand, if not millions of people would go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included. why would you want to increase the cost of that question? >> the gentle lady's time has expired, but you may answer the question. >> i have nothing to say, sir. >> very well. >> mr. heist? >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> last time i checked the district of columbia is in the united states. so i think the questions do speak for themselves. >> and so is the u.s. virgin islands. >> this is my time. >> i would like to build a little bit on mr. stuby's line of questioning a little bit earlier, mr. secretary, thank you again for being here. we all know in this room that there is ongoing civil
litigation about the citizenship question on the 2020 census right now before the supreme court. do you have any idea when the supreme court is supreme court is scheduled to hear oral arguments? >> i believe it's somewhere around the 21st of april. >> as somewhere in the 23rd, six weeks from now, more or less. >> more or less. >> when the lower courts were considering the citizenship question, were you required to testify or were you deposed? >> i was not testified. i was not deposed. the supreme court had issued what i believe is called a temporary stay that stayed any deposition or testimony by me. >> that's the whole point of this. in fact, the fact that you were not required to testify in the lower court, that in itself
was -- became a matter of contention and drew its own separate civil litigation. and as you referenced, the supreme court stepped in because that issue was so support. later they plucked it out of the lower courts and they themselves said they wanted to weigh in on that. as you mentioned the, supreme court placed a stay -- this is what's so amazing to me about this whole hearing today. the supreme court, the highest court in the land, has said mr. ross should not be deposed or give testimony on this matter until after they are able to decide on this matter. and it's alarming to me the willingness of this committee to disregard the wishes of the supreme court. for all practical purposes, you are sworn in, this is a deposition.
do you think it's reasonable to suspect that some plaintiffs involved in this case are possibly watching this today? >> i have no idea who's watching it today, sir. >> we don't know who is watching, but i think it's kind of reasonable to assume that those who are involved in this case are probably watching. which would make this part of the discovery process. and so here we are virtually in a deposition, going against the wishes of the u.s. supreme court, and i just look at the direction of this committee two weeks ago, we have michael cohen here, an individual convicted of lying to congress, coming back to give more testimony to congress and it appears in every way that he lied again while he was here and now we're having a hearing, a deposition, goes against the wishes of the supreme court.
it seems like this committee is -- this whole hearing is inappropriate and out of order and i would like to yield the reminder of my time to the gentleman of north carolina, mr. meadows. >> i thank the gentleman for yielding. i want to come to you. over the past 100 years, prior to 2010 when president obama decided not to include a citizenship question on the census, the prior one hundred years, was there not a citizenship question on each of those censuses that were taken between 1910 and 2000? >> yes, sir, i believe that is the case that it was routinely asked in one form or another. >> are you aware that there were five democrat presidents that controlled what was going on the census and five republican presidents that controlled what was going on the census during
that same time period, so it was not partisan? >> i haven't tried to make this a partisan event, sir, so i haven't kept track of which presidents did what. >> that speaks well to the way you're looking at this. one last question that i have for you, on the american community survey, there is a citizenship question that we currently ask each and every year to about 1% of the population. is it correct that the most unanswered question on there is not about citizenship, but about their income? >> if memory serves, on some of those surveys, the largest nonresponse rate certainly, a larger one than the question of citizenship, did relate to weekly wages. >> all right. i yield back. i thank the chairman.
>> good afternoon, secretary ross. over here. >> i'm sorry. i'm sorry. i'm not familiar with the seating. thank you for pointing it out. >> that's okay. in your written testimony today, secretary ross, you said, quote, on december 12, 2017, doj made a formal written question of a reinstatement of a citizenship question on the census so it could provide census block level citizenship data, is that correct? >> that is my understanding of the request that was made by the department of justice in a formal letter to us on december 12th, 2017, sir. >> and so you included the citizenship question to enforce the voting rights act, correct? >> that is what my recollection says that the letter from the department of justice said was the reason, yes, sir.
>> as you've pointed out, block level data, citizenship block level data are not currently available because the citizenship question is not included in the census, right? >> is that a question, sir? >> correct. >> the census bureau reported that the block level data as i described in the decision-making memo, block level data is not available from the acs which is sent out annually. and i believe that's an uncontested fact, sir. >> correct. and as you know, the citizenship question has not been part of the census given to every household since 1950, right? >> there were times when it was distributed to households in the form of a long -- of a different form from the other census and
then -- >> but not the short form, not the short form survey given to every household, right? >> sir, i would like to finish my answer to your first question if you would indulge me. >> go ahead. >> there were different forms that were used at different times and the form that asked that question, i believe, was only sent to a fraction, a portion of the population and the same is true of the citizenship question that was asked routinely on the acs survey. >> correct. >> it was only sent to a small fraction of the total population -- >> right. >> -- as opposed to the census itself as it goes -- >> i understand your answer. my time is limited. and you have basically said it's only been e lit itted from a fraction of households. that's been true since 1950.
as you know, for the entirety of the existence of the voting rights act of 1965, the doj has litigated voting rights acts numerous times without citizenship data from every household in the united states, right? >> the department of justice used the information that was then available to them, as i understand the situation, that had prevailed prior to the present time. >> correct. john gore, the acting assistant attorney general of -- for civil rights at the doj, authored the letter, the request to you, and he was recently deposed and in his deposition he was asked, mr. gore, the data collected through the census questionnaire is not necessary for department of justice's voting rights act
efforts. he responded, i do agree with that, yes. sir, in light of this new information from mr. gore at the deposition, i would assume that you would go back and reconsider including the citizenship question in the survey? >> i'm not familiar with the deposition to which you're -- do you have a copy of it, sir, that i can refer to. >> yes, sir, we can provide that after the questioning. when was the last time you discussed the citizenship question with president trump. >> i published a list in one of the litigations of the parties with whom i had had discussions about citizenship question prior to the reseat of the december 12th 2017 memo. president trump was not listed as one of the parties with whom i had discussions prior to the december 1th letter. >> and when you were interviewed
for the position at that time before you joined the trump administration, did you talk with anybody at the white house about the citizenship question? >> not that i can recall, sir. >> the gentleman's time has expired. mrs. miller. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and mr. secretary, thank you so much for being here today. as we have discussed, the census in this committee, i want to make this point perfectly clear. it is not controversial to count who is in the united states. in fact, it is important for us to know how many people are living within our nation's borders and within our individual states. so that we can properly and fairly distribute federal funds. without these raw numbers, there is no way for us to ensure our citizens have sufficient funds to access critical programs like
medicaid, s.n.a.p., pell grants and other important programs. we need to know how many people within the united states are school-aged and accessing public schools. this number is critical for appropriating federal funds to our states for their school systems. even further, census data is used to calculate fund r if the national school lunch program. without proper data, it is impossible to ensure each state has adequate funding to provide lunches for impoverished students. are you aware that there are 132 programs use census bureau data to distribute more than $650 billion in federal funds just in fiscal year 2015? >> i'm well aware that the census data are used as part of the appropriation process.
i'm not knowledgeable on the exactly numbers, but it's big numbers. >> did you know the top five programs which use census bureau data to distribute funds are medicaid, s.n.a.p., medicare part b, highway construction funds but the department of transportation and pell grants through the department of education? >> it wouldn't surprise me at all. >> mr. secretary, did you know the census data is used to determine a rural community, a suburban community, and an urban community? >> i believe that is the case, yes ma'am. >> census data is used to consider what's rural or not. there are 22 programs at the department of agriculture and 33 programs at the department of health and human services that use this data to distribute
federal funds. even further, there are 16 programs at the department of education, 13 at the department of housing and urban development and even seven in the department of justice. without this critical data, so many of our constituents would not receive sufficient access to these programs. that's why i'm even more surprised that my colleagues don't want to fully count the number of people within our borders. for the first time using census data, congress could get an accurate picture of how many citizens use these important federal programs and also how many noncitizens are using federal programs. i think my constituents would want to know about -- where their tax dollars are going to support federal benefits for noncitizens. mr. secretary, would you agree that this is an important public policy goal? >> i'm well aware that the
census data is importantly relied on for a whole wide variety of public policy objectives. and i'm very proud of the fact that that is the case. >> thank you very much. i yield the rest of my time to mr. meadows from north carolina. >> i thank the gentlewoman for yielding. a lot has been made of documents that have been requested, haven't been requested. i know that you have sworn that you've given over 8,700 documents to this committee and is it my understanding that you're going to get with counsel and do the very best you can to give documents to this committee that are responsive as long as they don't interfere with the pending litigation that is before the supreme court, is that correct? >> i'm perfectly willing to put forward anything that counsel do not object to. i have to be guided by counsel in that regard. >> let me go a little bit
further then and i appreciate your response. one of the areas that has come up is that the previous administration under president barack obama really was the first time that we didn't ask a citizenship-type question. i'm sure in your ar chiefs, and we want to make a priority on being responsive to this request, are you willing to work with this committee to provide other responsive documents in terms of the decision-making on why for the first time in a century a citizenship question was not included in 2010? would you be willing to do that? >> i really have no idea who was involved in the process or why. i will confer with staff and see whether there's something we could do that would be responsive. >> i yield back, thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. secretary, do me a favor, i'm going to be frank with you, i can barely hear what i'm saying.
when you talk, can you get a little closer to the mike. a number of members have been complaining they can't hear you. >> i'm sorry. i have a bit of a cold. i think i might have caught the cold you had last week. >> i'm blamed norfor a lot of things, okay. i'll take that one. you got me that time, mr. secretary. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good afternoon, mr. secretary. while i am extremely concerned about yours and other trump administration officials purported long standing conflicts of interest with russian oligarchs we're focusing on the census hearing. i will be submitting my questions on the matter for that matter and i look forward to seeing your responses to those questions. many federal agencies use census data to distribute federal
funds. in fact the census bureau found 132 programs used census data to distribute $675 billion in funds in 2015. census data is used to distribute to programs like medicaid, snap, medicare, and section 8 housing choice voe temperatures. they rely on this data when determining how to distribute their funds. mr. secretary, do you agree it's important for census bureau data to be accurate? >> i'm well aware of the multitude of public policy uses and appropriation uses to which the sense data are used, and that's why i'm so insistent to make sure that the census was properly funded. it was at my initiation that the office -- >> excuse me. this is a softball question.
i just wand to ask you do you agree it's important for census bureau data to be accurate? >> what we are -- >> yes or no? census bureau data should be accurate? >> i'm trying to answer, sir, as best i can. we are dedicated to the concept of providing the most accurate and best data that we possibly can and that's why we've committed so many resources and so much effort as i've described before. >> so that would be a long-winded yes? >> i think the answer speaks for itself. >> inaccurate data could affect the proper funding of data, correct? if it's inaccurate, it will impact how federal funds are distributed, correct? >> i believe that the census data should be as accurate as it can be for that whole variety of reasons, sir. >> if the census data is
inaccurate, to whatever degree it may be, that would hurt people's access to critical programs, those programs are cited are funded in part on the census data? >> that's a hypothetical question. i have very great difficulty answering it, sir. >> i'm sorry, could you repeat your answer? >> that's a hypothetical question that i have great difficulty answering, sir. >> so you are saying that if we had inaccurate data, you don't know whether that would impact federal funding in these programs and how it's disseminated by state. >> i don't think that was the question. i think the question was would inaccuracies in the census data reduce the amount of funding that went to a given state. the reason that's hypothetical is that involves the assumption that the only errors would be undercounting. >> businesses and industries also rely on this data to
support their businesses. would you agree that inaccurate census data could hurt businesses that rely on the data? >> we are pledged to try to provide the most accurate and complete data we can under the circumstances. for those reasons and for the host of other reasons that already have been cited here earlier in some of the remarks and in my testimony itself, we will continue to be pledged to do so and that's why i work so hard to get the complete count committees, to get the partnerships developed to do massive advertising and to hire more participate specialists by far -- >> thank you, mr. secretary. if i could reclaim my time. i'm concerned that your decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which has drawn strong criticism, could affect
communities across the country since this census will determine the access of federal if you finding. i've heard from numerous communities that they are worried about the undercount of the census taking place. those concerns were highlighted in this article published in the orange county register and independent like to ask to have this article placed in the record. >> without objection, so ordered. >> thank you, i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. secretary for being here today on a voluntary basis. there's been a lot of discussion on the census and this, and it's quite clear in the constitution it says we the people of the united states referring to the sovereignty of the citizens body who constitute the nations and uses the word citizen 27 times. governments are constituted among men are -- citizenship and
sovereignty are linked. as was an earlier question, i want to reemphasize it, the united states emphasizes that countries should ask the citizenship question and you named the countries, canada, indonesia, german and others. when a census form comes back and one of the questions is left blank, is there any action taken? how do they handle that if that one question is not answered? >> thank you for that question, sir. the census bureau career professionals have a process for estimating the answer to the question. we this time will be using more extensive administrative records than have ever been used before and we hope that that will be a very useful guide both to getting to all the people as
many as we can, and to providing correct answers. >> also, does the census bureau have, for example, is -- on the american community survey which would ask that -- the citizenship question, is there data that says that non-hispanics or hispanics have a different ratio of answering the question with that on there? >> yes. that is one of the statistical results of that american communities survey. i believe we referred to that in my decision memo of march 26, 2018, and that provides quite a bit of detail on the differences in response rates. >> i understand that. but did you see an ethic group like the hispanics, more likely not to answer the question than non-hispanics, for example? because that question is on
there? >> if memory serves, non -- white non-hispanics had the highest response rate. the lowest nonresponse rate i believe black non-hispanics had the highest nonresponse rate and i believe that hispanics had the second highest. but that's just by memory. i would really refer you to my march 26, 2018 decision memo. that will have the -- >> also on the -- there was a bill sponsored in the last congress, 4906 and it specifically would not ask a nationalization question or citizenship question, but it did put a -- allow for to ask those questions on the american community service survey --
>> the american community survey has asked the exact same question routinely for quite a lot of years and that exact set of questions that we proposed to use would -- has been exposed to over 30 million americans over a period of time. that's a much more extensive set of tests than ever would have been done in a little sample test directly to prepare for an individual census. >> yeah, but i guess my point, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle there, advocating for not having the citizenship question on the -- on the regular census, but they don't have a problem having it on the community survey, american community survey. so, i don't quite understand the thought process on that one. but i believe it's important that we do this. we ask a lot of questions on the census as race, nationality,
income, and a lot of personal-detailed questions. and it makes perfectly sense we ought to know houmg citizens are -- you can still be in this country and not be a citizenship, you can be a legal resident. we're not asking if you're illegal. legal and illegal, it doesn't make any sense. but i see i'm about out of time. i appreciate you being here. >> the census does not ask about legal status. the census only asks -- >> we can't hear you. >> i want you to be a little louder. i swear to god, i can't hear you. >> i'm sorry, sir. i'm doing the best i can. >> i just -- >> i'll repeat it the answer. >> thank you. >> we do not ask about legal
status in the acs nor do we ask about it or do we propose to ask about it in the census question itself. we are asking the exact same question that the acs asked to over 30 million americans over a long period of years. so it's a very well tested question and we are not deviating one word from it. >> thank you, mr. secretary. >> mr. secretary ross, you are an accomplished man, yale and harvard educated. and my question is about the funding of the census. because i'm -- based on your personal wealth, you know how to do a budget. so the census funding per household has increased every decade. in the late 2017, the census bureau estimated that the cost of the 2020 census would be more
than $100 per household. in its 2019 high-risk report, the gao found that the census bureau ability to conduct a cost-effective census is at risk. last year the gao found that for the agency's cost estimates were, quote, not reliable. i'm concerned, mr. ross, and i would hope that you'll be able to answer this question based on your personal knowledge, education, and ability to do budgets, that the president and the commerce department has underestimated how much the 2020 census will cost. you know, there's a saying f you want to know what someone believes in and what they really care about, follow the money.
the budget that has been presented, does not reflect a budget that will give an accurate reading as you have said you're committed to counting other people. is it or isn't it true that one reason costs are increasing is because the nation's population is increasingly hard to count? >> a whole lot of questions in that, representative. i will try to answer them as best i can. the way we came to the estimate of the funding that would be required was by using professional cost estimate tors brought in from outside and from within government. we had one group do a top-down estimate, the other group do a bottoms-up. we compared them. we spent a huge amount of hours trying to get to the right answer -- >> do you believe that the budget for the -- >> i'm sorry.
>> the 7.2 billion for the census bureau, do you believe that the proposed budget is significant? do you feel that as the secretary, sir, that 7.2 billion for the bureau and base now that we're behind schedule that that number is sufficient to achieve what you said your goal and commitment to this country in counting every person in america? >> first of all, you had referred in the earlier question that i was trying to answer, i'm happy to report that just last week, the gao put out a new report that gave us credit for having improved the situation on all five of the categories with which they took exception in their earlier report, the one to which you're referred back in 2017. as you know back in the early
part of 2017, it was essentially the process that has been used by the former group not by me. as of now, gao has said -- >> mr. ross, i'm not being rude. but i only get five minutes. >> the 7.2 billion is less than than what the prior administration requested and what congress approved in 2010. the last time the census bureau needed to ramp up for a census and this is where the numbers don't add up. in fact, in late 2017, the commerce department estimated that the census costs for fiscal year 2020 will be about 7.4. why is the president's budget, sir, below this request and this estimate? >> i have no idea why the president's budget is below the request --
>> did you have any input in it? >> i did not. >> so you as the secretary of commerce had no input on what the numbers were presented for the census, for the record? >> the president's budget is the president's budget. i'm not -- >> so what is your budget, sir? >> i'm sorry. i believe that the total budget that we requested and that had been approved by the congress is adequate to deal with the needs of the census. the president's budget request, i haven't really had a chance to review because i've been trying to get ready for this very hearing. but i will be testifying before both appropriations committees in about a week. i would also point out to you that what we did is we forward-funded, with the permission of the appropriations committees, we pulled money into the recent past that would not
have been spent until the future. i requested that because the more -- the farther along we get the quicker, the less risk there is of a big overrun. so i think an aggregate from start to finish, the life cycle cost will be adequate to deal with the needs of the census this time. >> mr. ross, if we don't fund we will not be able to count. i'm on appropriations and i will be listening and watching. >> mr. secretary, i thank you for coming here today voluntarily and asking -- answering our questions on the census. i'm convinced that just about everything's been asked but not everybody's asked it yet and i'm convince that had you're going to do a great job on this census. we'll have the best understanding of the population in this united states i think that we've ever had. but the census is not the only
constitutional function that we as congress has entrusted to your department. you're entrusted with administering patents and i've been here six years, we've never had a commerce secretary come here, and we've never had any oversight in the patent aspect of your job. so if you'll indulge me, i would like to ask a few questions for patents. >> surely, sir. >> article 1 authorizes congress and this is what we've given to you to administer, to promote the progress of science by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the rights to their writings and discoveries. and i think this is an undervalued function of the department of commerce. occasionally you see people running for president and they say we should get rid of the department of commerce. and i think they forget that, number one, you're charged with doing the census which is constitutional, and number two,
you're charged with administering patents. can you give us an update on the status and your approach and strategy where where we are in terms of implements the patent clause within your department? >> i'm a great proponent of strong patents and strong enforcement of the patents both in terms of within the u.s. and externally. i recently had the great pleasure to sign with the director of the patent office and with the president the ten millionth patent. interestingly, about half of those were within the last 20 years. because the rate of innovation in this case is growing at a very rapid pace and it's a very good thing because that's a lot
of what our future will depend upon. so one of the important topics in the current discussions with the chinese is enforcement of intellectual property rights. and when i came into office, i came to the conclusion that we needed a director of the patent office who was as committed as i am to strong enforcement of patent rights. and i believe we have achieved that and we will do very, very well in patent enforcement going forward. i'm very proud of the work that the patent office has done and i'm also very pleased that i had the opportunity to speak at the recent event where we renamed the patent auditorium for clara barton. she was the first woman to be
working in an important capacity in the census department, way back in 1841. and she later became much better known for being a wonderful nurse during the civil war. but we were commemorating here overall and we were commemorating her work in the patent office. and so i'm a very keen supporter of the patent office and i'm happy informally or however, to discuss patents. >> patents have been the economic engine for this country since its formation and the founders recognized that, and that's why they put them in the constitution. and i believe actually that that's more important function of your department and i hope we don't lose focus on that as pekt
of what the department of commerce does. i want to ask if you could remind us how the patent office is funded? >> the patent office is actually the patent and trademark office, and it is funded by the fees paid by users. the funding is -- requires appropriation by the congress but as i understand it, there's no federal funding of the operations of either the trademark part or the patent part of the office. it is totally funded by civilians paying user fees. >> what is not to like about the patent office. >> your time is expired. >> we've been at this for over an hour, would you indulge me in a brief break. >> what do you consider brief.
mr. conley? >> yes, sir. >> i'm calling on you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, secretary ross. secretary ross, on march 15th of 2018, you and i had a conference call with one of your aides to talk about the citizenship question. might you recall that conversation at all? >> i'm sorry, sir, i cannot hear you. >> i don't specifically recall. >> okay, well, you and i had scheduled a call and we had it
in which i conveyed my deep concern about the citizenship question and the consequences that can flow from it in terms of compliance with the census, extra enumerated costs, accuracy. had you already made up your mind by that date, by march 15th, 2018, that you were going to have the citizenship question anyhow? >> on what date, sir? >> this was march 15th. you announced 11 days later that you were going to have the question. and i'm trying to understand whether you made a legitimate effort at adequating feedback and tried to evaluate it. or were you going through the motions of trying to check the box. >> no, sir, the process was outlined in my march 26, 2018 memo. it was as complete and thorough process as i knew how to make
it. >> when you and i talked, you had not finalized a decision? >> i did not finalize the decision of march, yes. >> that's good to know. mr. secretary, section 141 f-1 of the census act requires you to submit a report to congress at least three years before the census that contains, and i quote, subjects proposed to be include and the types of information to be compiled in the census. did you submit a report under that section in march of 2017? >> in march of 2017, sir, if i recall correctly, the report was due at the very end of the month, and as of the end of the month, we had not by a longshot decided anything about the
census. >> did you submit a report? >> yes, we did. i did submit a report of the topics. the report was not required to state the individual questions. that report as i understand it was to report on the topics that were then under consideration for the 2020 census. >> so you're anticipating my question and i'll accept that answer, that from your point of view, that reporting requirement did not require you, from your point of view, to give a heads up about the fact that you were thinking about acting the citizenship question. that's your answer? >> my answer, sir, is that i believe that that requirement was to discuss lists, the topics that were to appear on the 2020 census. >> got it. >> as of that date, there was no decision to put anything like
citizenship on. >> all right. that's a report required by law. but there's another report required by law. section 141-f-3 of the census act. allows the secretary to modify the subject of the questions after the initial deadline, notifying congress, if the secretary identifies quote new circumstances that require the modification. did you ever submit that statutory report to congress under 141-f-3? >> well, i can't cite the individual chapters, sir, because i'm not a lawyer, but i have been advised with counsel with that my reports fully complied with the statutory requirements. >> you might want to check with those lawyers because we have no record of your department, or you, submitting a report as required by law. that report says if there are new circumstances, and that's the only condition on which you make modifications, you got to tell us about those new
circumstances. when you added the citizenship question, that should have triggered section 141-f-3, and yet, i think, to this day, we still don't have a report from you, or the commerce department, justifying, a rather extreme modification, in terms of -- >> i don't think so, that it is an extreme modification. this was restoring a question that had been asked many times -- >> restoring a question, sir, that had not been in the census since 1950. >> the question sir had been asked in one form or another quite regularly, and we used the same language in the proposed -- >> and no, and i'll end with this, but apparently, nobody advised you, because you're downplaying this, this simple modification, been asked before, so nobody told you, gee, mr. secretary, this could have real implications, in terms of the cost and the accuracy of the
census, and you might want to think about that? >> did you want to answer that? >> i didn't really hear the question, but let's move on. >> i'm not surprised he doesn't want to answer it, mr. chairman. >> mr. gohmert? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, over here. mr. secretary, i want to emphasize once again the citizenship question is not new. in fact, a citizenship question appeared on the census from 1820 to 1950. the citizenship question has been on the long form census or american community survey, acs, since 1970. it is ironic, my democrat colleagues, don't object to the citizenship question being asked on the acs. a couple of other members on the
other side have mentioned the acs and i just want to focus on this for a moment. in fact, last congress, my colleague, ms. holmes-norton, introduced a bill to prohibit the citizenship question, but in the same bill, she actually exempted the american community survey so the citizenship question could still be asked on the acs. you all can look it up. it is hr-4906, the insuring full participation in the census act, from last congress. so if i'm understanding the position of my colleagues, it's okay to ask about the citizen ship question on the acs but it is not okay to ask about the citizenship question on the census. i think that is really interesting. that my colleague, mr. clay, would mention and suggest that
the citizenship question deterred participation in the census, but not in the acs. are there no concerns from my colleagues about participation in the acs? so mr. secretary, i have a question. do hispanics respond to the citizenship question on the acs at the same rate as nonhispanics? >> i believe, sir, that i had already answered that question. i refer to my march 26, 2018, decision-making memo, and that lists the relative participation rates. i believe that nonhispanic blacks have the highest nonresponse rate. hispanics have the next highest. and white nonhispanics have the
least deterioration in response rate. >> so mr. secretary, do you believe participation in the acs has been reduced because the acs asked about citizenship? >> i think the statistics speak for themselves, but the acs is really not too comparable in many ways to the dicennial census, in that it is a survey of something like 2.64% of the population, where as the dicennial is to 100%. second, the acs is strictly by mail. there's no internet response. there's no marketing movement toward encouraging people to participate, nor is there any ndf view, namely nonresponse follow-up. so it is really in many ways not
quite comparable to the environment within which the 2020 dicennial census will be administered. >> the most troubling part about all of this, the fury stirred up by my colleagues on other side of the aisle on the citizenship question actually has the consequences of suppressing participation. all people hear about is the citizenship question. and they immediately think they should not throw their, or they immediately think they should throw their census in the trash. this is the exact opposite message my colleagues should be sending to americans. in fact, my colleagues are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, with their rhetoric. let's focus on the real oversight needs of the census. information technology. >> will the gentleman yield -- >> no, i will not. i would like to reserve my time.
i am asking the secretary a question. let's focus on the real oversight needs of the census. information technology and cyber security. and stop this partisan attack on the census. the census is very important to determine the makeup of congress, to determine federal funding, and we need to have the participation of all americans, and we need to have data that's been asked since the beginning of the formation of this country, and get a head count of every american. thank you, mr. secretary. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing. let's take the gentleman up. let's take him up on it. i was going to ask him questions about the census, but mr. secretary, i do want to talk to you about the importance of compliance with congressional documents. so this committee, and several outside groups, are doing an investigation regarding the transfer of sensitive technology to saudi arabia. sensitive nuclear technology to saudi arabia. your office oversees the export
of sensitive technology to foreign countries. now, we have information from several or multiple whistle-blowers that this program called middle east marshall plan, which was originally initiated by michael flynn, the former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty, and jared kushner, who is the special adviser to the president, also his son-in-law, and thomas barrak, who ran the inauguration committee for the president. as the, and now, they have an obligation under the atomic energy act to discuss this with you and with us. may i ask you, have you had any conversations with mr. kushner, or mr. barrak, or national, former national security adviser michael flynn about the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to