tv Commerce Secretary Ross Testifies on 2020 Census CSPAN March 17, 2019 6:37pm-7:56pm EDT
the house subcommittee overseeing technology and communications. he talks about net neutrality. he is interviewed by a technology reporter for x io's. -- axios. >> the priority is to get this in statute and finalize once and for all after 15 years of watching this issue ping-pong back and forth between fcc commissioner. i think the public overwhelmingly supports net an end towants to see this issue. >> monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span two. >> commerce secretary wilbur ross testifies about the 2020 census before a house committee. members questioned him about the decision to add a citizenship question to the form and whether he had been truthful about the decision process in testimony before congress last year.
the supreme court will rule on a legal challenge to the citizenship question and we will hear oral arguments on that case next month. here's a portion of the hearing. chairman? i have a number of motions i would like to make at this time. >> let me come out of recess first. [laughter] >> sorry. i'm very excited about my motions. >> no problem. >> mr. chairman, point of order. >> yes. 16pursuant to house rule alpha-1, i have a privilege motion, take into consideration statements made today that could potentially be used to influence a pending supreme court case, i respectfully make a motion to adjourn. >> the gentleman is not recognized. >> mr. chairman, i believe you
did recognize me and this is a privileged motion. >> i was recognizing the gentlelady. she already had the floor. i will come back for you. she had the floor. set i chairman she -- you was recognized and this is a privileged motion being presented before the committee. >> the motion is not debatable. sayingn favor signify by aye. >> aye. >> those opposed say no. >> no. >> this is for roll call. >> i ask for a recorded vote. >> that's what we are doing. >> thank you, sir. >> clerk will call the role. roll.
mr. raskin votes no. mr. ruda votes no. ms. hill votes no. ms. wasserman schultz votes no. sarbanes votes no. miss spear? votes no. ms. kelly? ms. lawrence? ms. lawrence votes no. ms. plaskett votes no. mr. gomez votes no. ms. ocasio-cortez votes no. ms. presley? ms. presley votes no. talib votes no.
i got a little overeager, but prior to us getting here, how many times did we as democrats try to shut down a hearing like this when the republicans were in the majority? >> in my 23 years on this committee, never. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i have a number of motions i would like to make at this time. >> the young lady is recognized. >> as the gentleman from louisiana suggested following mr. meadows and mr. jordan publishing an op ed saying that today's hearing is designed to go with the ongoing supreme court case, that statement is false. i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record the invitation letter that chairman cummings sent to secretary ross on january 8, 2019. >> i object. >> the gentleman objects. >> mr. chairman? would my colleague yield for second? >> yes. >> i would plead with my friend
from north carolina, if we will go down the road of objecting to unanimously consented inclusions to the record, it will be a sad day for this committee and two can play that game. i would strongly urge my friend from north carolina to withdraw his objection to the unanimous consent. >> i appreciate the tone and tenor of where my good friend would certainly articulate his concerns and i have some of the same concerns. we don't want to go down this. i would ask the gentlewoman to consider changing one of the theres that she put in where she says this is false. you can say i have a resolution that contradicts. we have a number of things. but to suggest that it's false when we have a quote from a democrat member of this committee stating what i said in my opening statement, that would certainly be evidence to support
my opening statement. if she wants to put in a resolution that offers a counterpart, i would be glad to withdraw my objection. >> i will change my phrasing and say that we have several things that i would like to enter into the record that contradict the statement that was put in place in your op-ed and by the gentleman. >> than i certainly withdraw my objection. >> without objection, so ordered. next argument. >> thank you. i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record the invitation letter chairman cummings sent to secretary ross. that letter was sent over one month before the supreme court agreed to hear the case. for the record, the chairman sent his invitation letter to secretary ross before the district court in new york or in california ruled in their cases. i would also like to ask unanimous consent to insert -- >> that was a second argument, right? >> it is the same one.
i was elaborating. i would like to ask unanimous consent to insert into the record the following letters from chairman cummings dating all the way back to march of last year on this exact same topic. march 27, 2018 letter to requested this hearing with secretary ross. he declined. there is an april 4, 2018 letter reflecting documents for the comments department. they refused. there's an april 24 letter asking chairman gaudi to issue a subpoena. he declined. there's a letter asking for a may 21, 2018 vote on subpoenas and he declined. june 28, 2018 letter from major and 50rman cummings other democratic members asking secretary ross to answer questions. he never did. there is an august 2, 2018 letter asking the chairman again to hold a hearing with secretary ross and he refused. 2018 is a september 24,
letter from representative cummings and connolly asking chairman gawdy to subpoena -- ross to subpoena secretary to testify and he declined to do so. as all of these letters show, the republican claim that we are trying to interfere with the supreme court case is completely contradicted. >> without objection, the documents referred to by the gentlelady are so ordered into the record. >> thank you. we are an independent branch of government and it is time we start asking like it. thank you. >> thank you very much. >> mr. chairman? one click -- quick unanimous consent? >> yes. >> the op-ed was published yesterday and we would like to enter that into the record from mr. meadows. >> tell me a little bit more. it is an opposite? -- op-ed? >> it was on foxnews. >> without objection, so
ordered. yes? >> there was a letter penned by the supreme court justice, gorsuch and thomas warning against further record seeking endeavors in a legal them,g, because to quote "the likelihood of review an injury that could occur without this letter written by two supreme court justices, not a member of congress warning , against further legal proceedings, which this certainly is, which could injure the integrity of the case pending standing before the supreme court. i ask that it be entered into the record. >> without objection so ordered. >> mr. chairman? >> yes. >> i also have a unanimous consent request. there have been some speculation by members of this committee
that we can't possibly have this hearing or even request documents when there are pending civil litigation. we have a long history this committee of actually doing just that. i ask unanimous consent to enter into the record the transcript from the flint water committee hearing of march 17, 2016. that was the third hearing as part of a bipartisan investigation led then by itz as well as yourself. the committee conducted these hearings despite pending litigation filed by civil rights groups including that against several individuals including the missio michigan governor. i would like unanimous consent to enter that into the record. >> so ordered. >> i would also ask to insert into the record two litters jaded july 24, 2015 and october chairman5 from
chaffitz, chairman jordan and chairwoman lewis to the a segment secretary general of the army at the time. this was part of the investigation into the decision-making process into the waters of the united states rule. that was conducted at the same time as litigation filed in june of 2015 by 22 states challenging the rule. subsequently, the committee demanded and obtained documents in response to their request during the pending litigation. i ask those letters be entered. >> without objection, so ordered. >> mr. chairman? i have one last request. i ask unanimous consent that the article published in npr on march the 14th where it has a quote from a member of this committee suggesting this hearing would be used as evidence before the supreme court be entered into the record. >> without objection. i know recognize myself. let me say this. at the beginning of the hearing, i provided the undersigned with
an extra opening statement rather than taking additional time ir my side and this , will reserve for our side so we can start the hearing and proceed to member questions. good morning, everyone. today, the committee will hear testimony from secretary of commerce, the honorable wilbur ross, about preparations for the 2020 census. the constitution requires our government to conduct a census every 10 years. the constitution also requires us to count every person. the latest census begins next year and significant challenges have been raised at the government accountability office and others about whether we will be ready.
today's hearing will be our first of several this year and we will look to our very able subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties headed up by the honorable jamie raskin to follow up with additional hearings. we want to make sure that we are tracking progress. highlighting small problems before they become large problems. and ensuring that outstanding recommendations are being implemented effectively and efficiently. today, we will also examine secretary ross' decision to add a new citizenship question after experts, listen up, at the
census bureau warned, and i quote, "that it harms the quality of the census count." let that sink in. that is what the experts told secretary ross. we are very serious questions about whether secretary ross was truthful when he appeared before congress last year and testified on three occasions. that he added the citizenship question only because the department of justice requested it. ladies and gentlemen, on march 20, 2018, secretary ross testified, and i quote, "we are responding solely to the department of justice's request. "
he repeated the same thing on march 22 and then he did it again on may 10. after secretary ross testified, new documents showed that he was engaged in a secret campaign to add the citizenship question from the very first days after he arrived at the department of commerce. these documents showed that he was not merely responding to requests from another agency. to the contrary, he was offering -- choreographing these efforts behind the scenes. he became impatient when his demands were not being met. and he was working directly with officials at the highest levels
of the trump administration to force this issue through, including steve bannon and jeff sessions. these are the facts. they are not in dispute. two judges, two judges have already struck down the citizenship question. and they issued stinging decisions finding that secretary ross violated -- i didn't say it, federal judges said it -- violated federal law and the u.s. constitution. they found that his claim of merely responding to a request from the department of justice was a pretext and a false one. again, i did not say that, the judges said that.
let me address that pretext directly. secretary ross and others in the trump administration have claimed that adding the citizenship question was necessary to obtain better data to enforce the voting rights act. first of all, i do not know anyone who truly believes that the trump administration is interested in enhancing the voting rights act. this administration has done everything in its power to suppress the vote, not to help people exercise their right to vote. second, i have championed voting rights all of my adult life and the voting rights act is an essential tool. it is what underpins our democracy. but in the more than 50 years
since it was signed into law, voting rights, the voting rights act enforcement has never used citizenship data from every u.s. household. not once. third, the judges will examine this evidence held in the voting rights act claim was a fake justification for the citizenship question. i did not say it, they said it. one judge ruled that secretary ross was, and i quote -- listen to this -- this is what they said about secretary ross -- a judge -- he said "concealed its true basis rather than explaining it." so, the key question we will ask
secretary ross today is a what was he hiding from the congress? what was the real reason that the trump administration wanted to add this unconstitutional citizenship question? every piece of evidence we discover brings us closer to the truth. just this past week, the committee conducted a transcribed interview with a key witness from the department of justice. john gore, who was involved in drafting the request for the citizenship question. mr. gore admitted that a former transition team official provided him an initial draft of a letter from the department of justice asking for the citizenship question to be added.
we have summarized this and other information from his interview in a supplemental memo that i am providing to members this morning. unfortunately, throughout this entire process, the trump administration has obstructed and delayed our investigation. both the department of commerce and the department of justice have withheld key documents and refused to answer legitimate questions. now, secretary ross and i exchanged several letters last week. we accommodated some of his concerns and thankfully, he accommodated some of ours, and i appreciate that, mr. secretary. based on these agreements, i expect secretary ross to fully answer all of our questions
about the census and not avoid our questions on the meritless claim that there is a separate litigation going on. i appreciate that and look forward to his answers and with that, i am very, very pleased to have the secretary stand, please. >> good morning, chairman cummings. >> i need to swear you in first. i'm sorry. i apologize. thank you, very much. mr. secretary, do you swear the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? sec. ross: i do. >> let the record show that the witness answered in the affirmative and you may be seated and you may proceed.
sec. ross: good morning, chairman cummings. >> good morning. sec. ross: and members of the committee. thank you for inviting me to testify. i also thank the chairman for limiting the scope of the hearing so that my staff can produce documents beyond the approximately 8700 already provided. and i appreciate your agreement that i can submit written answers to questions about my personal finances after the hearing for the record. many of you have questions about the 2020 dissented all census and i welcome the opportunity to discuss that topic today. let me be clear at the outset. the department of commerce is fully committed to administering
as complete and accurately the census as we can. we intend to try to count every person and are taking all necessary actions to do so. when i assumed office in 2017, i immediately began a deep dive into oversight of the dissenting -- decennial census. there was significant work to do , preparing for the hiring and training of more than 450,000 part-time, temporary census workers. working with outside experts, we concluded that the prior administration underestimated the budget by $3.2 billion, about 25%. omd and congress accepted our findings. we are also making far greater
use of administrative records than ever before. especially for one of the most severely undercounted segments, children. we have a half billion dollar advertising campaign, especially designed to reach hard to count communities. and on the 2020 decennial census , people will now be able to respond in 12 non-english languages, five more than in 2010. we started our community partnership program a year earlier relative to the census than last time. there are already more than 1500 state, tribal, and local governments helping us. double what the census had in
2010. and we will do our best to collect more complete data. on march 26, 2018, i decided to reinstitute a citizenship question on the 2020 census. pursuant to the statutory authority given to me by congress. my reasoning is explained in my march 26, 2018 decision memo which is available on the department of commerce website. questions about citizenship or country of birth or both were asked as part on all but one u.s. decennial census for 180
years, 1820 until the year 2000. indeed, the citizenship question continues to be asked every year by the census bureau on the american community survey. or acs for short. it is a sample survey distributed annually to about 2.64% of the american population. prior to my march 26 decision, we understood that the department of justice might want a citizenship question reinstated on the census. there is no formal process for adding questions to the census.
however, other federal agencies had previously submitted written request for questions to be added to the acs and such requests triggered an internal census bureau review prior to a final decision. i instructed staff to follow up with doj for a written statement confirming whether or not doj was going to ask for reinstatement of the question. i wanted to make sure that we had enough time to adequately consider any formal requests that doj might make. ultimately, on december 12, 2017, doj made a formal, written request that the census bureau reinstate the citizenship
question on the decennial census. thought census blocked level citizenship data for use in voting rights act enforcement. in response, the census bureau initiated a legal policy and programmatic review process to consider ultimate means of meeting doj's request. we had discussions with new -- numerous external stakeholders and election officials including speaker pelosi and including chairman cummings, both of them -- both of whom opposed the idea. we have evaluated thousands of pages of analysis including written submissions by other members of this committee.
we submitted our list of census questions to congress by the march 31st, 2018 statutory deadline. following receipt of doj's letter and during our review, census bureau officials recognized that current acs data did not meet doj's request for census block level data. the census bureau analysis also showed that when noncitizens responded to the acs question on citizenship, they respond incorrectly approximately 30% of the time. in my march 26 decision memo, i
described more details of the decision-making process and the alternatives we considered to reinstating the citizenship question. as you know, certain aspects of this issue are in litigation before the supreme court and before other courts. however, i look forward to answering as many of your questions as i can. again, i want to be clear that we intend to count to as many people as possible. i will be happy to discuss the actions we are taking to try to do so. thank you for your indulgence. >> thank you very much. i now recognize myself for some questions. secretary ross, you have claimed repeatedly that you added the citizenship question only because the justice department asked you to.
you testified under a both on three occasions, each time you said that you were responding solely to the department of justice's request but now we have obtained documents showing that you were working to add the citizenship question from your very first days at the commerce department. secretary ross, our interest is getting to the truth. and then, once we get to it, we are going to defend it. and my approach is to give a witness a chance to come clean, tell the truth, and to clarify their previous testimony if necessary. if necessary. that is what i did with michael cohen and that is what i want to afford you the opportunity to do today. so, mr. secretary, let me ask you here today, in light of all
of these documents that have come to light, do you wish to withdraw your previous testimony to congress that your decision to add the citizenship question was based, and i underline "solely" on the request from the department of justice? sec. ross: may i answer? >> yes, of course. sec. ross: my reasons for adding the citizenship question are described in detail in the march 26, 2018 decision memo. after we received the department of justice letter on december 12, 2017, we, namely commerce department, myself, and the census bureau, initiated a very detailed, very thorough process to consider that request.
that is what we were responding to. i had been told that that is what i would say at this stage. if you have detailed questions about the testimony, we can get into that later on. >> i want to be clear because a lot has been said in this committee about the truth. i am not trying to trip you up but am trying to make sure the committee is clear because i think it is very important -- i have to ask you one more time and then i will leave it alone. so, are you saying, again, in light of all of these documents that we have -- that have come to light, you do not wish to withdraw your previous testimony? is that what you are saying? sec. ross: i testified truthfully to the best of my
ability in response to what my understanding of the questions were. >> ok, and you understand that there are documents that are contradicting what you are saying? sec. ross: i welcome the opportunity to get into the individual documents whenever you wish, sir. >> march 10, 2017, just 10 days after you took office, your staffer sent to any mail about "your question on the census." his email explained that undocumented immigrants are counted for -- purposes and not included in the census.
mr. secretary, this was nine months before you got any letter from the justice department. isn't that right? sec. ross: that is correct as to the timing. i was early on in the administration, and i wanted to understand lots of questions and answers. one of the questions was that one, and i received an answer to it. >> and it is your testimony today, sir, that your interest in the citizenship question had nothing to do with counting undocumented immigrants for apportionment purposes? sec. ross: no sir, it did not. it was simply seeking information. if you look at my emails during that period, you will find a lot of other questions and if you look at the records of my conversations with members of the department, you will find a lot of questions to this day seeking further information, seeking clarification, seeking details of things i was unsure of.
>> speaking of seeking details come in early april, 2017, you got a call from stephen bannon. it was about the citizenship question. that was also months before the department of justice sent its letter, is that correct? sec. ross: yes, sir. >> is that your testimony that your call with mr. bannon and had nothing to do with efforts to pursue the citizenship question? sec. ross: stephen bannon called with a simple request, namely asking if i would take a call from kris kobach. i agreed to that request as a courtesy since he was a white house staffer and shortly thereafter, possibly the next day, i did have a conversation with kris klobach. >> mr. bannon, and you spoke to
kris kobach on july 14, is that correct? sec. ross: i don't remember the date. somewhere around that point in time, there was a follow-up from kris kobach to may. -- to be -- me. rep. cummings: you spoke to him in july and mr. kobach ask you to add the citizenship question. he said it was to address the -- and i want you to listen carefully. this is what kris kobach wrote to you. he said he wanted it added to because "problem that aliens who do not actually reside in the united states are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes."
that was also several months before any letter from the justice department came to you, correct? sec. ross: yes, and it is also correct that i rejected the question he asked. rep. cummings: did the phone calls with mr. kobach have anything to do with you putting the citizenship question? sec. ross: i have no control over what anyone puts in an email to me. rep. cummings: as we evaluate the truth, we also look to see if testimony is corroborated by documents.
these documents show the reason you have given to us for adding the citizenship question is a pretext. in fall of 2017, your staff hand-delivered a secret memo and handwritten note about the citizenship question to john gore at the department of justice. did the secret memo or note describe the real reason you wanted to add the citizenship question? sec. ross: first of all, i would like to correct the record. i don't think there is anything in evidence that my staff delivered a message of that sort to gore. rep. cummings: that's why we need to get the documents, so we can get to the truth. did you want to say something, mr. secretary? were you about to say something? sec. ross: if you feel you have a document of that sort, would you oblige me to show it to me? rep. cummings: i promised i would do that.
we have been trying to get certain documents for months. we specifically requested it in advance of this hearing. why have you not provided documents to the committee? sec. ross: i didn't hear the question. rep. cummings: why have you not provided the document to the committee? sec. ross: we've provided 8700 documents already. rep. cummings: but not this document, this particular document. sec. ross: i can't talk to a specific individual document, sir. i believe by agreement you said we could provide additional documents supplemental a -- and i willlly discuss that with my staff after
the hearing. rep. cummings: when you discuss it with your staff, it is our understanding that mr. meyer presented it to mr. gore. sec. ross: i'm sorry, who? rep. cummings: when we had an interview with mr. gore, he said that mr. uthmeier gave it to him. rep. meadows: there seems to be some indication that there were nefarious purposes for including this particular question on the census. do you believe that president bill clinton had nefarious purposes in mind when he included a citizenship question on the 2000 census?
sec. ross: i have no ability to read president clinton's mind, but i have no reason to believe that he had nefarious purposes in including the question. rep. meadows: do you have any knowledge of any other democrat president who had nefarious purposes in mind when they included the census question -- i mean the citizenship question -- on previous census? sec. ross: i haven't tried to differentiate whether it was a democratic president or a republican president. rep. meadows: you say you are
approaching this just from a census point of view to get an accurate count for the united states of america. is that your sworn testimony? sec. ross: yes, sir, as explained in the decision memo of march 2018, it is also to comply to the request from the department of justice so they can have block level census data. rep. meadows: if your team, who, i would assume this one question is not the highest priority of making sure that we have an accurate delivery of the system -- of the census. is that correct? sec. ross: we have worked very hard to make sure this is the best census we can possibly deliver. i explained earlier in my prepared remarks that we have added $3.2 billion to the budget. we got the concurrence of the
omb and ultimately the congress to add that to the lifecycle cost. if i had a nefarious purpose, i surely wouldn't have added $3.2 billion to the budget for the census. but specific things we've done to try to improve it, we are using far more administrative records than has ever been the case before. i mentioned briefly that we are adding many records from the state and local level about children. we now have access for the first time ever to the wic records, the snap records from many constituencies. we also have far more census complete count committees with state and local governments than ever before.
further, we are hiring far more partnership specialists than had ever been the case before. partnerships are important , because they are trusted local institutions from within the community who will be cooperating with us and encouraging people to understand why it is important to complete the census and that their privacy will be maintained. the advertising program will emphasize both themes. we look at advertising available in multiple languages. we also will have census documents available in 12 languages versus the five other than english that were available before.
and we have done many more things, a couple of which that occur readily to mind. we have provided to those who wish to do so the ability to respond to the census by internet. they are not required to fill in forms or do anything of that sort. they still can fill out forms if they want. they still can respond by telephone if they want. but they are not required to do so. any other steps -- rep. meadows: let me -- rep. cummings: the gentleman's time has expired. rep. meadows: mr. chairman, you had 10 minutes. i'm the opening questioner. rep. cummings: whoa, whoa, hold on. i had an extra five minutes reserved, and i used it. rep. jordan: all he's asking for is one more question. rep. cummings: one question.
rep. meadows: mr. secretary, to be clear, is it correct that you have taken extraordinary measures to not only count the people accurately but to expand the way that we do that that is unparalleled in the history of the census? sec. ross: that is correct. we have increased the ways that they can respond. we have increased the advertising budget for response. we have increased the community outreach. we have increased the census complete count committees in the states. we've done all kinds of things that we could think of to make sure we have the best census possible. rep. meadows: i appreciate the chairman's courtesy. >> i want to narrow in on specific communications between you and the department that the chairman was alluding to.
a senior official at the department of commerce emailed you about a memo and he said, according to our information, this is quotes from him. "per your request, here is a draft memo on the citizenship question. mr. uthmeier prepared and i reviewed." why did you request a memo on the citizenship question in august of 2017? sec. ross: if you have the memo, it would help me refresh my recollection. rep. desaulnier: if you would provide us -- in our effort to get this information, your counsel has made it more difficult. sec. ross: i don't remember the details of any memo. rep. desaulnier: you don't remember it at all? sec. ross: if you could show it to me, i would happy to be refreshed.
rep. desaulnier: so you don't remember it at all? sec. ross: you posed a very broad question. rep. desaulnier: this is very specific and very important as to what you claim is your defense. we would appreciate as much information from u.s. possible. -- information from you directly as possible. last week, committee staff interviewed john gore, the political appointee in charge of drafting doj's request letter. he said, in december of 2017, he received a call from your counsel, mr. uthmeier, to discuss the citizenship question. after the call, mr. uthmeier delivered a memo and a handwritten note about the citizenship question two mr. gore's office.
mr. uthmeier explained to mr. gore why he was walking over the memo but the justice department blocked mr. gore from telling us, the committee, the reason why he walked it over. mr. gore says he did not show the memo to anyone else at the justice department. do you know what mr. uthmeier's memo said about the citizenship question? sec. ross: i do not know, as i sit here. rep. cummings: can you keep your voice up? sec. ross: i do not know as i sit here what the memo said. rep. desaulnier: did you direct mr. uthmeier to do the memo and to walk it over because you were concerned about email? sec. ross: i do not have any recollection of that as i sit here. rep. desaulnier: so far, the committee has been unable to get any copies of these documents , despite multiple requests and interviews with your staff and department of justice staff. we need your full commitment with these specific communications that we will get cooperation to get to the facts. otherwise, it is hard for us not
to conclude that you are at the very least obfuscating your role and what you said in front of the committee. will you commit to giving it all to us and letting your counsel clear the way in getting direct answers to our questions? sec. ross: i will certainly address the question to my staff and my counsel. to the degree that this is involved in pending litigation, there may be problems. rep. desaulnier: with all due respect, you are a cabinet member. the buck stops with you. will you specifically, individually, in front of this house committee, under oath, promise to cooperate with us and get the information? you, not your staff, you? sec. ross: we already -- rep. desaulnier: yes or no, with all due respect. sec. ross: i can't answer yes or no. rep. desaulnier: are you responsible? you. sec. ross: i will discuss it with counsel and my staff and we will give you a prompt response.
rep. desaulnier: i yield the balance of my time. rep. cummings: when can we expect that response? sec. ross: i'm sorry, sir? rep. cummings: you said you would discuss with your staff and get us a response. sec. ross: after the hearing, sir. rep. cummings: does that mean today? sec. ross: i will discuss it with them. i don't know how long it will take for them to get a response. rep. cummings: we would like to have an answer as soon as possible. we've been waiting for a while. sec. ross: i understand the request and i will take it up with my staff. >> i want to say at the outset that i found this whole thing fascinating.
we've seen time and time again that even under democratic presidents, the census has asked if you are a citizen or not. why would we as the government not want that information? it is a very legitimate question to ask and i don't understand why that is necessarily a problem. procedurally, is it true that this issue and related issues, as you previously testified, are currently before the supreme court in the department of commerce versus the state of new york? sec. ross: the issue is before the supreme court. it is also pending in a couple of lower courts at this time. rep. steube: is also true that on october 22, 2018, the supreme court issued a stay to halt your deposition requested by the plaintiffs? sec. ross: that is correct. rep. steube: so the u.s. supreme court has stayed your deposition and yet you are here today, deposing you undergrowth where the rules of evidence in a civil procedure do not apply.
is that correct? sec. ross: i am here voluntarily and i am here under oath today. rep. steube: the question is your intent of placing the question on the form. all of mr. cummings' questions in the previous members' questions are trying to elicit that before the court. is that correct? sec. ross: yes. rep. steube: in the concurring opinion, justice gorsuch and justice thomas abandoned lower court rulings that secretary ross had demonstrated bad faith. there is nothing unusual about a new cabinet secretary coming to office, inclined to favor a different policy direction. of course some people may disagree with the policy and process but, until now, at least this much has not been enough for a claim of bad faith and
launching inquisition into a secretary's motives. -- lunch and inquisition -- l aunch an inquisition into a secretary's motives. it says the likelihood of review and the injury that could occur without a stay. i would take the next logical step and simply stay all extra records pending review. it goes on to state that because today's order technically leaves the plaintiff able to pursue much of the extra record discovery they seek, it is conceivable they may withdraw the request, try to persuade the trial court to proceed quickly on the basis of the remaining extra record evidence they can assemble. mr. secretary, would it be your opinion that this exercise today by chairman cummings, who is a democrat, is assisting the plaintiffs in extra record evidence by putting you under oath and asking the same questions i'm sure they would
like to ask in the deposition? sec. ross: i can't judge what would be chairman cummings' motivation. he has been courteous to me and i'm trying to be courteous to him in return. rep. steube: did you request to delay your testimony pending the supreme court case? sec. ross: can you repeat that? rep. steube: did you specifically request a delay based on this issue? sec. ross: chairman cummings said he was not willing to give a delay and therefore i'm here voluntarily. rep. steube: do you have any
opine as to why the chair doesn't want to wait pending a court decision and wanted you to come testified today? sec. ross: again, i can't guess what will be in chairman cummings' mind, but i am here voluntarily and i will do the best i can. rep. steube: i've got two minutes but i want to make a couple of statements. by allowing secretary ross to testify before a committee, the democrats are allowing a prolonged probative inquiry into a question at the very crux of the supreme court case. they are polluting the evidentiary record in the case that the justices have yet to even hear oral arguments on. i would ask, in my remaining question, i would direct a question to the chair. has there been any communication by the lawyers in this case to the chairman, your staff, other members of this committee, asking any questions to be asked on the record? rep. cummings: would you repeat that? i will give you time to repeat it. my staff was just reminding me that we had postponed this several times and i was getting the dates straight.
they were letting me know that secretary ross picked this date. rep. steube: that makes sense, because the stay was october 22. my question was, since we are here and the secretary is under oath, has been any communication from the plaintiff's lawyers or any of the plaintiffs as it relates to the chair or staff in asking certain questions of the witness? rep. cummings: no. >> mr. chairman, point of information. the record of this hearing cannot be used by the court in its decision, because this hearing and what happens in this hearing is not a part of the record of the cases that are now before the federal courts. rep. steube: point of clarification. i'm not sure the gentlewoman's statement is correct. rep. cummings: first, let me
recognize you. i recognize the gentleman. rep. steube: i'm not sure that the context of the gentlewoman's statement is accurate. we are putting things in the congressional record and certainly previous supreme court have used documents. rep. norton: can i respond? these cases are being appealed to the supreme court. they are not in the record. the supreme court can only look at what is in the record that has been brought. that is why i have objected to the member's objection. rep. cummings: now recognize the gentlelady from the district of columbia. rep. norton: i thank you for this hearing.
i have introduced a bill to bar a citizenship question on the census. i'm interested in the apparent increase costs. many reductions because of the increase in the deficit, for example. i'm not going to speak about the deterrent effect on residence. i am interested in the cost. i do want to be clear that the constitution says all persons, with indians not counted. for the strict constitutionalism, i note that part of the constitution.
secretary ross, i'm going to quote from a memo announcing your decision. "a significantly lower response rate by noncitizens would reduce the accuracy of the decennial census and increased costs for nonresponse follow-up operations." that is a quote from you, is that correct? sec. ross: is that a question? what is the question? rep. norton: i just quoted an announcement of your decision. the date is march 26, 2018. a significantly lower response rate by noncitizens would reduce the accuracy of the decennial census and increase the costs of nonresponse follow-up operations." that is a quote, sir.
sec. ross: can you tell me what page? rep. norton: i can only tell you it is march, 2018. i'm assuming this quote is correct, because it is a quote. now, on january 19 of last year, your own census bureau chief scientist sent you a memo. it contained a technical analysis regarding adding citizenship. here, i am giving you what your own chief scientist, they calculated an estimate of the increase because you have to do a nonresponse follow-up. since many people would not answer the question. door-to-door, phone follow-up for example.
he found that your own chief scientist found the cost was approximately $27.5 million. by this time, i assume that you, mr. ross, or the census bureau, have calculated the addition of the citizenship question would add to taxpayers if it were included in the census. what is that number, please, sir? what is your number for how much, in dollars and cents, would be added? sec. ross: the chief scientist, dr. abowd, of the census department, testified undergrowth as follows. -- under oath as follows.
may i please put up a chart so that people can see it? it is demo 2. this is the chart that i'm referring to. i would like to read from it if i may. rep. norton: mr. chairman -- sec. ross: no quantitative evidence that the addition of a citizenship question will affect the accuracy of the count. that is a statement that was made under oath by dr. abowd, the chief scientist of the census bureau. rep. norton: the information we have is that that quote is taken entirely out of context. the memo also says that adding the citizenship question is very costly, harms the quality of the census count, and would use substantially less accurate
citizenship status data that are -- status data than are available from administrative records. rep. cummings: gentlelady's time has expired. you may respond, though. sec. ross: i have nothing to say, sir. rep. cummings: ms. fox. rep. foxx: secretary ross, thank you for being here today. i think we have heard enough. the question is not new, we have heard it before. i have been interested in this issue since the last decennial census in 2010. in 2009, i introduced a question for citizenship to be added. if congress had enacted my bill,
you wouldn't be put in a position to reinstate the citizenship question. it would already be part of the census. we are in the midst of a national debate on immigration. there are millions of people who live in this country illegally who are counted the same as u.s. citizens and people who followed our laws and entered the country legally. the department of homeland security has great data on legal immigration and the number of naturalized citizens. we have this information because people followed the rules and entered the right, legal way. the fact is that we don't have reliable data on illegal immigration. estimates from dhs seem out of date the moment they are released. the most recent are from 2015. even dhs relies on census data. my point is, we must ask the citizenship question so we can get the data we need to have a full and honest debate about immigration in this country. if we don't ask the citizenship question, we are all debating
without knowing the facts. in your opinion, how can the citizenship question better inform the debate over immigration? sec. ross: the census question will not ask about legal status of the respondent. it simply asks about the factual status, citizen or not, and some questions about where they came from. there is nothing in the census data that can be used by enforcement authorities for immigration or for any other purpose. under title 13, everyone at the census who has access to the data has taken a lifetime of not to reveal that information to anyone outside. consequently, anyone who violates that is subject to
years in prison and large fines. it is a very serious, very important factor of the senses sus that no- cen one's individual data will be used for any other purpose other than the aggregations that we provide externally. so, this is not a tool as such for immigration. our job is simply to count the people, whether citizen or not, and it is not our job to become involved with any other function of government. i'm sorry that it takes so long to answer, but it's a very important question and it's very important that people in the country to be aware that this is a sacred oath, their privacy will not be violated by the census bureau, and there would
be extreme punishments of people -- punishments if people do not do so. i hope that answers the question. rep. foxx: we need to get the facts on the table. no apology necessary, mr. secretary. mr. chairman, i yield the remainder of my time to my colleague from north carolina, mr. meadows. rep. meadows: i want to follow up on something that my colleague from north carolina was talking about. you made an important distinction. asking the citizenship question on the census will not provide any data to whether they are here illegally or not. is that correct? sec. ross: that is correct. we are not asking legal status of people. citizens or not. rep. meadows: in fact, a large percentage of those people who may check that they are not
citizens will be here legally because they have either got a green card or some other legal means of being here. is that correct? sec. ross: they could be here on a visa, any variety of things. the purpose of the census is not as a tool for enforcement of the immigration laws. the purpose of the census simply to provide aggregated data. chairman cummings: mr. secretary, on march 26, 2018, you testified in front of a subcommittee of the house appropriations committee and here's what you said. sec. ross: we are responding solely to the department of justice's request, not to any campaign request, not to any political party request.
rep. clay: two days later, you testified before the house ways and means committee, and here's what you said. sec. ross: the department of justice initiated the request for the inclusion of the citizenship question. rep. clay: on may 10, you testified in front of the senate appropriations committee and here's what you said then. sec. ross: well, the justice department is the one who made the requests of us. rep. clay: now, i would like to talk about what you did not tell congress. you wrote the following email a -- gmail to your staff on may 2,
2017. you wrote, and i quote, "i am mystified why nothing has been done in response to my months-old request that we include the citizenship question. why not?" end of quote. so you requested the addition of the citizenship question prior to may of 2017, correct? sec. ross: no. what i was referring to is 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 reinstituted or would it not?" that's what i had in my mind. rep. clay: wait a minute. this is more than seven months before doj sent this letter in december of 2017. correct? sec. ross: that was part of my frustration. i had been seeking to get
clarification of what was the interest, if any, in the department of justice with the question. the census has to be done on a specific day, starting on a specific day in a specific year, and there were also congressional -- rep. clay: i'm well aware of that. no, i have the time. i'm well aware of that because in 2010, i oversaw that census. when you testified last year, you failed to mention any of this. is that correct? sec. ross: what was contained in the decision memo of march 26, 2018, was the basis for the decision. rep. clay: mr. secretary, you wrote to the committee a few months ago the reason that you did not mention all of your efforts to add a citizenship letter wasfore doj
because these efforts were merely, and i quote, "informal and hypothetical discussions." that does not pass the laugh test. sec. ross: those are the facts. i'm sorry that you are dissatisfied. rep. clay: 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 followed to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census? sec. ross: i have never intentionally misled congress or intentionally said anything incorrect under oath.
rep. clay: you lied to congress and you are complicit in the trump administration's attempt to combat the growing political power of the nonwhite population. you have already done great harm to the census of 2020, you have zero credibility, and you should, in my opinion, resign. i yield back. sec. ross: is there a question in that, sir? mr. chairman, we've been at this now for somewhat more than an hour. will the committee indulge me in taking a break? rep. cummings: we will recess for 10 minutes. sec. ross: thank you, mr. chairman. rep. cummings: thank you very much. [gavel] announcer: joining the five plus hour