US House committee backs contempt vote in census dispute

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Washington DC, June 13: United States House panel has on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney-General William and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of US Congress failing to comply with the subpoenas for reports related to the decision of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

According to Al-Jazeera news reports, the US House of Representatives oversight committee has voted 24 to 15 in favour of advance contempt measures against AG Barr and Ross.

The committee’s move has marked an escalation of Democratic effort to use the House majority to aggressively probe the inner working of President Donald Trump administration.

The White House has also asserted executive privilege over the issue early on Wednesday.

The justice department stated officials had “engaged in good-faith efforts” to satisfy the pannel’s oversight requirement and termed the contempt vote “unnecessary and premature”.

Democrats fear the citizenship question would cut short census participation in the immigrant-heavy communities and that it would result in severe undercount of the minority voters. They say they seek specific reports and documents in order to determine why did Ross add the question to the census, contending the Trump administration has refused to offer the document, despite reiterated requests.

The justice department has stated the committee staff has interviewed two senior officials, saying the officials were closely working to produce some tens of thousands of more pages of the relevant documents.

The oversight panel’s chairman, Elijah Cummings, said, “We must protect the integrity of the census and we must stand up for Congress’ authority under the Constitution to conduct meaningful oversight.”

The administration’s refusal to turn over requested documents “does not appear to be an effort to engage in good-faith negotiations or accommodations”, he said. “Instead, it appears to be another example of the administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated responsibilities.”

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