Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic
The Trump administration is asking Congress to push back statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said in a press release Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told her in a phone call Monday that he wants Congress to pass legislation to delay by four months the deadline for providing the decennial count to the president, pushing it from Dec. 31 to April 30.
President Trump then emphasized the point in a press conference Monday evening, describing his administration's request for a 120-day extension as a no-brainer.
"The Census Bureau recently made the decision to temporarily suspend its field operations data collection activities to help stop the spread," Trump said, pointing to how those conducting the in-person questionnaires cannot do their jobs amid the pandemic.
"In addition, while millions of Americans continue to complete their questionnaire online, the Census Bureau has asked for a 120 [day] extension. I don’t know that you even have to ask them. This is called an act of god...I don’t think 120 days is nearly enough," he continued.
The Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, is also asking Congress to delay the March 31 deadline for providing redistricting data to the states, with a new deadline of July 31, according to an announcement Monday.
If Congress agrees, Ross would need to notify states that may require their own legislation for postponement, according to Maloney's office.
The Census attempts to count every person living in the U.S. and its territories through questionnaires in order to provide key data to lawmakers, school districts and others about how many people live in certain areas. The count is mandated under the Constitution and helps to determine where federal funding for roads, schools, fire departments and more. It also determines the number of seats each state will have in the House.
The announcement comes after the Commerce Department said it has received responses from more than 70 million households, or 48 percent of all U.S. households.
Maloney, who emphasized that she is committed to a complete and accurate Census count, said her committee "will carefully" consider the deadline request. But she added that lawmakers "need more information that the Administration has been unwilling to provide."
In particular, she took issue with the White House arranging the Ross call without participation from any Census officials, including the director. She added that the Trump administration has declined repeated requests for him to brief members of the panel since they first asked for one on March 23.
"If the Administration is trying to avoid the perception of politicizing the Census, preventing the Census Director from briefing the Committee and then excluding him from a call organized by the White House are not encouraging moves," Maloney said in a statement.
"The Constitution charges Congress with determining how the Census is conducted, so we need the Administration to cooperate with our requests so we can make informed decisions on behalf of the American people."
The Commerce Department did not return a request for comment about Maloney's remarks regarding the Census Bureau director's absence.
She said Monday's call included administration officials like Ross, Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought and senior adviser to the White House Chief of Staff John Fleming.