The House will vote next week to hold Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over the administration’s attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
While the contempt citation is not directly related to President Trump’s latest move to defy the courts and add the question, the vote is being cast as a chance for Democrats to strike back.
The citation is unlikely to matter much substantively. It would require Mr. Barr to agree to prosecute himself. Past administrations, including that of President Obama, brushed off a similar vote.
But the vote takes on massive symbolic importance.
“On Tuesday, the House will vote to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt over their efforts to ignore Congressional subpoenas and subvert the 2020 Census with the addition of a citizenship question meant only to deter minorities from participating and leading to an undercount in parts of the country,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.
The vote stems from subpoenas issued by the House Oversight Committee demanding access to documents about the decision-making behind the administration’s crusade to ask about citizenship.
The Oversight Committee voted last month to hold Mr. Barr and Mr. Ross in contempt of Congress.
Committee Chair Elijah E. Cummings said the two men still have time to cooperate.
“We should not be forced to take these extreme actions to get the documents and information we need to conduct a thorough investigation,” he said. “I urge Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross to change course and produce the documents we have subpoenaed on a bipartisan basis so the House is not forced to hold them in contempt of Congress.”
Though the administration says it wants the citizenship information to enforce voter laws, Democrats say the real intention is to scare immigrants and minorities away from participating in next year’s count — and to create data that could be used to maximize GOP political power in the next round of redistricting.
The Supreme Court last month ruled that while asking a citizenship question is legal, and has been done repeatedly in the past, the administration’s explanation for wanted it on next year’s count was “contrived.”
The justices sent the matter back to the Commerce Department for a do-over, but the deadline for adding the question passed on June 30.
Mr. Trump is expected later Thursday to order the question to be added, notwithstanding the previous deadline.
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