Heated Argument ERUPTS In Congress Over Ocasio Cortezs Line Of Question On Census
Heated Argument ERUPTS in Congress over Ocasio-Cortez's line of Question Over Census
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Ocasio-Cortez and House Democrats roast Wilbur Ross over census citizenship question
WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was roasted before a House of Representatives committee Wednesday in a hearing that lasted more than six hours. It was not a roast of the comedic variety, however, with Ross repeatedly scorched by Democrats as he struggled to explain why he sought the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Ross was on the ropes for much of his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, but the knockout blow did not come until the seventh hour of the hearing, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., finally had the chance to interrogate Ross, who is 52 years her senior. Ocasio-Cortez, who has been in Congress a little more than two months, effectively summarized the Democrats’ central argument against Ross: that in putting the question on the census, Ross did not consult with U.S. Census Bureau experts but instead took advice from voter-suppression specialists aligned with President Trump.
“It’s all there in black and white,” Ocasio-Cortez said of a July 2017 email to Ross from Kris Kobach, the then Kansas secretary of state who has made a career of voter suppression. The email said that adding a citizenship question was “essential,” presumably so that congressional apportionment would prove more favorable to Republicans.
Ocasio-Cortez then asked if Ross spoke about the citizenship question after that email.
“I have no recollection of speaking to him again after that,” Ross answered.
She quickly noted that Ross and Kobach spoke again later that same month, referencing a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where New York, along with more than a dozen other states, sued to block the inclusion of the question. (The judge in that case, Jesse Furman, ruled against Ross earlier this year, though the broader legal battle over the citizenship question continues.)
Referring again to the legal proceedings from the Southern District, Ocasio-Cortez showed that Ross had, in fact, discussed Kobach’s proposal for a citizenship question in September 2017.
Ocasio-Cortez also argued that Ross had not met the congressional reporting requirements mandated by law, because the new citizenship question was materially different from the one that last appeared on the census, in 1950. This seemed like the kind of appeal to constitutional authority that could resonate with some conservatives.
“Why are we violating the law to include any question whatsoever in the 2020 census?” said Ocasio-Cortez, banging her fist on the podium for emphasis.
When the young Democrat finished with her questioning, an exasperated Ross looked to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who chairs the committee.
“I believe she is out of time, chairman,” Ross practically pleaded.
“I don’t have any need to respond, sir,” answered a defeated-sounding Ross.
Seated next to Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., followed with her own sharp interrogation of Ross. She argued that while Ross claimed to be a supporter of an accurate census, the inclusion of a citizenship question would effectively undermine its accuracy. She also noted that the information technology division of the Census Bureau was “severely understaffed,” citing a report by the Government Accountability Office.
Throughout the day, Ross faced repeated accusations of dishonesty and obfuscation. In his forceful opening remarks, Cummings lit into the Commerce secretary, charging that the former corporate raider — who has been accused of exaggerating his wealth and not fully disclosing foreign investments — “engaged in a secret campaign" from his first days in the Trump administration to put the “unconstitutional” citizenship question on the 2020 census.