February 6th, 2009
05:41 PM ET
9 years ago

Gregg pick for Commerce sparks partisan fight over 2010 census

President Obama's decision to nominate Sen. Judgg Gregg as Commerce Secretary has sparked concerns about who will control the 2010 census.

President Obama's decision to nominate Sen. Judgg Gregg as Commerce Secretary has sparked concerns about who will control the 2010 census.

WASHINGTON (CNN)– President Barack Obama’s decision to cross party lines and nominate New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg to run the Commerce Department has set off a partisan battle over the 2010 census.

African-American and Latino leaders are concerned that the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, might lack sufficient resources under Gregg’s leadership to accurately count ethnic minorities.

And in response to statements from the White House that it will work closely with the bureau’s next director, some House Republicans are suggesting that the Obama administration could manipulate the 2010 tally to achieve a longer-term political advantage for Democrats because congressional redistricting depends on census results.

The Census has been the topic of political debate in the past. Many experts believed that the door-to-door approach used in the 1990 Census count missed 1 to 2 percent of the total U.S. population, with many of those uncounted Americans thought to be minorities who lived in urban areas. To address that concern, Census officials proposed using some basic statistical techniques to fill in the gaps. Democrats tended to favor this approach, which were expected to increase the population count in areas of Democratic strength; Republicans tended to oppose the new techniques for similar reasons. The controversy even reached the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1990s.

Gregg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of the subcommittee that oversees the Commerce Department, cast a vote in 1995 to abolish the entire department, and in 1999 opposed emergency funding for the 2000 census.

Almost immediately after Gregg’s formal nomination earlier this week, Hispanic and African-American advocacy groups began to express concern about Gregg’s leadership of Commerce during the 2010 census.

Gregg’s record raises “troubling concerns regarding his commitment to the department’s core missions,” California Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement Tuesday.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials was likewise concerned. “Census data are the fundamental building blocks for reapportionment and redistricting, which determine the contours of our representative democracy,” the Latino group said in a statement earlier this week.

The group also said it “will be closely monitoring the confirmation process to learn more about Secretary-Designate Gregg’s view of the Department’s responsibility to conduct an accurate census.”

Efforts by the White House to reassure minority advocacy groups have generated claims of partisanship from Republicans. After the Obama administration said Thursday that the director of the Census Bureau would “work closely with White House senior management,” California Rep. Darrell Issa and North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, two Republican members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote the President a letter.

“Requiring the Census Director to report directly to the White House and circumventing the Secretary of Commerce is both outrageous and unprecedented,” the two Republicans wrote. Issa and McHenry also described Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as a “hyper-partisan” who might “politicize the Census Bureau and manipulate the 2010 Census” on the administration’s behalf.

In a statement that also appeared to be targeted at Emanuel, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Friday that the decennial census “should not be directed by political operatives working out of the White House.”

Asked about the controversy during his daily briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to be trying to find a middle ground.

Echoing the White House’s earlier statement, Gibbs said there’s “historical precedent,” for the director of the Census Bureau to work for the Commerce Secretary and to “work closely” with the White House as well.

"Everybody can be assured that any person that is picked by the President . . . . [will] implement the views of [the] president," said Gibbs. “And President Obama obviously is, believes that we have to for a lot of reasons have a fair and accurate count during the next census. That’s, as president of the United States, exactly what he intends to do.”

Gregg has yet to have his Senate confirmation hearing for the Cabinet post. Boehner also said Friday that the issue of control of the Census Bureau could be raised during Gregg’s confirmation process.

–CNN Polling Director Keating Holland contributed to this report.

Filed under: Census • Judd Gregg • President Obama
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. BB

    ***** chirp ***************************** chirp *****

    February 6, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    Oh brother...so special interests are whining and the GOP is making baseless accusations...so Obama's going to have to lay the smack down on both sides. I think we'll be seeing a lot of that over the next 4 years.

    February 6, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |

    Leave it up to partisian democrats to be complaining about this. Just admit it, you hacks would find a problem with any republican that was choosen by your messiah. I just think its hilarious that Obama has had more ethical issues/ tax issues arise in his first two weeks then Bush had in his first 4 yrs, But BUSH is the UNETHICAL one? For Godsake the guy Obama picked to run the IRS didnt pay his taxes???? Are you people serious, you have lost all resemblence of respectability. God help us all these next 4 yrs.

    February 6, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  4. By The Numbers

    Simple solution, staff the operation to it's highest level ever ..... on a per million people of population basis ...

    February 6, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  5. Doug

    I am a democrat O supporter, this appointment continues to show that washington is a joke. He voted against having a federal department but now he can lead it, WHERE? This is ridiculous and it should be ended by the Senate. He should be defeated and quickly. O is not doing anybody a favor with these management decisions.

    February 6, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. Citizen Abu, CA

    Republicans, please chill. We have your back

    February 6, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Debbie

    OH GROW UP PEOPLE! This is ridiculous.

    February 6, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. LONGV

    A bipartisan president, get real? Obama has a lot to learn.

    February 6, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  9. Rick Sutter

    One more move toward socialism. Control the census, control the airwaves ("fairness" doctrine). Step by step and you dems are like the frog in the pot of water. You won't even notice your country is gone until it is too late.

    February 6, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  10. Rae

    These children will fight over anything.

    February 6, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  11. I say if you don't have a mailing address don't count them

    as a democrat, no mailing address, you aren't counted

    at what point are you a functioning citizen?

    I think it should matter, not that you are phyically in the U.S., but that you are contributing in a way that is reflected by a place that mail is delivered to

    Looking for you under bridges or where ever is allowing a continuing problem to exist... why are we taking care of people that aren't trying to take care of themselves?

    Living in San Francisco, this translates into dramatic health issues, etc, and it really smells (the people in the transient population choose even elevators to go to the bath room in)

    I am not advocating forgetting these people, make them a part of a different count, their phychological problems etc absolutely need addressing, but define the census in a countable way

    February 6, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  12. Charles from Atlanta

    I'm not sure why he is chosen. But I think there must be a reason.

    February 6, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. NoMcSame

    No ReThuglicans. They care about Iraq Only. Vote them out.

    February 6, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  14. FreeNLovIt

    Oh, dear, here we go again!!

    February 6, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    All these people care about is winning elections. They certainly don't care about us (except Obama).

    February 6, 2009 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. snuggs

    All these people care about is winning elections. They certainly don't care about us (except Obama).

    February 6, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. an american first

    Are you serious? Pres. Obama gives a Commerce Secretary job to a major Republican in the country, and the Republicans are complaining why the census was not soley controlled by the Secretory-appoint Gregg. Let me say this again – are you serioius?

    Do you realize that he DID NOT HAVE TO appoint Republican to this position at all? If he didn't, would this be an issue? – of course NOT...

    February 6, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  18. Justin

    Totally ridiculous story. It's time for me to give up my Republican Party affiliation. The Republicans in Washington are making us all look like clowns.

    February 6, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  19. Jeanne

    Oh, you mean like you Republicans tried to gerrymander in several states to change or cut districts in Republican favor. Give me a break!!!!

    February 6, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  20. No Incumbents 2010

    Did he pay his taxes?

    February 6, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  21. Ms. Johnson, Pearland,Texas

    Bad choice why elect a democratic president to take care republicans who have stood against everthing the democratic party stands for.

    February 6, 2009 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  22. I hate Rush but.......

    Actually "Debbie" it is NOT ridiculous, the census is where it is FOR A REASON so it can't be manipulated politically FOR ANYONES advantage and the framers of our country realized that when they came up with the idea.

    Sorry if facts and reasoning make it appear to be "ridiculous" in your ahem, mind, but then again your a "typical" Obama supporter.

    But Barry is so great and he makes the sun warm and bunnies fuzzy and, and, and HOPE and CHANGE........................

    One and done Barry.


    February 6, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  23. Ken in NC

    This is beginning to reek of childish tic for tac. It appears that every person named for an office by this President is coming under fire for one thing or another. I am not knocking those with tax issues but along with them it seems that everything is being done to throw up road blocks to prevent this President from getting his people in place so they can get on with the work they should be doing. This so sad because these people realize that if they succeed in causing our government to collapse, they got down the tube too but I sense that they don't care.

    February 6, 2009 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  24. Interested in MO

    Wasn't it a bunch of Republicans who gerrymandered the redistricting in Texas a few years ago? But now, oh no!! The Democrats might get an advantage! Good grief.

    February 6, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  25. joe plummer

    The President is smart in this case,its wise to keep your enemies closer and make sure he cant damage more things than he already has.

    February 6, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
1 2