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

Gregg pick for Commerce sparks partisan fight over 2010 census

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/06/art.bogregg0206.gi.jpg caption="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. kayla


    February 6, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. Franky

    This is one of the most idiotic and most bull crap things I ever heard. One minute one side is upset...and then the other side, they ain't upset, they're upset!!

    You all elected officials are all a bunch of freaks...

    February 6, 2009 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. Jetty

    Republicans are defining the end of their party. Rush Limberg is gone and so are the hardcore conservatives like Sean Hannidy. Others like Karl Roove are waiting their trial. I hope they keep silent to lessen the price they have to pay for missleadinmg the Bussh administration.

    Time to bread a new Neo Conservative agenda under Michael steel if we have to avoid GOP becoming another Liberaterian patry (dead and irrelevant).

    For Obama, you are on the right tract because the current stimulus debate is healthy and would yield positive results in the years ahead.

    February 6, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  4. MARIO L.A

    LOL, I have heard some silly things in my life, but this takes the cake...
    People we have been flushed for so long, that we cant climb out the bowl for pulling down the handle.

    Greg is a great pick, for those that worry about trade, he is open to free trade as long as it is fair, and level, and for the census, well I guess if your playing by all the rules, you have nothing to worry about. TIS THE AMERICAN WAY

    February 6, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  5. Paul

    How ironic, that some House Republicans fear that members of the Obama administration may attempt to manipulate the 2010 census to achieve political congressional redistricting..................those that fear would more likely to make the attempt...............and since they (GOP) are not in power, we don't need to worry.

    These Republican congressional leaders continue to VOICE fault of the Obama administration.......and , yet, what DID THEY DO for US....nothing but a financial meltdown under the Bush administration.

    February 6, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  6. Texas Teacher

    Mr. President Obama... are you losing YOUR mind? Stop appointing these stupid republicans who got us into this mess to high government offices! For Gods sake.... give it a break! We did NOT vote for this bipartisan BS! We do NOT want Republicans having any power in our new government... they do NOT deserve to be in ANY position of power! SERIOUSLY... 🙁 I am sick to death of this bull crap! And I am NOT alone!

    February 6, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  7. S Callahan

    I can't see how his appointment can affect the census....they are already testing/hiring persons to do the job.....

    February 6, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Many minorities in urban areas don't want to be counted because they are here illegally. Counting illegals just skews representaion in Congress.

    February 6, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  9. Zack

    So now we're even letting our politicians bicker over what should be a simple matter of statistical analysis left to professionals. Honestly, are we so partisan as a people that we're willing to permit this behavior?

    February 6, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. Mark

    "Hyper-partisan"? Pot, kettle, etc.

    The Gregg nomination amounts to appointing a fox to be Commissioner of Henhouses. The White House had bloody well better be prepared to keep a close eye on him.

    February 6, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. Kathy in Florida

    OBAMA needs to remember who elected him....What is he trying to prove with all these repubs in key positions, especially repub white males. What happened to women and minorities?

    February 6, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  12. M

    How hard can it be?

    Get Frankins people to count them. How many do you need to win?

    February 6, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  13. Holly - Missouri

    This is disgusting. The census should be about getting an accurate count and picture of what is going on in our nation. Period. Whatever method will produce the most ACCURATE results is the way to go. It SHOULD be just that simple...

    February 6, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. John G

    Why not have Census report directly to the White House to circumvent the Republican head of Commerce as well as the law regarding the census?

    This administration has made rules just to break them the same day (lobbyists) so why should this rule be any different?

    February 6, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  15. Penumbrist

    Use of basic statistical techniques = not counting, but guessing. It's an unconstitutional way to conduct a census - not really a census at all.

    February 6, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  16. Texas Teacher

    How long before 2010? Not so long.... but not soon enough! Seriously...

    February 6, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  17. Texas Teacher

    How about a little VETTING... PaLease!

    February 6, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  18. Annie, Atlanta

    I'm not understanding why Obama nominated this guy – this is a head scratcher.

    February 6, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  19. Tina

    Change dems can believe in. Who needs ACORN?

    February 7, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
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