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Gregg Links Withdrawal to Census Concerns

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 5:34 p.m. ET

Sen. Judd Gregg said today that his decision to withdraw from consideration for commerce secretary was due in part to his concern with the Obama administration’s decision to have the next Census director report to senior White House staffers as well as the commerce secretary.

The New Hampshire Republican’s surprising decision to relinquish the post came as House Republicans this week called on President Obama to reverse his decision about giving the White House an increased role in the national head count.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Gregg cited the administration’s Census decision as one of two “irresolvable conflicts for me” that he said were not adequately discussed before he accepted Obama's nomination. “We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy,” Gregg said. Later during a news conference with reporters, Gregg said “The Census was only a slight catalyzing issue. It was not a major issue.”

Still, the issue has become a rallying cry of congressional Republicans this week and some experts have warned of other potentially more serious problems looming regarding the funding and organizing of the constitutionally-mandated decennial headcount of all Americans.

The Census Bureau estimates next year’s Census will cost between $13.7 billion and $14.5 billion, but some experts say there could be major cost overruns. Some estimate the administration will request an additional $ 7 billion to $8 billion for the Census in the budget later this month.

Moreover, this year temporary workers for the first time will be using handheld computers equipped with GPS tracking software for address canvassing, which is a national verification of each place of residence. Field tests had raised concerns about the devices and the bureau decided last April to use them for address canvassing only.

The Bureau will also for the first time fingerprint all temporary hires who conduct next year’s follow up visits with Americans who do not complete Census forms. The Government Accountability Office has raised concerns about how the Census, working with the FBI, will process the hundreds of thousands of new fingerprint records.

“There’s more risk in operational failure for the next decennial census” due to technological and budgetary challenges, said Phil Sparks, director of the Census Project, a coalition of groups concerned about Census funding.

“If the president decides to have a new Census director report directly to him, that’s fine with me," said Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the Census. "President Obama represented an entire state, and before that a State Senate district that had a large number of hard-to-enumerate people. He personally understands how damaging an undercount can be to a community and to our nation as a whole."

The White House announced its decision last week, as minority groups raised concerns about Gregg’s past opposition to Census funding. Obama administration staffers said the decision was based in part on historical precedence during the Clinton administration.

“As they have in the past, White House senior management will work closely with the Census Director given the number of decisions that will need to reach the President’s desk," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a written statement.

"This administration has not proposed removing the Census from the Department of Commerce and the same Congressional committees that had oversight during the previous administration will retain that authority.”

In a letter to President Obama earlier this week, House Republicans urged him to reconsider his plan, calling it an "unprecedented politicization of the Census" that would "open the door to massive waste and abuse in the expenditure of taxpayer funds, billions of which are distributed on the basis of Census data.”

"There is no legitimate historical precedent for placing the nonpartisan, apolitical Census Bureau under the control of political operatives on the White House staff,” the letter said.

But Kenneth Prewitt, who served as Census director from 1998 to 2001, said he worked with White House staff during the 2000 Census on budgeting, advertising and outreach efforts. In an e-mail, Prewitt said he never met with anyone "more senior than a deputy chief of staff, except once when I met with the entire cabinet on how each member could assist in the large outreach effort then underway."

Other former Census directors agreed that coordination with the White House on budgeting and outreach was appropriate while data collection and analysis should be kept separate.

As for potential political interference, “It’s virtually impossible to do something wrong without someone finding out about it,” said Vincent P. Barabba, who ran the 1980 Census. “It’s about as transparent an agency that exists.”

Barbara Everitt Bryant, who served as director during the 1990 Census, said: "I would have liked a little of the bully pulpit help, because one of the big things is just to get everyone to answer the questionnaire. The president would have a lot more clout on that than anything we could have done at the Census bureau."

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By Ed O'Keefe  | February 12, 2009; 4:59 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments, Congress  
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Comments

I'd call it EVERYONE'S Concerns!

The Census for the Congress being gerrymandered by a CONGRESSMAN!

I don't think so! :-(

Posted by: SAINT---The | February 12, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Nice job, interviewing three former directors.

Posted by: kenonwenu | February 12, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe Gregg's statement.

I wonder how long it will take us to find out the real truth.

Posted by: rlj1 | February 12, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Smart man. Obama appointed him for the appearance of bipartisanship and then cut the legs out from under him and was going to make him a figurehead.

yeah real "change we can believe in."

Posted by: Cryos | February 12, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Good riddance, imho, for an appallingly bad choice. It's alright to have opinions and express them, but it's not alright to oppose the President politically if you've accepted a job working in the administration.

Worse are probably many Bush-era SES embedded in vital agencies. I hear there could be a lot of openings to run SSA offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, and Nome. Juneau is too temperate a climate.

Posted by: LDMJR | February 12, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I find the GOP war on the Census a bit bizarre. They don't want everyone to be counted, and they don't want everyone to be able to vote. (I'm sorry I mean they believe in "suppressing voter fraud" which doesn't exist.)

It's pretty clear to me which party believes in full participatory democracy, and which party feels they have something to fear from it.

Posted by: BBpd | February 12, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

None of the census stuff is bammie. He doesn't have a clue. This is all bammie's brain, emmanuel. Never been a slimier POS. I love the liberals dancing around on this play. Just a crack up!!

Posted by: 2xy4k9 | February 12, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

i dont believe his reason for this ,there is more .WP get your invesigative reporters on this. taxes? whatever ,these pol egos are too large to turn down cabibet seat for a matter this trival.

Posted by: donaldtucker | February 12, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: 2xy4k9 | February 12, 2009 6:17 PM
"None of the census stuff is bammie. He doesn't have a clue. This is all bammie's brain, emmanuel. Never been a slimier POS. I love the liberals dancing around on this play. Just a crack up!!"

Did that make the slightest sense to anyone?

Seriously, how can increasing funding for the census be a bad thing, at least insofar as the census is concerned? Obviously, the Obama administration is attempting to correct the lamentable and longstanding trend of undercounting in urban areas which has led to historical imbalances in allocation of government funding, but that's hardly fraud.

Posted by: gaijinsamurai | February 12, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I DO NOT WANT RAHM EMANUEL faking the census -- the Chicago corrupt machine taking over D.C. -- how can people not be outraged? It's beyond me.

Think about it -- this is the first president ever who signed 5 executive orders on his first day! The norm is one or zero. This guy really does think he is some untouchable Messiah. Be careful what you wish for America, because you've sold your souls. Good-bye U.S. Constitution. I'll miss you.

Posted by: scecil1 | February 12, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

I worked for the Southwest Regions' Director for the 1990 Census in 1988-1989 when it was gearing up for the 1990 Census. I and others were told by an assistant director that the way the government found out about the whereabouts of the Japanese Americans before their internment was from the 1940 (?) census. So, stating the Census Bureau is transparent is hardly the truth. And, it presents a danger to all people the government wishes to find.

Posted by: MiriyamGevirtz | February 12, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

No one should know more about politicizing democratic institutions than the folks who have been manipulating the Justice Department for the past eight years.
I believe Mr. Gregg was told by the Republican leadership (Rush Limbaugh) to attack the Obama policies in order to embarrass the new administration. It must be deeply disturbing for these people to have a leader who knows what admitting errors and showing integrity is like.

Posted by: TheBogus | February 12, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I was for being in the cabinet before I was against it ...

Posted by: john16 | February 12, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

What people don't seem to understand about the census is that it is after the fact. Data are collected on things pols want data collected on, nothing more. The data aren't really used to guide policy; they're used to support policies already decided on....you get answers to questions you ask, and you don't ask questions about things you don't want to know about.

Posted by: cJr2 | February 12, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

What about the issue of sampling?

Minorities are perenially undercounted in the Census and "sampling" has been proposed as a way to close the gap. A Democratic House originally supported it since because Census numbers are used to re-apportion Congressional districts, and more minorities in the Census would ostensibly help them.

Well the Census has said that it hurts the credibility of the numbers (which already employ a level of estimation, though byscientific methods). The Supreme Court sided with the Census in 1999 and subsequent reports from the Census continue to say it isn't reliable.

Gregg was against sampling and some minority groups were already protesting that. Then the administration says the census director will report to the White House... which raises the possibility of an executive order of some sort instituting sampling, which likely ultimately benefits dems.

Maybe the best idea has been by the last 7 Census directors to make the Census completely independent. Bc anyway you slice it, the Census is a political football.

Posted by: AJohn1 | February 12, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I am very pleased that He resigned. I guess Sen. Gregg doesn't remember what Tom Delay did in re-districting Texas for the republicans. That is the way the republicans are, Republicans say: do as we say, not as we do. When republicans do something shady, that is ok. If democrats do the same thing it is evil. I just can't believe that people believe anything these republicans say.

Posted by: teddi_ohio | February 12, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Gerrymandering - When Democrats try to count every vote.

Redistricting in RePUBEliKLAN held legislatures to consolidate power like that cockroach Tom Delay - Representative Democracy.

Republicans are a scourge to freedom.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | February 12, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

What a win-win for the Democrats: the more taxpayer money they spend on the census the more "jobs" they create, the more hard-to-ferret-out future Dem voters they find, the more votes they get in congress. No wonder Axelrod gets to coordinate it all from the West Wing! Hooray for progress!? At least he is not the evil Karl Rove, right?

Good for Gregg for backing out. A black eye for Pres. Obama courtesy of a revitalized Republican Party. Oorah!

Fake bipartisanship bites the dust. Cue the next Dem tax cheat for the Commerce post.

Posted by: Clio1 | February 12, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I hope Obama doesn't appoint another Republican to anything except peanut processing and grave digging at Arlington.


Posted by: georgepwebster | February 12, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

THE SUPREME COURT DECIDED THE CONSTITUTION MEANT WHAT THE WORDS SAID-ACTUAL COUNT OF RESIDENTS., WHICH INCLUDES ILLEGALS.

SAMPLING AND EXTRAPOLATION ARE NOT "ACTUAL" COUNTS AND ARE CAPABLE OF MANIPULATION.

READ THE CONSTITUTION !

Posted by: donovan29 | February 12, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: rlj1
I don't believe Gregg's statement.

I wonder how long it will take us to find out the real truth
--------------------------------------
If we find out that he didn't pay his taxes I am going to think that he is really a democrat.

Posted by: 12oreo | February 12, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

quack. Gregg has not hurt Obama. If anything, he has helped the President by showing how uncooperative, subversive and crusted over the GOP has become. And Republicans pretending shock over manipulating districts should be compelled to live in Tom Delay's backyard for a year.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | February 12, 2009 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I applaud President Obama for that because When the Former President Bush ran the last 8 years and he created a Homeland Security and the Democrats didn't want to create one...so Bush ignored them and created the department and I have heard negative stuff.
Now it is interesting that the Republicans are creating a scene and complain about Obama having Census Director. The thing that really makes me angry is that when the Republicans ran the Congress and they gave what Bush wanted. Now it is time for the Democrats to turn what they want and ignore the Republicans.

Posted by: soils2002 | February 12, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Another one bites the dust!

I only recently began blogging and am new to this so please bear with me.

Eash day for the past several weeks I have read various people's opinions that collectively could make a difference.

Instead of bickering about what needs to be done, is it possible by working together, we can find a way to blend the contributed ingredients to create something healthy enough to help our country?

It may sound corny, but can we try?

Posted by: gladiatorgal | February 12, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

In the census, leave no one behind. Count everyone. Truthfully, both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering and trying to get an electoral advantage. The only reason the GOP is now so worried about how the Demoncrats will do the census is that they know how they would have done it if they had been in office.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 12, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

So, let's see: he agrees to be the Secretary KNOWING that the census thing was one of the most, and perhaps the ONLY most important job of the Secretary if you are a Republican and then quits when he discovers that the Republicans will not be able to determine who Americans are.
The ONLY good thing about this is that he QUIT. Thank God!
Obama is a on a steep learning curve here. He is learning that there are NOT trustworthy Republicans and Thank God, he is learning it in his first three weeks.

Posted by: cms1 | February 12, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I accept as true Senator Gregg's statement that he is backing out for ideological reasons, but also because he came to understand he presently wields more power as a senator that he would as Secretary of Commerce, notwithstanding the upcoming census, which after all will be over next year and practically forgotten. I have no doubt he encountered many differences between the way he would like to run the census, and the way President Obama intends. I was a recruiter of census workers for the 2000 census, and I saw many seriously flawed and wasteful practices leading up to the census. A great many of the problems were caused by the republican Congress, and their antipathy toward any survey questions being asked; actually, they encouraged citizens to refuse to complete the census questionairre. And they don't believe in adequate pay (or any benefits) for the temporary workers who carry out the census. No wonder President Obama intends to have some control over it.

Posted by: catfish5437 | February 12, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Under our constitutional framework, the executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws and making sure the federal government operates effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the American people. As Republicans certainly remember (after November election losses), that constitutional obligation was abandoned by the Bush-Cheney team.

Now that the Obama-Biden administration has assumed responsibility for ensuring an accurate national census, the Repubican neoconservatives accuse the White House of what they had been doing for the past eight years - politicizing the federal government to benefit themselves and their cronies.

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) appears to have been caught in the cross-fire from fellow Republicans directed at President Barack Obama. It appears he had to have an excuse to withdraw his nomination - but to people here in New Hampshire it looks like just another chapter in partisan politics play-acting.

Someone please tell the Republican party such foolishness won't work anymore. We need politics to be based on principles and values and beliefs about the common good. This is one of the changes we want in the nation's capital. Now, lead or follow or just get out of the way forward!

Posted by: LiveFree | February 12, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

President Obama was magnanimous in his response to Sen. Gregg's sudden and unexpected resignation. Being a long time resident of NH, I am embarassed for our thoughtful citizens who care so much for the political process. The only postitve is that Sen. Gregg probably won't run for the Senate again.

Posted by: sdt952 | February 12, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

This charlaton has the same attitue toward the American people that Adolph Hitler, who did the same thing, along with Castro, Chavez and other tryants. See Obama for what he is and you will see the new American Czar. His henchmen will find a way to change the census to Obama's benefit. His dream is to be the most powerful man in the world. He is truly a frightning man!

Posted by: HarryinVa | February 12, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I support Obama, but, as with some other decisions he has made (support for "Faith-based" initiatives being one), I disagree about the census being brought under White House control; transparency or not.

Too much possibility of politics getting in the way.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | February 12, 2009 8:55 PM | Report abuse

RE:'This charlaton has the same attitue toward the American people that Adolph Hitler.."
===========================
Earth to HarryinVa - get a grip. Obama is the last person you should worry about. Bush did more to undermine democracy than Obama has even dreamed about.

-Warrantless wiretaps? Bush
-Waterboarding? Bush
-Indefinite detention? Bush
-Extraordinary rendition to countries that torture? Bush
-Bloated bureaucracy? Bush
-Abu Ghraib? Bush subordinates
-Halliburton no bid contracts? Bush and Cheney

I could go on, but I need to finish my Scotch. You get the picture.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | February 12, 2009 9:06 PM | Report abuse


-Waterboarding? Bush Acknowledged good information was gained - obama people
-Indefinite detention? Bush People still detained by obama
-Extraordinary rendition to countries that torture? Bush People will now be renditioned to other coutries obama
-Bloated bureaucracy? Bush Multipled by 800 trillion - obama
-Abu Ghraib? Bush subordinates Illinois dirty politics - obama
-Halliburton no bid contracts? Bush and Cheney Saving a mouse in Frisco - obama's "stimulous"

I too could go on but I have to clean up after this fool drank too much scotch!

Posted by: trjn30 | February 12, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

I DO NOT WANT RAHM EMANUEL faking the census -- the Chicago corrupt machine taking over D.C. -- how can people not be outraged? It's beyond me.

Think about it -- this is the first president ever who signed 5 executive orders on his first day! The norm is one or zero. This guy really does think he is some untouchable Messiah. Be careful what you wish for America, because you've sold your souls. Good-bye U.S. Constitution. I'll miss you.

Posted by: scecil1 | February 12, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse
***********************************************

Hilarious for so many reasons! Let's count 'em off...

1) Assuming Rahm Emmanuel will fake the Census. What are they gonna change the numbers after the Census director turns them over to the White House?

2) "Signing five executive orders in his first day." Didn't the last Prez set a record for this? I imagine you voted for him though.

3) "Goodbye US Constitution." Are you kidding me? The last eight years have trampled the Constitution, but you are going to bring this up over the Census. THE CENSUS!

Personally, I wish there was a way in these tough times, that we could take a decade off on the old Census and save $20 billion. At the very least, isn't there some way of doing the majority of it over the Internet so that we can save a little $$$. I know it could be faked more easily, but c'mon. That's just me.


Posted by: metzro44 | February 12, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

said Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the Census. "President Obama represented an entire state, and before that a State Senate district that had a large number of hard-to-enumerate people. He personally understands how damaging an undercount can be to a community and to our nation as a whole."
==========================================
run through the political anti-spin machine the translation comes out:

Coming from the Richard Daley school of political fraud and corruption President Obama will really understands the importance of counting making sure there are more democrats than republicans in every district - even if he has to manufacture them.

We're on the road to tyranny. I thought a two party system was bad enough but I guess I should be prepared for a one party system.

Posted by: krankyman | February 12, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Gregg was a GOP mole who took the job only because he could take orders from Karl Rove and torpedo the Census process. When the Administration took over the Census, he was outed and had to go.
I say good riddance - go back to Cow Hampshire.

Posted by: abt16 | February 12, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

gladiatorgal wrote:
"

Another one bites the dust!

I only recently began blogging and am new to this so please bear with me.

Eash day for the past several weeks I have read various people's opinions that collectively could make a difference.

Instead of bickering about what needs to be done, is it possible by working together, we can find a way to blend the contributed ingredients to create something healthy enough to help our country?

It may sound corny, but can we try?"

That's something that the RADICAL RIGHT WING REPUBLICAN EXTREMISTS don't know how to and resolutely REFUSE to do.
The right thing for the good of the "ENTIRE" country is not in their selfish greedy agenda!!

Posted by: imiga | February 12, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Anyone here stupid enough to allow our Census to be rigged by a couple of Chicago machine politicians and some ex-Clinton staffers?

Well, if there are, they probably couldn't read the question.

Posted by: NeverLeft | February 12, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Those Obstructionist, Oops! I mean Republicans are still tasting sour grapes. But just wait until 2010 when America takes more of these sour grapes and make them more sour. You will see less Republicans in the House and Senate. America will get more tired
of these people. Republicans change is still coming. And adding this Black chairman is going to backfire on you like Palin did with MCcain. You folks just don't get it!

Posted by: cpierce17 | February 12, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

As a Washingtonian born and bred, I respect especially the importance of the census. It's maddening enough having to accept disenfranchisement in the District, but to witness the refusal of conservatives to accept, much less promote, any effort to bring *all* Americans into the fold of voters is just plain wrong; an abrogation of constitutional responsibility that is abhorrent.

For that reason alone, I confess to having come to believe, regarding the politics of the census at least, that (with apologies to Sam. Johnson, and mindful that today is Lincoln's birthday) Racism is the last Refuge of the Republican.




Posted by: gothamite | February 12, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

SCECIL1. Get yourself a good American history book. Perhaps you're an illegal alien who doesn't know about this country. FDR, under similar economic circumstances hit the ground running just as Obama did in 1933 in order to save the country from econ ruin. Imagine for a terrible moment that G Bush is still pres and is handling the mess. We'd have to find him first as we did with Katrina. Rounding up sagebrush in Crawford. Or maybe he'd be campaigning for his papa in Alabama while his outfit was fighting in Vietnam. He'd fly over the long unemployment lines. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Posted by: caesarganz | February 13, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Please explain how expecting the census to count people (Republican) rather then use statistics (Democrat) is disenfranchising voters? As I recall our Constitution says the census is done by enumeration i.e. counting.

Perhaps the real point is to disenfranchise voters by using statistics to do redistricting. There is no doubt many disenfranchised voters after Emil Jones years in the Illinois Senate and his redistricing efforts, which is why Illinois has some very odd shaped districts and a House and Senate ruled by Democrats. I imagine it isn't the only state.

Posted by: win1 | February 13, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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