Bill Would Separate Census From Commerce Dept.
House Democrats will unveil a measure Tuesday that splits the U.S. Census Bureau from the Commerce Department and makes it an independent government agency similar in design to the National Institutes of Health or NASA.
The proposal comes in the wake of Republican allegations that the Obama administration is attempting to politicize the census by giving White House aides responsibility for overseeing next year's headcount.
Administration officials stress that while the White House is expected to take part in advertising and community outreach related to the 2010 census, the census director will continue to report to the secretary of commerce.
But with so much at stake in the outcome of the decennial headcount, some House Democrats argue that the census should be insulated from any hint of political influence.
“After three decades of controversy surrounding the decennial census, the time has come to recognize the Census Bureau as one of our country's premier scientific agencies and it should be accorded the status of peers such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the bill's lead sponsor, said in a statement.
“This action will be a clear signal to Americans that the agency they depend upon for unbiased monthly economic data as well as the important decennial portrait of our nation is independent, fair, and protected from interference,” she added.
The data generated by the decennial headcount is used in determining the reallocation of congressional seats among the states and the state-by-state distribution of billions of dollars of federal funds. Next year's count, expected to cost between $13.7 billion and $14.5 billion, has earned considerable interest from minority groups concerned about potential undercounts of urban centers and the growing Hispanic population.
If passed, the bill would not take affect until after the completion of the next Census in 2012. It also grants the presidentially-appointed Census director a full five-year term. All living former census directors have supported the bill, saying that the collection and analysis of census data should be protected from bureaucratic stress and political scrutiny.
Dr. Kenneth Prewitt, who served as Census director from 1998 to 2001 and is a leading candidate to serve once again, wrote in a 2003 memo that bureau staff occasionally felt “under siege” from the political attention and that such concerns “occupied management time that might otherwise have focused on the job at hand.”
The legislation, first introduced by Maloney in 2007, is also sponsored by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Tex.), but faces opposition from other Republicans concerned that the Census Bureau has not resolved management issues, including its decision to forego the use of specially-developed handheld computers during next year's headcount. Field tests of the devices raised concerns about their effectiveness, and the bureau decided to use them only during this year's address canvassing, or national verification of each place of residence.
“Simply turning a troubled agency loose at this time is not the answer,” said Frederick Hill, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The government has conducted a national census every ten years since 1790, and Congress established a permanent Census office in 1902. The office moved to the Department of Commerce upon its establishment in 1913.
Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | March 2, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pKrishna43 | March 2, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mason08 | March 2, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: davethewave1 | March 3, 2009 3:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mmarroquin1 | March 3, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.