The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Feb 16, 2009

Dems Downplay Obama's Plan to Oversee 2010 Census

With Republicans increasingly critical of President Obama's decision to step up White House oversight of next year's census, some Democrats are downplaying the move, saying it is not even official yet.

Obama's plan to have the Census director report to the White House in addition to the Commerce Department has sparked protest from some Republicans, who accuse the president of a political power grab. One GOP lawmaker is pushing for an investigation into the planned move.

"I think this is way too premature," said Democratic consultant Dan Gerstein, claiming that this was all started by an "unnamed White House source saying they may do this" and that no announcement has been made.

In fact, Congressional Quarterly first reported Obama's plan last week and the White House issued a statement shortly afterward, saying the president planned to follow a historical precedent of having the director of census work closely with White House senior management.

A White House official on Wednesday declined to comment on Rep. Marsha Blackburn's call for an investigation but provided with a statement noting Obama has not proposed removing the census from the Commerce Department and that the same congressional committees that had oversight during the previous administration will retain that authority.

"The president recognizes the importance of ensuring that the Census Bureau conducts a complete and accurate count through a process that is free from politicization, and he looks forward to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and Secretary-designate [Judd] Gregg to achieve that goal," the statement said.

"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," the statement added.

Blackburn, R-Tenn, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to committee leaders requesting a hearing. All 20 Republicans on the committee signed the letter, obtained by

"We believe this change in management, if adopted, may jeopardize the important and nonpartisan work product of a sensitive administrative agency, and potentially disrupt completion of a competent, reliable 2010 census," the letter reads.

Blackburn went on to praise Obama's nomination of Republican Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire to lead the Commerce Department, saying it promotes bipartisanship.

"Yet the administration's Census Bureau announcement indicates that a bipartisan opportunity may be thwarted by a partisan attempt to remove the potential secretary's control of a critical Commerce agency," the letter said.

It isn't clear yet whether the committee will hold a hearing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent Obama a letter Wednesday asking him to "reconsider and reverse" his plan.

"The Obama administration's recent actions regarding the census are outrageous and unprecedented," Issa said in a statement.

"Commanding the census director to report directly to the White House is a naked political power grab and transparently partisan," he added. "The need for an independent Census Bureau is recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike -- and every living former census director is on record supporting an independent Census Bureau."

Gerstein said the Obama administration has to be concerned about political accusations.

"This was a trial balloon, not an announcement," Gerstein told FOX News. "And before people jump up and down about it, let's see what actually happens. Because I've got to think that if this actually bubbles up, they won't do it."

The Constitution requires a census of the U.S. population every 10 years. Disentangling politics from the process can prove difficult, if not impossible, because demographic changes can shift billions of dollars in federal funding for, among other things, schools, roads and job training. The census also determines the number of representatives each state sends to Congress, the composition of the Electoral College and how congressional lines are drawn.

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute and director of the U.S. Census Bureau in the 1980s, told FOX News that he disagrees with Obama's plan to bring the census in-house, saying that census data could be "manipulated."

"It's a very bad idea to bring it into the White House," he said.

Seven former Census directors, serving every president from Nixon to George W. Bush, signed a letter last year supporting a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census.

"It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau," it read.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., would take effect in January 2012.

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