On September 15, 2022, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 8326, Ensuring a Fair and Accurate Census Act, by a vote of 220-208. The bill, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, contains provisions designed to enhance the U.S. Census Bureau’s independence and strengthen its operations. The legislation was informed in part by the results of an investigation that the Committee conducted regarding the conduct of the 2020 Census.
Specifically, the legislation would:
- Ensure that any question added to a decennial census is researched and tested according established statistical procedures, reviewed by the Government Accountability Office, and shared with Congress in advance.
- Empower the Census Director to make key decisions about the census, ensure a career expert serves as deputy director, and limit the number of political appointees at the Bureau to no more than 4 positions.
- Reauthorize existing census advisory committees (Census Scientific Advisory Committee and National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations) and create new advisory entities (2030 Census Advisory Committee and Committee on Statistical Quality Standards).
- Enhance the transparency of the agency’s annual budget process and allow the Director to communicate directly with policymakers regarding the agency’s budgetary needs and the operational status of each decennial census.
During consideration on the House floor, two amendments were offered. The first “en bloc” amendment, which was offered by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL), contained proposals offered by Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Congressman Ed Case (D-HI). The amendment, which was approved by a vote of 223-211, would direct the Bureau to: 1) appoint a career official responsible for improving the equity and fairness of the census for all race and ethnic groups and 2) issue a report on how the agency will engage with local partners and governments. The House rejected another amendment offered by Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) which proposed striking language in the bill that would only allow for-cause removal of the Census Director and would revise details regarding the Deputy Director position.
A similar bill has not been introduced yet in the U.S. Senate. Currently, there are no plans for H.R. 8236 to be considered on the Senate floor.
Prior to the House debate, the White House issued an official Statement of Administration Policy in which it expressed support for the bill. In its statement, the White House also said it “looks forward to working with the Congress to ensure its provisions do not circumvent OMB’s [Office of Management and Budget] role in formulating the President’s budget request and to avoid impinging on the President’s authority over Executive Branch agencies.”