November came and went without Congress and the Administration agreeing to a final Fiscal Year 2019 bill that would fund the Census Bureau and many other remaining federal agencies and programs. The Census Bureau is currently funded as part of a continuing resolution (CR) that expires December 7. At press time, Congress and the Administration were finalizing the details of another short-term CR that would keep most of the federal government, including the Census Bureau, funded through December 21.
Passage of a short-term CR is not a long-term funding solution, nor does it alleviate the threat of partial government shutdown. Given potential brinksmanship over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall leading to such a shutdown, The Census Project Co-Directors sent a letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, urging the Administration to support the Census Bureau’s plans for sustaining decennial census activities, using carryover funds from FY 2018, in the event of a government shutdown. The letter is posted here.
The Census Project also sent a letter signed by over 190 organizations to all members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees recommending that the Census Bureau receive nearly $4.5 billion in the final FY 2019 Commerce Justice Science appropriations bill that negotiators are crafting as part of a final funding measure. That letter to Appropriators can be found here.
On November 13, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the nomination of Dr. Steve Dillingham to be the next Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. At press time, it was rumored Dr. Dillingham’s nomination would be approved by the full U.S. Senate before the current lame duck session adjourns in December.
On a related note, on November 28, the U.S. Senate approved, by a vote of 62-38, the nomination of Ms. Karen Dunn Kelley to be the next Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary. As Commerce Deputy Secretary Ms. Kelley will play an enhanced formal role overseeing the Census Bureau and managing 2020 Census preparations.
Citizenship and Title 13 Controversy Erupts
In November, a case, New York vs. U.S. Department of Commerce, challenging the proposed citizenship question on the 2020 Census was heard in the U.S. District Court (Southern District of New York). At press time, a decision had not been issued. The case generated additional media attention when court proceedings unveiled a memo describing the Administration’s interest in revising an existing legal opinion protecting the confidentiality of census data. Specifically, the memo, which was exchanged between Department of Justice officials, revealed the Department’s interest in accessing census data for law enforcement and national security purposes. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights issued a strong statement rebuking the proposal and calling on the Department of Commerce to reaffirm its commitment to supporting the confidentiality of census data. U.S. Senators Booker, Schatz, and Reed sent a letter to the Department of Justice regarding the matter and asking for similar assurances.
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