(CNSNews.com) - As the House Oversight Committee met on Wednesday to vote on contempt citations against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the White House sent the committee a letter, saying President Trump has asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents.
“These documents are protected from disclosure by the deliberative process, attorney-client communications, or attorney work product components of executive privilege,” the White House said.
The White House called it regrettable that the Democrat-led committee has made it necessary to assert executive privilege “by your insistence upon scheduling a premature vote.”
Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) postponed the contempt vote by a few hours to consider the White House letter, but the debate raged on.
The Committee on Oversight and Reform is investigating the Trump Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census, asking whether each member of a household is a U.S. citizen.
Democrats on the Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for documents pertaining to the citizenship question and the deliberations that went into it.
Because the documents have not been turned over, “The Committee has been left with no choice but to move to contempt proceedings and to seek enforcement of its subpoenas to enable the Committee to fulfill its duties under the Constitution,” a press release said.
Article I of the Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a Census every ten years and to count every person in the United States. Right now, that would include untold millions of illegal immigrants, many living in the homes of people here legally.
As the Oversight Committee noted, “The Census provides the basis for apportioning seats in Congress and for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds. These funds support vital healthcare, nutrition, education, infrastructure, housing, and other programs on which many Americans rely.”
Democrats argue that including a citizenship question will discourage non-citizens and immigrants from responding to the Census, “degrading the quality of the 2020 Census and negatively affecting funds appropriated for certain districts.”
In one contentious moment at Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan said Democrats want to hurry up with the contempt vote, because they know the Supreme Court is about to issue its ruling on whether the citizenship question may be included in the 2020 Census.
“Why don’t they want to know? That’s the fundamental question. Why don’t the Democrats want to know how many citizens are in the country?” Jordan asked.
"Go ask any person anywhere in this country, walking down the street, walk up to them and say, “hey, do you just think, on the census, we should ask how many citizens are in the country or ask are you a citizen.
“Every single person you will encounter will say, well yeah, of course we should ask that. The next question will be, aren’t we doing that already? And of course, we will all have to answer, yes we are.”
Jordan noted the question has been asked for many years on the longer, more detailed Census forms.
“How did we get here today?” Jordan continued. "How did we get to the point where we’re going to hold the Secretary of Commerce and the attorney general of the United States in contempt because we don’t want to ask a question that everyone in the country thinks we’re already asking, and in fact we are.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Democrat representing northern Virginia, said Jordan must “live in a different world than I live in.”
Connolly said the citizenship question is designed to “intimidate and discourage.”
“And it has to be seen in a context, the context of an anti-immigrant policy coming out of this White House. And it’s designed to intimidate and instill fear.”
Connolly said Republicans are worried about what will be discovered with the subpoena. And he raised the issue of “massive voter suppression” that makes it harder for “certain people” to vote.
“This is about the future of our democratic process,” Connolly said. “Will free people be able to freely vote without worrying about intimidation, without worrying about questions that get at data they’re uncomfortable to share -- for good reason in the climate of fear created by this White House…”
Connolly said the subpoenas must be approved, “for the sake of new Americans who want to know that their legislatures care about them and protect them…”