House votes to hold AG Barr, Commerce Secretary Ross in contempt over census

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Attorney General William Barr speaks about the census as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listens during an event with President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KETK) – The House of Representatives voted Wednesday afternoon to hold Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in in contempt of Congress over 2020 census citizenship question.

The vote was 230-198, largely along party lines. Four Democrats broke with their party and voted against the resolution. One independent — Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan — supported the resolution.

The House said Barr and Ross had obstructed a probe into the Trump administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The House scheduled the vote after the two Cabinet members failed to provide documents related to a decision to add a citizenship question to the census. President Donald Trump abandoned that effort last week after the Supreme Court said the administration’s justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.” Trump directed agencies to try to compile the information using existing databases.

The documents had been subpoenaed by the Oversight and Reform Committee as part of the probe into the origins of the question.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said the contempt vote was an important step to assert Congress’ constitutional authority to serve as a check on executive power.

“Holding any secretary in criminal contempt of Congress is a serious and sober matter, one that I have done everything in my power to avoid,” Cummings said during House debate. “But in the case of the attorney general and Secretary Ross, they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying for the first time in 70 years to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”

Ross called the contempt vote “silly” and said, “This is just more political theater. It doesn’t really have any substantive basis.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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