The chairman of the House Oversight Committee announced Monday that he had scheduled a committee vote to hold the attorney general and the commerce secretary in contempt of Congress over a dispute about documents regarding a potential citizenship question on the 2020 census.
According to a news release from his office, Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, sent all members of the committee a proposed resolution and report to be voted on Wednesday “in order to proceed with both criminal and civil actions to enforce the Committee’s bipartisan subpoenas.”
“The Trump Administration has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing to disregard the Constitution, defy decades of clear precedent, and invent frivolous new arguments to delay and obstruct Congress’ oversight authority, and Attorney General (William) Barr and Secretary (Wilbur) Ross are complicit in this cover-up,” Cummings said in a statement.
“Both Secretary Ross and Attorney General Barr are refusing to comply with duly authorized subpoenas from Congress,” Cummings added. “Because they are in contempt of Congress, on Wednesday, the Committee will vote to move forward to enforce our bipartisan subpoenas.”
The Justice Department declined to comment to CNN.
Cummings says Barr and Ross have refused to comply with committee requests for information into a probe about how a question about citizenship ended up on the upcoming 2020 US census.
The committee is seeking 11 documents from the Commerce Department, and issued a subpoena in April. Cummings had also sought documents from the Justice Department and subpoenaed Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore for a deposition, for which he did not appear.
The census, which occurs once every 10 years, produces data that determines how to divvy up congressional seats as well as the allocation of billions of dollars of federal funds.
In March 2018, Ross announced the 2020 census would ask the entire US population about their citizenship status – a question that hasn’t been posed on the survey since 1950. The process formally began with a request from the Justice Department in December 2017 “that the Census Bureau reinstate on the 2020 Census questionnaire a question regarding citizenship.”
Ross said in a statement to CNN that he never refused to meet with Cummings, and that Cummings declined to answer “why the Committee specifically needs privileged information that the Chairman himself and the litigation process have recognized as confidential.”
He said, “The Committee isn’t interested in cooperation – it wants to improperly influence the Supreme Court’s impending decision with media broadsides.”
Ross said in response to committee requests that the Commerce Department “has provided 14,000 pages of documents, I have voluntarily testified before the Committee for nearly seven hours, and we have agreed to make three Department witnesses available for interviews in the next two weeks, including one scheduled for tomorrow.”
This April, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by several states, cities and nonprofit groups over whether the Trump administration can add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Opponents of the citizenship question informed the Supreme Court in May that they have “new evidence” that shows the decision to add it was politically motivated. They say the intention was to intimidate minority households from responding in order to reduce Democratic Party representation.
The census battle is only one of several ongoing fights between House Democrats and the Trump administration. A separate House panel — the Judiciary Committee – has already voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to provide the committee with special counsel Robert Mueller’s full, unredacted report. However, the chairman of that committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, backed off that threat on Monday after reaching a deal with the Justice Department.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Laura Jarrett, Gregory Wallace and Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.