- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, during a House Oversight Committee hearing, over his approval of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
- The addition of the question which asks individuals to state whether they are US citizens is deeply controversial, and two federal judges have ruled it unlawful.
- Ocasio-Cortez alleged that Ross broke the law when he failed to get required congressional approval before making the decision to add the question.
- During the hearing Ross was accused by Democratic lawmakers of lying under oath about the process by which he made his decision and the reasons for the decision.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilled Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday. The line of questioning was over his approval of a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The addition of the question which asks individuals to state whether they are US citizens is deeply controversial because it could under-count immigrant communities, which affects the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes and the amount of federal funding a state will receive in the future.
Ocasio-Cortez drilled down on two allegations: first that Ross allegedly lied about his discussions with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach an advocate for the question and second that Ross violated the US Census Act by failing to submit a report on the suggested change to Congress.
Last year, Ross testified under oath that he added the question after the Department of Justice "initiated the request for inclusion of the citizenship question." Ross claimed that DOJ wanted to add the question in order to better enforce aspects of the Voting Rights Act.
However, emails revealed during the course of lengthy litigation over the matter showed that Ross directed his staff to demand that the DOJ send in the formal request.
Ocasio-Cortez brought up documents that alleged that Kobach told Ross, in a conversation the two had, that the question should be added in order to exclude undocumented immigrants from affecting congressional seats.
"It's all there in black and white. Kobach is clear about his reason for adding the citizenship question in his correspondence to you," Ocasio-Cortez said. "It has nothing to do with DOJ. It has nothing to do with the Voting Rights Act. It is about congressional apportionment to immigrants."
Ocasio-Cortez then argued that Ross had broken the law by failing to submit one of the three required reports to Congress and thus not receiving the required congressional approval. At one point, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows interrupted Ocasio-Cortez's questioning to say that he was unaware of the law she had referenced. The congresswoman then explained which part of the law she was talking about and she resumed her questioning.
"I've been told by counsel that we have complied with all the regulations," Ross replied after initially refusing to answer the question. "I will take up with counsel the suggestions that have been made by the congressperson and we will get back in due course on the record."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Oversight Committee, then asked Ross to produce a written statement to Congress on the issue.
Two federal judges have ruled that Ross' planned addition of the question violated administrative law and was unconstitutional. One federal judge called Ross' claim about DOJ's involvement a "sham justification."
According to The Washington Post , seven lawsuits have been filed over the addition of the question. The decision is expected to end up in the US Supreme Court, which holding a hearing on the issue on April 23.
Ocasio-Cortez was not the only Democratic committee member to drill into Ross over the issue.
"You cant lie to Congress, Rep. Jackie Speier from California said, according to The Post. "Michael Cohen lied to Congress and now hes going to prison."
This was not the only time Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, who was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to charges in two separate investigations, was invoked by lawmakers.
"What's going on in the Wilbur Ross Oversight hearing right now is far more explosive than the [Michael] Cohen hearing," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Thursday morning, before she delivered her questioning.
Like the Cohen hearing, Ocasio-Cortez was again praised on Twitter for her effective questioning .
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