A day after he withdrew from consideration for commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” that some in the Barack Obama administration doubted his ability to manage the 2010 Census.
On Thursday, the New Hampshire Republican had said his decision to withdraw was partly due to the administration’s decision to have the next Census director report to senior White House staffers as well as the commerce secretary, whose department has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau.
On Friday morning, Gregg was interviewed by CNBC and asked if the White House was going to try to “hijack” the Commerce Department’s role in the Census.
“The way it was explained to me was that the Census would still report to the Commerce secretary but the White House wanted to have a major interest in the census process also.”
He was asked if he felt “comfortable” with that.
“I actually hadn’t concluded as to how that was going to play out,” Gregg responded.
“I thought when I got there I could probably straighten it out if it was a problem.
“I was a little surprised, in fact disappointed, that some of the groups basically prejudged my ability to manage the Commerce Department before I even got there, and prejudged what my management style would be.
“The person the White House has proposed to manage the Census, Ken Prewitt, did it in 2000 when I was chairman of the Appropriations Committee that had oversight of the Commerce Department. I thought he did an excellent job, so I thought the people were going to be in place to do a pretty good Census.”
The outcome of the Census has deep political implications, because congressional districts are drawn based on population. Many federal funds are distributed on the basis of population as well.
These factors mean that there is a premium on counting as many residents as possible. Historically, the groups believed to be most seriously undercounted are inner-city minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
House Republicans have sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his plan, calling it an “unprecedented politicization of the Census” and stating: “There is no legitimate historical precedent for placing the nonpartisan, apolitical Census Bureau under the control of political operatives on the White House staff.”
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