Bipartisan Senate Push To Extend Census Begins Weeks Before Count Is Set To End

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Sens. Dan Sullivan (left) and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans from Alaska, have joined Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, in introducing a bipartisan bill that would extend reporting deadlines for 2020 census results.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

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Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The Coronavirus Crisis
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«The impact of this Census will be felt for the next 10 years, and we simply cannot afford an undercount,» Sullivan said. «Pushing back the deadline is the appropriate response to make sure this Census is accurate and successful.»

Another Republican lawmaker from Alaska — Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving GOP member in the House of Representatives — introduced a companion bill to Sullivan and Murkowski’s legislation Tuesday, along with Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona.

While the Sept. 30 end date for counting draws nearer, however, this new legislation’s future is unclear. Many lawmakers have been hoping to add census deadline extensions to the next coronavirus relief package, but the chances of a bipartisan deal have dimmed in recent days.

Over the past five months, the question of how much time the bureau would have to conduct the census — which is used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal money — has become increasingly partisan.

Until Tuesday’s bill, only Democrats in the House and Senate, including Schatz, had introduced legislation that would grant the deadline extensions the bureau requested. These previous bills include language that would block the administration’s ongoing efforts to use government records to produce data on the citizenship status of every adult living in the U.S.

The Trump administration made an abrupt shift in its position in late July, when it directed the bureau to speed up its efforts in order to end counting on Sept. 30. That came about a week after President Trump issued a now-blocked memorandum, which called for unauthorized immigrants to be excluded from the new state population numbers used to reapportion House seats among the states.

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The bureau is now entangled in two federal lawsuits over the administration’s decision to cut short the timeline for counting and processing census results. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in Northern California has ordered the bureau to temporarily pause winding down its in-person counting efforts, and a longer-lasting court order that forces the bureau to return to an extended schedule may be issued later this week.

During a court conference on Monday, the judge raised concerns about how the federal agency will finish counting by Sept. 30 in areas where the bureau’s door knockers are having trouble following up in person with households that have not yet participated in the count.

«With all of these fires, storms, resurgence of COVID, the Census Bureau is not going to make any exception?» Koh, sitting inside a smoky courthouse in San Jose, Calif., asked Justice Department attorneys during the video conference. «It’s going to continue to just impose a Sept. 30 cliff even though it will not be able to do nonresponse followup, at least even in the areas where this courthouse sits?»

Justice Department attorney Aleks Sverdlov replied that the bureau is constrained by the Dec. 31 legal deadline for presenting the first set of census results to the president.

«As we’ve pointed out many times,» Sverdlov noted, «this is a problem for Congress to solve.»

  • 2020 Census
  • Census Bureau


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