Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, appearing before the House Oversight Committee Thursday, defended efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a controversial effort that is facing legal challenges.
"I'm reading it as I'm answering the question", Ross explained.
However, Democrats say that documents released as part of a lawsuit show Ross asked the Justice Department to make that request.
Democrats have claimed that Ross misled them at a March 2018 hearing, when he appeared to testify that he had not discussed with the White House whether to add the controversial question, which many fear could prompt even legal immigrants to avoid completing the census - leading to an inaccurate count of the United States population that would impact a wide range of social services and other government programs. "Michael Cohen lied to Congress and now he's going to prison".
Ocasio-Cortez was not the only Democratic committee member to drill into Ross over the issue. Ultimately, Ross determined in March 2018 that reinstating the question was warranted. Eighteen states, 15 cities and various civil rights groups are plaintiffs in the case.
Opponents say that the question is a political maneuver by the Trump administration.More news: Paris Jackson is 'Doing Fine' After Recent Hospitalization
"This IT integration is critical to ensure there is an accurate count", she said. Census data is used to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding and to determine apportionment and redistricting.
Clay cited an internal email from May 2017 - seven months before the Justice Department request - in which Ross spoke of "my months-old request that we add a citizenship question". In the emails, he expressed frustration that it was not happening quickly enough, and said he would discuss it with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Questioning got testy at several points.
"I do not know anyone who truly believes the Trump administration is interested in enhancing the Voting Rights Act", said Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
"You should in my opinion resign". He ordered the question struck from the census.More news: Uber plans to kick off IPO
In the main decennial census, the government has not asked about citizenship since 1950, although the question is included on smaller survey's on a fraction of U.S. populace. "Kobach is clear about his reason for adding the citizenship question in his correspondence to you", Ocasio-Cortez said. Gosar asked Wilbur Ross during the embattled commerce secretary's congressional grilling on Thursday.
Saying Ross had not submitted the required third report to Congress, Ocasio-Cortez asked, "Why are we violating the law to include this question?"
"If I had a nefarious goal, I surely wouldn't have added $3.2 billion to the budget of the census", Ross said.
The Commerce Department's public affairs office has not responded to NPR's multiple requests for comment about the hearing.
House Oversight Democrats sought to grill Ross on any White House conversations, given that his testimony in front of Congress a year ago suggested he had none.
In another ruling earlier this month, Judge Richard Seeborg of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California also said the change to the census violated federal administrative law and threatened the "very foundation of our democratic system". "American communities will suffer the consequences of this deception, which has increased the climate of fear throughout our country and will undermine the accuracy of the count". He threatened to subpoena requested documents if they aren't supplied in the next week.More news: 49 killed in New Zealand mosque shooting
He noted that Ross had sought to postpone the hearing, but agreed to appear after the committee agreed not to question him about his financial disclosures or the selling of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.