Dems: GOP bills 'micromanage' census

Dems: GOP bills 'micromanage' census

The House Government Reform Committee Wednesday marked up seven bills that would change how the Census Bureau conducts the 2000 census, despite charges by Democrats on the panel that the changes amount to "micromanagement" of the census.

On a near party-line vote, Republicans succeeded, by a 23-21 margin, in passing a bill to add post-census local review to the 2000 census, requiring the bureau to allow local communities a chance to review bureau numbers before they become official.

Government Reform Census Subcommittee ranking member Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the bill would add weeks to the census and hamper the bureau's efforts to use the disputed statistical sampling method to render a redistricting number.

"It's real effect is to prevent the use of statistical sampling to complete the census," Maloney said.

Maloney said the bureau already has provided a chance for local comment, and she produced a package of letters from mayors who said they opposed the bill.

Census Subcommittee Chairman Dan Miller, R-Fla., responded with his own letters from local supporters of his bill, including a letter from Republican governors.

Contrary to Democratic claims, Miller said the local review did not preclude the use of sampling, which Republicans oppose.

"Obviously they've managed to convince a handful of mayors," Miller said. "They are peddling snake oil to all the mayors."

Maloney offered a substitute amendment, which was defeated by a 23-21 vote, that would leave it up to the bureau to decide the matter. Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., who has supported sampling in the past, voted for the Democratic amendment and opposed the Miller bill.

Also along party lines, the committee voted to require the bureau to send out a second mailing and include 33 languages on census forms, provisions the Democrats oppose as micromanagement and that the bureau says it already has considered.

Commerce Secretary William Daley, in a letter Tuesday to Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote that he would urge President Clinton to veto the bills.

"According to the Director of the Census Bureau, Kenneth Prewitt, and the professionals at the Census Bureau, these three bills would reduce the accuracy and seriously disrupt the schedule of the Census 2000," Daley wrote.

On a voice vote, the panel also approved less controversial bills that would allow recipients of federal benefits to take census jobs without losing their eligibility; require the bureau to promote the census in all schools; provide an additional $300 million to fund a census advertising campaign; and set up a grants program to promote the census.

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