U.S. Census Bureau Budget Being Cut in House Floor Deliberations

U.S. Census Bureau Budget Being Cut in House Floor Deliberations
[5/29/14 3:25 pm Update: McNerney and Bridenstine amendments approved in recorded votes. Total cuts on House Floor now total $133 million, lowering the House mark for Census Bureau to $974 million, with more amendments possible, including one to make the ACS voluntary. C-Span is saying final passage of CJS bill expected this evening.

5/29/14 9:40 pm: House approves Poe amendment by voice vote, making the American Community Survey voluntary (by restricting funding to enforce penalties for ACS non-response.) The Poe-Fattah exchange on the amendment is pasted below.]

In its first day of deliberations of the FY15 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill, seven amendments were offered over an 80 minute period diverting funding from the Census Bureau to other parts of the CJS bill. So far, the cuts have amounted to $118 million with votes pending on another $15 million and one amendment withdrawn.

More amendments are expected in day two, including amendments that could make the American Community Survey (ACS) voluntary or otherwise undermine it. In 2012, on the FY13 CJS bill, the House voted to make the ACS voluntary and then to eliminate it altogether. Fortunately, the Senate did not agree to either provision. 

The FY15 request for the Census Bureau is $1.211 billion, an increase of almost $270 million to ramp up for the 2020 Census. The House CJS subcommittee provided $1.118 billion in their draft bill, an amount that was decreased to $1.107 billion in Appropriations Committee deliberations. (These developments are tracked at this blog entry, FY15 Statistical Agency Budget Developments.) The House Floor actions from May 28 decrease that amount to $989 million, an amount that would severely impair preparation for the 2020 Census, thereby risking a more expensive decennial census. 

The House will likely wrap up the FY15 CJS bill this week. On the Senate side, the CJS subcommittee is expected to offer their bill next week.

Three amendments were approved by voice vote last night, one by Congressman Reichert (R-WA) to move $110 million from the Census Bureau to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs. another by Congressman Gibson (R-NY) to move by $4 million for Interagency Crime and Drug Enforcement, and the third by Congressman Nugent (R-FL) for $4 million and to increase funding for State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance.

Recorded votes were requested for two other amendments, one by Congressman McNerney (D-CA) to move $3 million to COPS programs and another by Congressman Bridenstine (R-OK) to shift $12 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the purpose of weather research.

An amendment from Congressman McDermott (D-WA) to shift 3 million to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the purpose of salmon propagation was defeated by voice vote.

Another amendment from Congressman Jolly (R-FL) diverting $8 million to NOAA was withdrawn. See below for the text from the House Clerk Floor proceedings page.

See also this 5/30 Jeff Mervis ScienceInsider report and  this Census Project blog entry by Terri Ann Lowenthal.

​See other ASA Science Policy blog entries. For ASA science policy updates, follow @ASA_SciPol on Twitter.


Census relevant amendments from the House Clerk Floor proceedings page:

An amendment, offered by Mr. McDermott (D-WA), to reduce funding for Periodic Censuses and Programs by $3 million and to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the purpose of salmon propagation by a similar amount. DEFEATED.

An amendment, offered by Mr. Nugent (R-FL), to reduce funding for Periodic Censuses and Programs by $4 million and to increase funding for State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance (mental health courts program) by $2 million and State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance (veterans treatment courts program) by $2 million. PASSED

An amendment, offered by Mr. Bridenstine (R-OK), to reduce funding for Periodic Censuses and Programs by $12 million and to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the purpose of weather research by a similar amount. RECORDED VOTE PASSED

An amendment, offered by Mr. McNerney (D-CA), to reduce funding for Periodic Censuses and Programs by $3 million and to increase funding for Community Oriented Policing Services Programs by a similar amount. RECORDED VOTE PASSED

An amendment, offered by Mr. Gibson (R-NY), to reduce funding for Periodic Censuses and Programs by $4 million and to increase funding for Interagency Crime and Drug Enforcement by a similar amount. PASSED

An amendment, offered by Mr. Reichert (R-WA), to reduce funding for periodic census and programs by $110 million and to increase funding for community oriented policing services programs (hiring and rehiring of additional career law enforcement officers) by a similar amount. PASSED

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The Short Poe-Fattah exchange on the amendment is pasted below from The Congressional Record for May 29.

AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. POE OF TEXAS

Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.

The Clerk read as follows:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

Sec. 541. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to enforce section 221 of title 13, United States Code, with respect to the American Community Survey.

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, the American Community Survey, first of all, is not the Census. What it is is a survey conducted by the Census Bureau of a portion of the American population every year. It has 48 questions, and those questions are intrusive.

There is, in my opinion, intimidation by the Community Survey workers to get this information from citizens.

A single mother in my district told me one of the workers came by her house and started peeping in the window, knocking on the door, and sat in the street waiting for her to come home from work to get this information from her.

The information is intrusive. It violates the right of privacy, in my opinion. It asks questions like: How many times have you been married? Does anyone in your household have a mental problem? What time do you go to work? And:
How many toilets do you have?

It is 48 very intrusive questions.

My amendment is very simple. It prohibits the Federal Government from enforcing a potential fine against a person for failure to fill out this information. Right now, if a person doesn't fill out this information, Community Survey workers tell the citizen that they can be fined $5,000.

Do we really want to fine Americans $5,000 for not telling the government how many toilets they have in their home?

There are other ways this information can be gathered by the government without being intrusive and without violating the right of privacy.

I would ask Members to support my amendment to prohibit a fine being imposed on the American Community Survey, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FATTAH. I will not take more than 50 seconds.

Simply put, the notion that we as a country are better off having less information defies most logic that I can think of at this hour of the night.

I think more information is probably good, and I would ask that we vote against this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I would make this simple comment. This information can be gathered by other means without violating the right of privacy of citizens, and I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe).

The amendment was agreed to.


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