Gregg Withdrawal Ignites Census Rhubarb
Unfortunately for the Obama administration, Judd Gregg's withdrawal as commerce secretary has highlighted the effort by the White House to wrest control of the census (and with it, the groundwork for the 2010 Congressional reapportionment). Gregg took a second or third tier issue and vaulted it to the front pages.
Since word had broken that the White House intended to take oversight of the census out of the Commerce Department and give it to the hyper-partisan political operator Rahm Emanuel, the Republicans had worked feverishly to raise public awareness. They had hit the Sunday talk shows and written letters to the White House. Then early on Thursday top Republicans held a press conference to protest the move. Minority Leader John Boehner explained the GOP's chagrin:
This unprecedented move would undermine the goal of a fair and accurate Census count. And it would open the door to massive waste and abuse of taxpayer funds.
The American people expect the Census to be fair, impartial, and free of politics. And they expect us to protect the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars the government distributes each year based on Census data. If this process is controlled by political operatives at the White House, instead of experts and statisticians at the Census Bureau, Americans are right to lose confidence in it.
The Republicans met with limited success. During the week, some op-eds appeared and conservative media did pick up on the story. But given the news of the stimulus bill and the rocky rollout of the bank bailout by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the census story had not reached critical mass. That changed with Gregg's withdrawal.
Turns out that that the President and the Democrats sought to gut the Department of Commerce from the exercise of any authority, starting with taking away from Commerce of the operation of the 2010 Census and giving it to the White House. The Democrats are drunk with power. Senator Gregg got a taste of what was to come from their behavior on the Economic Bill and the Census and said to himself I am sure, "I want no part of this."