Federal Eye: Census Nominee Vote Expected Today

Later today the Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Robert Groves to serve as the next director of the U.S. Census Bureau following more than a month of objections from Republican lawmakers.

Debate on the Groves nomination begins around 4:30 p.m., with a vote slated to start an hour later, according to Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The full up or down decision comes more than a month since Groves’ successful confirmation hearing.

The nominee served as the Census Bureau’s associate director from 1990 to 1992 and currently is director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. He has researched why people participate in statistical surveys, worked to develop surveys with lower non-response errors and studied how data is collected for surveys. One of his first jobs after graduating from college was as a prison guard with the Vermont State Prison system.

Republicans David Vitter (La.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) have delayed a final vote on Groves by placing holds on his nomination. Vitter sought assurances from the White House that it will not use statistical sampling to adjust next year’s Census and inquired about community activist group ACORN and its involvement with Census activities. Shelby expressed similar concerns about ACORN in a March letter to Obama. Neither has received sufficient answers from the White House, according to spokesmen.

Though the Supreme Court ruled statistical sampling illegal for purposes of Congressional reapportionment, Republicans have seized on Groves’ support for sampling following the 1990 Census. During his confirmation hearing however, he unequivocally stated that sampling will not be used to adjust next year’s results.

ACORN is one of thousands of corporations, churches and civic groups partnering with the Census Bureau to raise awareness among their customers and members about next year’s headcount. Republicans fear ACORN volunteers will be tasked with performing follow up interviews with Americans that do not complete their Census questionnaires. Census officials assure skeptics that the group’s volunteers will only work on outreach efforts.

Despite Republican objections, Groves is expected to clear the Senate by a “very comfortable margin,” according to Manley.

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