The vote was 23-14, with Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan being the only Republican to join with Democratic lawmakers in the vote. Democrats say they want specific documents that will determine why Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross decided to add the question. They say the Trump administration has declined to provide those documents despite repeated requests. The vote is the latest example of the ways Democratic lawmakers are using their majority to aggressively investigate the inner workings of President Donald Trump's administration.
Ross said the decision in March 2018 to add the question was based on a Justice Department request to help it enforce the Voting Rights Act. In response to Tuesday's vote, he said his department "has been nothing but cooperative with the committee's expansive and detailed requests for records."
Ross said the department has turned over 11,500 pages of documents and noted that he testified at a recent hearing. But Democrats countered that many of the pages were so heavily redacted that they provided little or no useful information.
"We don't want thousands of pieces of paper. We want the specific priority documents we asked for — unredacted and in full," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel's Democratic chairman. Democratic lawmakers said Ross considered adding the citizenship question from his first days in the administration. They fear it will reduce census participation in immigrant-heavy communities, harming representation and access to federal dollars. They want more information about the back-and-forth between administration officials before the decision was made.
Trump recently tweeted the census will "be meaningless" without the citizenship question. Republicans said the census investigation is an example of "partisan oversight of the Trump administration." "Why don't Democrats want to know whether you are a citizen or not?" asked Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the panel.
Two federal judges have already ruled against the question and the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue before survey forms are printed. It would be the first time since 1950 that the full, once-a-decade census asked people about their citizenship.