Sen. Carper’s Census Amendment Passes Key Committee

Amendment would establish five-year fixed term for Census Bureau Director; Improves Census and saves taxpayer dollars

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del) amendment to produce a more complete and cost-effective Census count in 2020 unanimously passed the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The amendment would set qualifications and establish a fixed five-year term for the Director of the Census Bureau, which would improve Census management challenges and ultimately save taxpayer dollars.  

The 2010 Census was the most expensive in the nation’s history by far. The total cost of decennial operations escalated from an initial estimate of $11.3 billion to around $13 billion, due, in part to challenges further exacerbated by the organizational difficulties confronting the Census Bureau, including turnover in Census directorship. The decade leading up to the 2010 Census was led by four different directors and several acting directors. The Census Bureau’s current director, Dr. Bob Groves, was appointed just nine months before the start of the decennial census. The Census Bureau Director is the only presidentially-appointed position at a statistical agency that does not have a fixed term.  

“Censuses by their nature cannot be fully designed and executed in a short period of time, but the 2010 Census experienced several changes in leadership and vast spans of time with temporary directors,” said Sen. Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Census. “This lack of consistent leadership throughout the planning process jeopardized the ability of the Census Bureau to operate an accurate and effective count and added billions to the total cost. My amendment establishes continuity across administrations in order to get the best Census count for less money. Moreover, it would rightly treat the Census directorship as a scientific, rather than political position.  

“Just one year after the 2010 enumeration and with Census 2020 nine years down the road, now is the time to put a leadership structure in place that can help advance needed change, produce results, mitigate risks and control costs over the long run,” continued Sen. Carper. “I’d like to thank my colleagues on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for recognizing the importance of this amendment. I will continue work with my all of colleagues in the Senate to see to the bill’s final passage.”  

Sen. Carper’s amendment was approved as part of the bipartisan Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, legislation to clear the backlog of stalled executive nominations by permanently exempting a range of positions from Senate confirmation. Once enacted into law, the bill would eliminate the need for the Senate to vote on roughly 200 executive nominations and 3,000 noncontroversial Officer Corps positions. It would also expedite the nominations of over 250 part-time board or commission positions. In all, the bill reduces the number of positions requiring full Senate confirmation by one-third.