Friday, February 13, 2009 at 9:35 am
Byron York had been working the sleepy “Census controversy” beat yesterday, so it makes sense for his story today to focus on how Republicans were fretting about the issue before Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) withdrew his nomination for commerce secretary.
“I think he had buyer’s remorse,” one GOP senator told me. “After he looked into it more, he said, ‘Whoa, this was a mistake.’”
“He’s been getting Republicans walking up to him saying, ‘Are you going to let the White House circumvent you, are you going to let them do this to you?’” one GOP aide who is aware of those conversations told me Thursday night. “This was a natural conflict that was going to arise, and on a personal level, politics aside, people were saying ‘Hey, are you sure you want to do this?’”
York concludes that “the Census issue is likely to intensify” post-Gregg, which is a leap of faith: the White House was only considering shaking up the Census after the Congressional Black Caucus (and other Democrats) balked at the idea of Republican Gregg, who’d opposed statistical “sampling” reforms (which could count more minorities), running the show.
Right now Republicans can do what they had been doing and put heat on the White House not to devolve the management of the Census to the White House. They can bring it up in hearings; they can introduce a bill that the Democrats will almost surely table. But their leverage is gone. Assuming the White House doesn’t choose another Republican to run Commerce — and given the way everyone not named “Robert Gates” or “Ray LaHood” has acted, that’s a strong possibility — the GOP has lost the chance to have a high-level advocate against Census sampling in the administration. If the next commerce secretary agrees with the White House and CBC on sampling, then there will be sampling, no matter what happens to the actual management of the Census.
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