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tv   House Rules Committee Meeting on Barr- Ross Contempt Resolution  CSPAN  July 16, 2019 5:13am-6:00am EDT

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former special counsel robert mueller is on capitol hill next week testifying in back-to-back hearings about possible obstruction of justice and abuses of power by president trump and interference in the presidential election. three,ive on c-span online or listen with the three c-span radio app. this week the house considers a resolution that would hold attorney general william barr and commerce secretary wilbur ross in contempt of congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to the 2020 census. and the trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question. the house rules committee met monday to consider the rules before debate. this is 45 minutes.
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i now recognize the distinguished chairman from maryland, mr. cummings. mr. cummings: thank you, mr. chairman. to you, ranking member cole and mcgovern. thank you for holding this meeting this afternoon. i support the proposal because this resolution to hold attorney general barr and sec. wilbur
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ross in contempt of congress is necessary to preserve the integrity of this body. and of the united states interests. the constitution mandates we conduct a census every 10 years. a thoughtful, fair and accurate count is critical to ensuring that we properly allocate funding and congressional enforcement. for more than a year the trump administration has stonewalled the oversight committee's investigation into the real reason commerce secretary wilbur ross was trying, for the first time in 70 years, to add a citizenship question two the 2020 census. secretary ross testified under oath in front of congress that he added the citizenship
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question "solely" to help the justice department and the voting rights act. -- justice department enforce the voting rights act. but we now know that claim was nothing but a pretext, that in fact the supreme court said that. our committee's investigation uncovered evidence that secretary ross launched a secret campaign to add the citizenship question within days after he assumed his post. we learned that secretary ross ignored warnings from experts inside and outside the census bureau including the bureau's chief scientist. they said that they told him that adding a citizenship question would be costly and harm the accuracy of the census. our investigation also revealed
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that secretary ross spoke with attorney general sessions, steve bannon, and chris copart. contrary to his testimony before the congress, the commerce department conjured up the voting rights rationale to hide these interactions. we first asked for documents from the department of commerce and department of justice when we were in the minority in april and may of 2018. both departments ignored us. when i became chairman i renewed these requests on behalf of the committee and since then the administration has engaged in a purposeful effort to obstruct our investigation. and i do not use the word obstruct lightly. the departments have refused to provide key unredacted documents
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that we need to understand the truth about why they really made this decision. instead, produced thousands of pages that were largely unresponsive, heavily redacted or publicly already available. when they let us interview witnesses, they ordered the witnesses not to answer more than 500 of our questions. secretary ross even refused my request to meet with them to work it out. as a result, on april 2, more than three months ago, after a bipartisan vote, the committee subpoenaed the documents including a secret memo that the department of commerce wrote about the citizenship question and then gave to the department of justice.
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the departments have admitted to us that this memo exists. but they refuse to produce this document and many others. last month, the oversight committee passed a resolution to hold attorney general william barr and secretary wilbur ross in contempt of congress. that vote, by the way, members of the committee, was bipartisan. however, many of our republican colleagues apparently support the trump administration's refusal to comply with our duly authorized subpoenas. they claim that we were interfering with the supreme court's decision on this issue. that argument never made sense since we launched our investigation in 2018. more than 10 months before the supreme court even took up the case, but even if you accept that misguided argument, the
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supreme court case is now over. so that argument is gone. the president announced last week that he would no longer pursue adding a citizenship question to the census. however, in the same speech, the president admitted that he wanted citizenship data to implement partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts. the president's statement directly contradicts secretary ross' sworn testimony to congress that the only and sole reason the trump administration wanted this data was to help the justice department enforce the voting rights act. the departments of justice and commerce were engaged in a campaign to subvert our laws. and the processes that congress put in place to maintain the integrity of the senses.
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--integrity of the censyus census. we need to understand how and why that happens, in order to pass reforms, to ensure that it does not happen again. i urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put the resolutions to hold attorney general barr and secretary ross in contempt of congress. i would asked the committee to expeditiously pass this legislation. with that i yield back. mr. chairman: i recognize the gentleman from ohio. the ranking member mr. jordan. >> no one is stonewalled. no one is stonewalled. the department of justice, and commerce are cooperating, about the citizenship question on the 2020 census. the administration has produced to the committee 14,000 pages from the commerce department, 17,000 from the justice department and secretary ross voluntarily testified for over six hours this spring.
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several administrative witnesses have participated in daylong transcribed interviews, providing information for the investigation. in fact, the committee expected to have another interview this month. in all that testimony, six hours with the secretary and all the transcribed interviews, all of it undercuts the conspiracy theories about the administration's decision to have the citizenship question on the census. we have no testimony, none to support shadowy political operatives, senior white house officials conspiring to use the census for improper purposes. the real question is simple. why don't the democrats want to know how many citizens are in this country? judge alito said this -- no one disputes the idea that we should know how many inhabitants in this country are citizens -- you know the easiest way to figure that out? ask a question on the census. imagine that. ask anyone, on the district, the
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street, do you think we should ask on the census if people are citizens of this country? every single person you talk to will say, sure, aren't we doing that already? and would say yes, we have done it in one form or another for 200 years. the united nations says we should do it. all other countries do it. the idea that they don't want to know boggles my mind. the ruling was narrow. the supreme court did not say asking the question on the census was wrong. they said it was completely appropriate for the government to elicit citizenship information on the census. i believe we need to ask the question on the census. i applaud the president for his work to ensure that we know more about citizenship of our country more than ever before.
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given recent events, the contempt resolution, and the investigation frankly, has been rendered moot. despite this, democrats are rushing this contempt resolution, contempt of congress is one of congress' most powerful tools and should be wielded responsibly. this is not a responsible use of that authority. this is an attempt to delegitimize the citizenship question. something that frankly, everyone thinks we are already asking because we are and everyone thinks we should continue. it is pretty noncontroversial. consider this. the oversight and reform committee has legislative jurisdiction over census. if democrats wanted to remove the question, they could've marked up delegate holmes-norton's bill. no hearing on that bill. they want to give this one contempt instead. i would urge the committee
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to vote against it. i yelled back. mr. chairman: i see you submitted an amendment. would you like to testify on that amendment now? >> if that is appropriate for the chair. we have five amendments. we offered them all in committee. mr. chairman: one amendment. >> they are all facts. one says the number of documents i just described and the fact mr. gore voluntarily appeared before the committee. the other says the attorney general and secretary of commerce continue to engage with the committee. the last two are the most important, to reiterate what we said. we offered all these in committee. these are just facts. a citizenship question is asked by dozens of countries around the world, and the united
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kingdom and united nations recommends it. the final amendment resolves that a citizenship question is not new and has appeared on every census from 1820 to 1950 and every community survey from 2005 to the present. we have been asking this but somehow now we cannot. these were voted down a partyline vote and i would respectfully ask the committee to include them. mr. chairman: with reference to the amendment -- i am sorry, tom. how did i miss you?
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>> i have been very uncharacteristically quiet but i need to be louder. let me ask you by way mr. jordan, because i want some of the facts that you raised in the record. how many pages has the justice department produced to date? mr. jordan: 17,000. mr. cole: the commerce department? mr. jordan: 14,000. mr. cole: has the justice department made officials available for transcribed testimony? mr. jordan: yes, mr. gore and others. we have more witnesses scheduled. mr. cole: has the commerce department made any officials available? quite a lot of information has been forthcoming to your committee. mr. jordan: that is the way it is supposed to work. mr. cole: this one puzzles me for a lot of reasons. are the negotiations going on right now between justice -- i should ask both of you this. you would know probably better than anyone else.
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are there ongoing negotiations now between commerce and committee? >> [indiscernible] i guess they are referring to amendment 4. -- amendment four and five. amendment 4 talks about the idea [indiscernible] this amendment, the department of commerce has produced thousands of documents, that are redacted, already public. or not respondent. but it has refused to produce any of the unredacted key documents identified in the committee subpoenas, including emails about secretary ross.
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[indiscernible] very important document. we have already lost a year of getting the census up and going, and through this process, and we have not been able to get the document. they know what we need. we have narrowed it. they do what they usually do with this administration. they send a whole bunch of documents that are not the documents that we want and they know what we want. they know they exist. and by the way, as the ranking member just said the oversight committee debated this, a similar amendment on june 12, and we rejected it on a bipartisan vote. second on amendment number five. this is the one that as a clause stating the department of justice has been cooperative with the investigation including submitting 17,000 documents.
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this again is misleading. the department of justice has produced thousands of documents, that are redacted, already public or nonresponsive. but doj has refused to produce any of the unredacted key documents identified in committee subpoenas. for example doj has refused to produce a secret memo, a handwritten note that was hand-delivered from commerce to doj. the oversight committee already debated a similar amendment on june 12, and rejected it on a bipartisan vote. >> before you proceed, and also the courtesy to mr. jordan on his amendment. then nice -- let's question him
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with respect to his amendment. then go back to questioning both our distinguished witnesses with reference to their testimony. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i am sorry if i missed that. >> what are we doing right now mr. chairman? are we doing all of them together? >> all five. >> i would just add the secretary himself came and testified under oath for six hours. i figured that is the best way to get information from the department. talk to the secretary himself who was over there for six hours answering every members question. >> with all due respect, if i might, the secretary came screaming and hollering, he did not want to come, and when he came -- i'm not knocking this, but it happened, he took about four bathroom breaks, each one of them was 30 or 40 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, take that
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time off. i just wanted to be clear. i am not knocking him. we get older. [laughter] i am old myself. [laughter] >> i understand that more than i care to. [laughter] i refer to my age, not yours, mr. chairman. mr. jordan, did the president exert executive privilege over documents pursuant to subpoena on april 2? has that been the basis for contempt resolution? did the federal judge uphold? >> exactly right. on april 2 the subpoena, they exerted executive privilege, which they are entitled to do. i do not know what more the they can do. documents they are allowed to give, they give. best the wayify -- the administration carries out
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business, that's the way it's supposed to be. maybe instead of focusing on citizenship -- you know how many hearings we have had an actual census process? zero. maybe instead of this singular focus on asking a question that everyone in the country thinks we should already ask and have been asking for 200 years, maybe we should figure out how the census will work and make it work well. >> to get it in for the record, how many times has the citizenship question been listed on a decennial census from 1820 to 1950? >> every time. >> 1970 to 2000? >> every time. >> and the american survey from -- community survey from 2005 to the present? >> every time. >> and the u.n. recommends a citizenship question as a best practice? >> the group you and i do not always like, yes they do.
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>> i would assume so, but your view, you think this is premature because there are ongoing negotiations to be bringing this before congress? this will put us in a legal situation as an institution. i do not go into those things unless i am absolutely sure i am going to win because it weakens the power of the institution, if we go into court and fail. the courts are respectful of the division of power between the institutions. these are never slamdunk cases.
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they prefer, usually will ask over and over again, have you really worked as hard as you can to work this out? they do not want to be in the position of making these rulings. >> you are exactly right. this is premature at best. even the supreme court in their 5-4 decision stopped it on a technical reason. i would argue republican independents across this country, everybody wants us -- wants to ask this question except democrats in congress. >> with all due respect [indiscernible] you have ample opportunity. >> i just want to make sure the truth comes out. >> mr. marelli? none of these amendments would add the citizenship question to the form. that is not what you are intending to do? >> we can't do that. only the commerce department and administration can add to the form. these are statements we offered we think make the resolution -- they are just facts, the truth we wanted in the resolution.
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>> and i note it does not include any conversation about the redacted nature of the documentation which has been submitted, nor the fact that since 1950 there has not been a question on the census. is that right? >> this amendment is highly misleading. the citizenship question has not been on the form in 70 years. -- on the short form of the senses, the form that goes everyone in the u.s. in 70 years. >> correct. to my point that the short form used for every american has not included that for 70. >> for 70 years. >> that is not reflected anywhere in the amendments i note. >> no, i don't see it. >> thank you. >> it is reflected in the amendments. we say from 1820 to 1950. then we say on other forms, it has been on those forms since that time. we spell out exactly the way it
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has been done. >> i find myself agreeing with mr. jordan. i was not confused when i read it. whether or not it began in 1980, the fact he mentioned it let me -- led me to believe it was not included. they had to go to the next thing, the longform, then the american community survey. i understand that the two of you know this issue well. but i believe i can go back home to georgia and ask every man and woman on the street about what is going on here in congress today and they would say it is about whether or not we can include a census question. then it talks about citizenship and maybe that is just unheard of and we should not involved in that. that is what congress is working on. the value i find in the
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jordan amendments is that it clarifies what is absolutely confusing to so many of my constituents about a process the house is going through. we just do not do contempt resolutions that often. for folks to have thought a court settled this already and for congress to still working on it, it is confusing. nobody else offered any amendments to my knowledge. but we could add the language. amendment number four, secretary of commerce has produced over 14,000 documents responsive to april 2 meeting concluding on june 3, 2019, some documents were redacted and the administration claimed privilege for those. if the chairman's point is that
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these amendments are misleading, -- and if my testimony is that there is misleading information in the public domain needs to be cleared up, it would seem that we could improve these amendments, if that need be done to address exactly this issue. i could go down and poll the members of the institution. i don't think members of the house floor will know this question was on the short form, the longform after that and the community survey after that. what is the harm in including these? and if there is an opportunity to mislead folks we can correct that. >> once again, mr. jordan has testified regarding the amendment and we are questioning mr. jordan with reference to his amendment. not the chairman. you'll get an opportunity to ask that same question at some point. >> i understand.
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i feel a little funny doing it out of deference and a great respect that i have for the chairman. i will ask mr. jordan, why does the chairman not support these amendments? >> the gentleman raises a good point. everything in that amendment is fact. why not include more facts? it will be voted on the floor at some point this week. if i understand this committee will do what i think they will do, they will vote on it. those are key facts. >> because it is so confusing, if the administration is refusing to give congress something congress is legally entitled to, i want to fix that too. i don't want any administration to tell congress no, when congress is asked with doing
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-- tasked with doing that oversight. candidly, until i find myself with the benefit of all the work you all have been doing i didn't understand the whole depth of this and see the value. did you offer these amendments in committee. >> every single one. >> and they were rejected? >> they were. >> was there bipartisan support and you could not get enough? >> it was straight party line. >> we have different rules here mr. chairman but i will give you a chance. >> i want to make sure when we have bipartisanship, we mention it. that is all. >> they voted against putting some of them on the resolution. >> mr. chairman, i will yield
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back. >> i will admit to being a little unclear. are we talking the amendments? >> the amendments. >> when are we going to talk on the underlying? >> when they finish the questioning in reference to the amendment. >> very well. i will reserve my questions until we talk on the underlying bill. >> thank you. i just want to say i support the amendments and i hope they are in order. >> thank you. you came in a little late and we are in the process of questioning mr. jordan with reference to his amendment. i don't know if you heard them at all so i assume you don't have any questions in reference to his amendment. with that in mind we will now go to the questioning of both of our witnesses, starting with the chairman.
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i don't have any questions. mr. chairman? all right. >> thank you very much. actually the dialogue we had answered questions i had. i appreciate that and i yield back. >> thank you. i appreciate what mr. cole said, the dialogue you and mr. jordan had to going to court too soon and undermining the institution. i think we have done too many things to undermine the power of article one, generally to the advantage of article two. i do not have the benefit of
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doing the study that you gentlemen have done on this issue. i have not asked the chairman but i will stipulate on the chairman's behalf that this is not a political exercise but that it is a serious attempt to expand and enforce the role that article one has under the u.s. constitution. my question to you mr. jordan, i believe you also share that desire to ensure article one is not eroded. article two does not benefit to the detriment of article one. of these papers that the chairman has talked about, the redacted versions he wished was not redacted, emails he wished had not been produced, are there documents out there that your conclusion is that the administration is wrongfully withholding from the u.s. congress and thus you want to
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continue negotiation with them to produce those but you do not think this is the right way to do it? >> we want to get as many documents as we can. that will help us do the work the committee is required to do. executive privilege is executive privilege. this is important for people to understand. some of this was happening while the supreme court was deciding the case. there is a member of our committee on the democratic side of the aisle he said we are doing this to impact the court. we are not supposed to do that either. there is a balance here. we want every bit of information we get. i know it was like dealing with the previous administration. stuff we wanted to get on big things we did. we certainly want that. you have to do it in a way consistent with how it works with the judiciary branch and executive privilege. secretary ross sat for over six hours and answered everyone's
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questions and he is under oath when you testified in front of congress. so i think we should keep doing the investigation and focus on is the census going to work right. let's move forward and do what we need to do instead we will hold people in contempt. i think at a minimum it is premature. >> i remember when we held attorney general holder in contempt. i do not recall any beneficial outcome of that vote on the floor of the house. what is the outcome here? this is a different process. >> i do not know what the outcome will be. i wish i did. you said something that is so profound and which i agree with. that when we are not getting the information that we are supposed to get -- and i am not trying to put words in your mouth, but i want to make sure that we are clear.
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when you take away the power of the congress of the united states, we need to hold this administration, it is our duty, what we are sworn to do, to check and balance, and if we cannot get documents and we cannot get people to come before us, and people who come before us will not answer questions, how can we hold anybody accountable? i don't think anyone in congress would allow that in our offices. when you cannot have any accountability. and let me say this, i think the thing that really bothers me about this, we are not johnny come lately to this, we started this over a year ago trying to get these documents. we have been rope-a-doped. they have done everything in their power not to give us what we need. they know what we need, we know
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what we need, and they will not give it to us. >> i know the american people are impatient with our progress on capitol hill on a number of fronts. we started this process over a year ago. in capitol hill terms, in congress versus the administration terms, is that a long time? my recollection in the fast and furious investigation is it went on much longer than a year. >> i'm a different kind of chairman. i'm a different kind of chairman. let me just say life is short. >> you are complaining that we waited too long to hold the obama administration in contempt? >> let me tell you something, i worked with the majority then, and did everything in my power to work with the obama administration, to help them. as chairman i signed 700 letters with the majority, investigating the obama administration. i don't get that kind of cooperation here.
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all i'm saying to you is that we need to put a mirror up to ourselves and make sure that we don't give away our power to the president. i'm not knocking the president, i just want to make sure that we are in a position to get what we need to do what we are sworn to do. >> and do you share any of the concerns that mr. jordan talked about earlier, that if we move to contempt prematurely, we actually disadvantage article 1 relative to article 2? >> no. no. because i may be dead by the time we get around to this. we have to get this done, we need to deal with this. we cannot have a president just rope-a-dope all of us, and i'm not only speaking for democrats. i am talking about the united states. the people that come after me. i want them to have the same power that i have, and that you have. >> of course.
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and when i express my concerns, i'm not speaking on behalf of republicans. >> i don't think anything otherwise, i'm just telling you where i'm coming from. >> the attorney general of united states turned over 14,000, commerce department over 17,000 documents, attorney general has been attorney general for 4.5 months,and what is his reward for doing things the way you are supposed to? hold him in contempt. we know what this is all about. we should be focused on the census works right instead of focusing on this one question, which everyone in this country knows should be asked except members of the democrats in congress. this is so stinking common sense. unfortunately we will not do so. the easiest way to get this information is on the census. but that will not happen. so we have to do it another way. let's figure out a way to work the census instead of holding people in contempt.
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>> of the documents turned over, how much has been redacted and how much has been unredacted? >> the problem is a lot of it has been redacted. the problem is we are not getting the documents that we want. we have narrowed it and we cannot get any of those documents. that is the problem. i could give you all kinds of stuff. i am sure you have seen it. i don't know how your committee deals with a lot of documents, but we get documents a lot of the time where it is just a black page. literally. lots of them. >> i just have an observation. mr. jordan has already stated, when i talk to people back home about this they say, you are not already doing that, asking the
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question? why would we not want the data? why would we not want to know? i think it is the purpose of the census is that so, yes, there is allocation of resources, allocation of votes. why wouldn't we want to know? why would we purposefully construct a census that is going to be flawed from the very beginning? i realize that is not a question. the question is on the contempt resolution. i just think we are focused on the wrong problem. we are better than that. you can solve this problem. we need the data. it is just as simple as that. i yield back. >> i think mr. jordan, the problem here is credibility. that in my district, people see the census question in the context of the anti-immigration rhetoric of the administration.
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and therefore, they connect it with all of that. i do have a question, i don't understand, you said this as a social scientist, what is the redaction? what would you redact when you are dealing with census data? i understand it in a national security sense, but i sure do not understand it in providing information to the congress that you all have requested. >> redaction's are not in relation to actual census data. reductions are in relation to conversations between people in the administration, privilege has been asserted, that is were the redaction issue comes in, specific emails that they have requested. again, that is why i point to the simple fact. we have the top guy, the commerce secretary answering questions for six hours. somehow that was not good enough. >> may i?
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we are trying to get to the truth. let's not kid ourselves. we had -- the courts have found -- and i generally don't use the word lie, i try to stay away from it. but the courts have said, they used the word pretext, they said that there were lies in coming up with the census rationale. i didn't say that, the court said it. and even the supreme court said it. so, you know, and we want to get to the bottom of this. the census comes under my committee. we are supposed to produce an accurate census. congresswoman, there are people in the department of justice and in the commerce department who
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said that if you do put the citizenship question on there, you're not going to have an accurate census. he knows it and they know it. and so all we are trying to do is what the constitution says, period. >> ms. lesko? >> thank you mr. chair. i'm going to say what i usually say in judiciary committee, i wish we would get to working on big issues that the people care about in our country in a bipartisan fashion, like reforming our immigration laws, so we can help stop the crisis at the border. maybe improving health care and educating. instead we are doing another contempt of congress, which we are repeatedly doing in judiciary and seems like all kinds of committees.
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and i tell you what, the people in arizona and my district, this is not what they want. i really think it is going to backfire on on the majority. >> may i respond? every two years, as you know, we put up our hands to uphold the constitution of the united states of america. and i know some people may be disappointed in some of the things that we do, but i spend every hour and moment that i'm here trying to do what i'm sworn to do for the 700,000 people who sent me here. and one of the things that i do want to do, too, is for future generations and for us, is preserve the power of this congress, because it is so very, very important to us maintaining this precious thing we call democracy. >> thank you very much. does any other member of the committee have a question? >> i just want to make a quick motion.
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excuse me, the next bill. >> i would like to thank our witnesses for being here today. leave anything you would like in the record with us. you are now dismissed. >> the full house will consider that resolution to hold william barr and wilbur ross in contempt of congress for failing to comply with subpoenas. you can follow the house debate live. >> here is a look at our live coverage tuesday. on c-span the house returns at home :00 a.m. eastern for general speeches with legislative business said new and. consider al resolution condemning president trump for recent tweets and comments seem made about four freshmen members of congress.
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the senate is back to vote on a judicial nomination for the third circuit court of appeals and begin consideration of tax treaties that would amend existing agreements with spain, switzerland, japan and luxembourg. his confirmation hearing before the senate armed services committee. that is followed by senate homeland security and governmental affairs hearing on preparations for the 2020 census.
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a new c-span poll shows 78% of americans view nasa favorably. that is over 11 times more than those who have an unfavorable view of the agency. americans also want nasa to continue to lead in space. and democratsans more people disagree with privatizing space exploration than agree with the policy. 1% of only -- 27% of those polled support private businesses exploring space. you can learn more at on monday. he signed a proclamation declaring july 15 is made america day. the president


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