ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010--CONFERENCE REPORT--Continued -- (Senate - October 14, 2009)
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AMENDMENT NO. 2644
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise to talk about my pending amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, amendment No. 2644. Apparently, this has created some interest and some opposition. It apparently is one of the major, if not the major, reason the majority leader felt the need to file cloture on the Commerce-Justice-State bill rather than simply come to an agreement regarding pending amendments and votes. It saddens me that--although that agreement was all worked out, basically--it was out the window, and he just decided to file cloture and bar votes on all of those amendments, including my amendment No. 2644. I think we should have a reasonable debate on my amendment and then a straightforward vote on the amendment because it is an important topic, directly related to that bill.
What does the amendment do? My amendment is about the next census. It simply says no funds in that appropriations bill can be spent on the next census unless we ask about citizenship. I believe that is a basic requirement for the next census, to give us adequate tools to deal with a whole host of issues, including illegal immigration, including properly handling congressional reapportionment. Again, I find it very sad and, frankly, telling that the majority leader is going to such lengths to avoid having a vote on that simple concept, that simple idea.
Why should we ask a question about citizenship? A couple of reasons. First of all, the census is supposed to give us in Congress important information, detailed information, the tools we need regarding how to handle a host of Federal programs and Federal issues. Certainly a major issue we need to deal with in this country and in this Congress is immigration, including illegal immigration. It seems like basic information we would want to collect. How many folks covered in the census are citizens and how many are noncitizens? That is basic information that would help us in a whole host of ways with regard to Federal programs and with regard to dealing with the immigration issue.
There is another even more important reason, in my opinion, we should collect this information, and that is because one of the most important things any census is used for is reapportioning the U.S. House of Representatives; determining how many House seats each State in the Union gets in terms of representation. As it stands now, the plan is to do the census, to not distinguish in any way between citizens and noncitizens, and therefore to have noncitizens counted in congressional reapportionment. I think this is crazy and goes against the very idea of a representative democracy, people being elected by voters to represent citizens in the Congress. I don't think the Founding Fathers set up our democracy to have noncitizens represented in the Congress.
As it stands now, without asking that simple, basic, fundamental question, noncitizens will be counted in congressional reapportionment. That means States with a particularly large number of noncitizens, including illegal aliens, will be rewarded for that, will get more representation, more say, more clout in the House of Representatives. States that do not have that issue will be hurt. They will get less say, less clout, less Members of the House of Representatives. I think that is fundamentally wrong.
I also have a very specific interest in finding against that because Louisiana is one of nine States that would specifically be hurt. There are at least nine States that will have less representation in the House of Representatives if we count all people in congressional reapportionment, including noncitizens, versus if we just count citizens. It is important to say what those nine States are, and I specifically reached out to the Senators representing those nine specific States to make it clear to them that their States lose out in terms of that equation.
Those States are Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, and Louisiana. Those nine States would have less representation, less say, less clout in the House of Representatives if all people, including noncitizens, are counted in congressional reapportionment versus if only citizens are counted. Once again: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, and Louisiana.
I particularly implore my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, from those States to be aware of that, to support the Vitter amendment, and so we get to a vote on the Vitter amendment, No. 2644, to vote against cloture on the entire bill.
Unfortunately, there are several Senators from those States who voted for cloture yesterday. I hope they will reconsider. I hope they would see, if they vote for cloture again, that they would be preventing us getting to this issue. They would be preventing us getting to a reasonable and full debate and vote on this issue. I implore all Senators from Indiana, including Senator Bayh, who voted for cloture previously; from Iowa, including the Senators there who voted for cloture previously; the two Senators from Michigan; the two Senators from Pennsylvania; the Democratic Senator from North Carolina; the Democratic Senator from Louisiana--please don't vote for cloture again until we can get a reasonable vote on this amendment.
Let me specifically address some of the arguments that have been made against this amendment because I think they are completely erroneous. One argument is this will intimidate folks and discourage noncitizens from filling out the census form. I think it is important to note, No. 1, this citizenship question is asked on the long form. The long form gets millions of responses, and the census has never noted any difficulty in getting folks to fill out the long form.
This question is also asked in the American Community Survey which the Census Bureau does. Again, the same citizenship question is asked here, and we get plenty of responses. The Census Bureau has never noted a big problem in terms of getting those responses.
To make this perfectly clear, I am perfectly willing to revise my amendment so that we only focus on citizenship, not immigration status. I will be happy to revise my amendment so it only mentions and only focuses on citizenship versus immigration status.
The other argument, that the Census Bureau itself has apparently made, is that this would be cumbersome and cost money at this stage in the census. Frankly, I find this pretty ironic coming from a bureaucracy which is spending $13 billion on this new census, up from $4.5 billion from the last census. Here is a bureaucracy where the cost of the new census versus the last census has tripled. The last score they are getting $13 billion, but asking this one question, which they already ask in the long form, which they already ask in the American Community Survey, is a huge problem and will cost too much money. That simply is silly on its face. It is important to do this right. Certainly asking a basic question about citizenship is central to doing it right.
In summary, I urge all my colleagues to demand a vote on this important issue and to vote against cloture on the bill until we get that vote. Then, when we get that vote, I urge all my colleagues to support the Vitter amendment, No. 2644. It is very simple and straightforward. It will say: Ask the citizenship question. Let us know how many folks in the overall count are citizens and how many are noncitizens. That is absolutely essential, No. 1, so we can use the census information as a full tool in many of the programs and policies we debate and implement in Congress. No. 2, it is particularly important for congressional reapportionment.
I do not believe noncitizens should be counted in congressional reapportionment. I don't believe States which have particularly large noncitizen populations should have more say and more clout in Congress because of that than States that do not, and that States such as Louisiana should be penalized. I don't believe those nine States in particular--Louisiana, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon--should be penalized by including noncitizens in congressional reapportionment. I certainly do not believe Senators representing those nine States should vote either for cloture, cutting off a vote on my amendment, or should vote against my amendment.
Again, I particularly urge all Senators from those nine States to stand up for their States, to vote for the interests of their States, to vote for their States getting full and proper representation, to vote against their States being penalized in terms of the census and in terms of congressional reapportionment.
It is a simple issue but a very basic, fundamental issue. The census is an important tool. It only happens once every 10 years. We need to get it right for a whole host of reasons, particularly with congressional reapportionment in mind.
I daresay if any Members of this body go back home to their States and have a discussion in a diner, have a townhall meeting, just ask a representative group of citizens: Did you know that noncitizens, including illegal aliens, are not only counted in the census--but we do not discriminate--we do not know the numbers of noncitizens versus citizens? And, because of that, did you know all of those noncitizens are factored into determining how many House seats each State gets so that States with very large noncitizen populations, including large numbers of illegal aliens, are rewarded for that; they get more clout and say and vote in the House of Representatives, and other States, particularly the nine States I mentioned, are penalized because of that?
I daresay the average citizen would be stunned about that and would say, hardly with any exception: That is not right. We should know those numbers, and we should not count noncitizens in terms of House representation. I certainly think citizens and voters in Indiana, in Iowa, in Oregon, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana would certainly say: Wait a minute, we are being penalized because noncitizens are being counted or being worked into the formula for representation in Congress? That is crazy.
It is crazy. It doesn't meet the smell test, it doesn't meet the commonsense test of the American people, and we should act to make sure the next census is done right, starting by having a vote on the Vitter amendment, No. 2644, and by passing that amendment to the bill.
With that, I yield the floor.
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