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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WEBSTER. Madam Chair, the amendment offered here by myself and Mr. Langford is simple. It prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to conduct the intrusive, unconstitutional American Community Survey. In addition to the constitutionally mandated census, the Department of Commerce Census Bureau conducts a number of other surveys. One of these is the American Community Survey which costs $2.4 billion to administer.

Some of the questions which have already been gone over that the American Community Survey contains have been routinely criticized as invasions of privacy. As a citizen who has normal expectations of what is private and what is not private, I share that criticism. For example, the survey requires respondents to detail their emotional condition. The survey wants to know what time respondents left for work and how long it took them to get home. The survey demands to know if respondents have difficulty dressing, or they have need to go shopping. Or have difficulty, as has been said before, concentrating or remembering or making decisions.

Failure to comply with this survey and turn over this personal information is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine. Given the intrusive nature of some of these questions, which are mandatory for Americans to answer under penalty of law, it would seem that these questions hardly fit the scope of what was intended or required by the Constitution.

What does the Constitution require? Article 1, section 2 calls for enumeration every 10 years. The actual enumeration shall be made within 3 years after the first meeting of Congress of the United States and subsequent terms of 10 years.

As you can see, at no point does the Constitution require me to tell the Census Bureau whether I have difficulty concentrating or whether or not I can climb stairs. Given the Nation's current fiscal situation, it is entirely appropriate to eliminate the survey as a taxpayer-funded activity of the U.S. Government.

The American taxpayers agree. I sponsored the majority leader's YouCut program this past week, and eliminating the American Community Survey was overwhelmingly the winner when the citizens were polled what Federal spending they would cut.

We need to ask ourselves whether this survey is worth $2.4 billion. Will continuation of this survey bankrupt the Nation itself? No, not hardly. But
as has been said before, the old saying is a billion here and a billion there, all of a sudden we're talking about a lot of money.

Why would we even pass a cybersecurity bill when we are using 5,779 hired government agents to collect sensitive information from our citizens at taxpayer expense? This American Community Survey is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It is the very picture of what's wrong in D.C.

I have here the questionnaire. At least it would be the questionnaire if Daniel Webster and Sandra and David and Brent and Jordan and Elizabeth and John and Victoria were all questioned. This is the size of that questionnaire. This is what we would have to fill out. This is what would be punishable by law if we did not fill it out. What would you think about some of these others that you read about in the newspaper, the Duggar family, who have 20 children. What would they do? It would be three to four times this size, and they would be required by law to fill it out.

This survey is inappropriate for taxpayer dollars. It is a definition of a breach of personal privacy. It is a picture of what's wrong in Washington, D.C. It's unconstitutional.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the Webster-Langford amendment and prohibit funds from being used to conduct this American Community Survey.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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