S. 3167: Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act

S. 3167

Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act

Sponsor
Sen. Thomas R. Carper

Date
December 15, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

S.3167 is expected to be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This legislation was introduced by Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) on March 25, 2010. 

Bill Summary

S. 3167 would amend current law to provide for a five-year term of office for the Director of the Census beginning on January 1, 2012, and prohibits any particular individual from serving more than two full terms.

The bill would require the Director to be able to demonstrate the ability to manage large organizations, as well as show experience in the collection, analysis, and use of statistical data.  In addition, the bill stipulates that the Director should report directly to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, without being required to report to any other official of the department. 

Finally, the bill would require the Director to provide a plan to Congress on how the Bureau will test, develop, and implement an internet response option for the 2020 Census.

Member Concerns:  According to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans, members may have concerns with this bill based on the following:

  • We should not reward the Census Bureau for its repeated history of cost overruns and mishaps.  These suggest that the Bureau needs more -- not less – oversight.  S. 3167 would grant greater autonomy to the Census Director.
  • The Bill would have the Director bypass the Commerce under Secretary for Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) in favor of a direct report to the Commerce Secretary; each Commerce Secretary has opposed this proposal. 
  • The Census Bureau wants to be able to operate as independently as possible. It wants to run its own operation without interference with its decisions.  But it was responsible for an almost $3 billion cost over-run on the 2010 census. GAO put the 2010 census on its High Risk list, due to concerns of mismanagement within the Census Bureau. Congress should not reward fiscal irresponsibility by granting additional autonomy.
  • The bill DOES NOT establish accountability. It does not require the Census Bureau to have an Inspector General; it does not establish fiscal constraints; it does not keep the Bureau from overreaching by limiting its discretion on questionnaires and surveys; and it does not require the Bureau to produce alternative methods of procuring statistical data, such as partnerships with universities and the private sector.
  • Consideration of this bill is premature. The 2010 census results will be released in one week, but crucial information concerning the statistical confidence level of the data will not be released until early next year.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that implementing this legislation would have no significant impact on the federal budget.