Senate Confirms Groves as New Census Director
By Larry Jones
July 27, 2009
The Senate voted 78 15 on July 13 to shut off debate and proceed to consider the nomination of Dr. Robert M. Groves as the new director of the United States Census Bureau. After the vote to end debate, the Senate voted to confirm Groves by voice vote. In a letter to all Senators, Conference President Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels thanked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for filing a motion to end debate on Groves' nomination and urged Senators to vote to confirm him. “With less than ten months before the 2010 census is set to start, it is important that the Census Director be confirmed immediately to have as much time as possible to prepare to lead this enormous effort,” he said.
Senator Thomas Carper (DE), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the Census Bureau and who played a key role in helping Groves' nomination get through the confirmation process, said the confirmation ensures that the Census Bureau “will have the kind of leadership it needs” and that under his leadership, “We can address the serious challenges that could jeopardize the success and cost effectiveness of the 2010 Census.”
Although the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve Groves' nomination on May 20, two Republican Senators Richard Shelby (AL) and David Vitter (LA) placed a hold on his nomination to block a final vote on his confirmation. Both Shelby and Vitter opposed Groves' nomination because of his past association with statistical “sampling,” (a method used to adjust the final census count for undercounting and overcounting).
Groves was one of several senior officials at the Census Bureau who recommended a statistical adjustment to the 1990 census after a post-census survey revealed the largest gap between undercount rates for non-Hispanic Whites and racial minorities since 1940. Although then-Census Director Barbara Everitt Bryant approved the recommendation, it was later overruled by the Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher in 1991.
At his confirmation hearing on May 15, Groves told members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that if confirmed, he would not advocate for a statistical adjustment of the 2010 census. He said it was impractical for the Census Bureau to consider such an option because it had not researched or prepared to implement the complex methodology required for an adjustment. Senator Susan Collins (ME), ranking Republican on the committee, said she was satisfied with Groves' answer and publicly expressed support for his confirmation following his hearing.