- The Trump administration said it will drop a controversial citizenship question it was pushing to add to the 2020 U.S. census after the Supreme Court put a hold on it.
- Opponents argued that the question was part of a Republican strategy to discourage both legal and illegal immigrants from participating in the census.
- They said it would cause states with high noncitizen populations to lose federal funding and seats in the House and give Republicans significant power to redraw district lines.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed that the question would not be on the census and said that printing had already begun, but President Trump tweeted that the reports were “fake news” and said the department was not dropping its quest to include the question.
Administration Drops Citizenship Question
Officials in the Trump administration confirmed Tuesday that they had dropped their plan to add the controversial citizenship question to the U.S. census.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that every 10 years the federal government has to count every person living in the country. For the upcoming census in 2020, the Trump administration wanted to add a question that would ask: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
The question, which was eventually brought before the Supreme Court, was incredibly contentious. Experts described it as the most debated Trump administration initiative to reach the Supreme Court since the travel ban on Muslim countries.
On Thursday, the justices blocked adding the question to the census, arguing that the reason the government wanted the information was “contrived.”
The Court did not strike it down entirely, but said the Trump administration had to come up with a better reason to add the question.
The Trump administration, however, was running out of time to print the 1.5 billion census forms before 2020, having previously said they needed a definitive answer by the end of June.
As a result, the administration decided they did not have enough time to come up with another case, and dropped it altogether.
Why Is It a Big Deal?
The Trump administration argued that adding the citizenship question to the census was necessary to get an idea of how many people were eligible to vote so that they could better enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects the voting rights of minorities.
However, critics of the question argued that including it would deter both legal and illegal immigrants from participating in the census, which would significantly skew the data.
When it comes to incorrect census data, the stakes are very high.
The main purpose for the census is to count the population in the states to determine how many seats each one gets in the House of Representatives. The number of seats also sets how many votes each state gets in the electoral college.
That the data is used to decide how much federal funding each state gets, again based on how many people live there. Those funds amount to about $900 billion total, and states need that money for things like public schools, Medicaid, law enforcement, highway repairs, and more.
Due to these two factors, opponents of the question have argued that if immigrants are deterred from participating in the census and not counted properly, states that have higher noncitizen populations would lose both federal funding and seats in the House.
Experts say that could cause a massive shift in political power from states and cities where more noncitizens tend to live, to states with more rural areas.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, approved putting the question on the census in 2017.
Following that decision, more than two dozen states, cities, and organizations challenged the move in court.
They argued that the Trump administration was not being truthful about their reason for adding the question, and said that it had nothing to do with voting rights.
Instead, they claimed that it was just part of a Republican strategy to shift political boundaries to their advantage because states would use the new census data to redraw their district lines in 2021.
The federal judges who oversaw all three lawsuits ruled in favor of the argument that Ross was not telling the truth about the motives behind the question. That decision was made partly because of certain evidence that was discovered during the trial.
The evidence in question was found on hard drives in the house of a Republican strategist named Thomas Hofeller, who had pushed the administration to add the question before he died last summer.
Hofeller’s hard drives contained a report he had written in 2015 that said adding the citizenship question would give Republicans a significant advantage in the redrawing of district lines.
Another deciding factor for the federal judges was the effectiveness of asking the question. Researchers at the Census Bureau itself even recommended using records from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.
They argued that they would be more accurate and less expensive than adding the citizenship question. The Census Bureau has also said that adding the citizenship question could lead to lower response rates for immigrants and people of color.
Census undercounts of minority groups are already a historic problem. One recent government estimate from the Census Bureau found that around 6.5 million people might not have been counted if the citizenship question had gone on the census forms.
On the other side, the Trump administration argued that asking the question would allow them to get more accurate citizenship data, which would offset any potential harms from lowering the response rate among minority groups and noncitizens.
Many experts have argued that the damage is already done and say fear brought about by the Trump administration’s immigration policies will make it hard for census workers to get accurate data in immigrant neighborhoods even without the question.
As for the census itself, it is set to start in January 2020.
Secretary Ross said in a statement that while he “strongly” disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision, the bureau had already started printing the forms without the question.
Justice Department officials have also confirmed to numerous media outlets that the question will not be on the census forms.
However, Trump seemed to contradict that in a tweet on Wednesday morning, saying, “The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Fox News)
Senate to Vote on 9/11 Victims Fund Bill
- Comedian Jon Stewart and Sen. Rand Paul took swipes at each other this week amid Paul’s efforts to stall a bill that would reauthorize funding for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF).
- The House passed a version of the bill July 12 after Stewart, a long-time advocate for VCF funding, gave testimony before a House committee that later went viral.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand brought the bill to the Senate floor for a unanimous consent vote Wednesday
- But the vote failed when Paul objected and argued that funding should be cut from other areas to offset the funding for VCF.
- Another vote on the bill is set for early next week.
Senate Vote Rescheduled
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and comedian Jon Stewart exchanged heated remarks this week after Paul blocked a bill that would reauthorize the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund from passing on Wednesday.
The VCF was originally formed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 in order to assist the families of people who died or were injured. Funding for the VCF was last reauthorized by Congress in 2015, with funds set to expire December 2020.
However, earlier this year VCF administrator Rupa Bhattacharyya announced that the fund did not have enough money to pay either existing or anticipated claims.
The House voted earlier this month, 402 to 12, to reauthorize the bill through 2092 after comedian and long-time VCF advocate Jon Stewart delivered a powerful testimony during a House committee hearing.
Despite the overwhelming support in the House, many were concerned about objections from the Senate.
On Wednesday, Sen. Paul prevented the Senate from voting on the reauthorization by unanimous consent. Under Senate rules, any one Senator can purpose that a measure is approved by unanimous consent, but that request can also be rejected by a single Senator.
Paul argued that funding should be cut from other areas to offset the money that would be allocated to the VCF. He also added that he would be proposing an amendment.
Sen. Mike Lee also placed a procedural hold on the bill.
Jon Stewart Responds
Paul and Lee’s efforts to stall the VCF reauthorization drew the ire of many, including Jon Stewart, who voiced his frustration on Wednesday while speaking to Fox News host Bret Baier.
“It’s absolutely outrageous,” Stewart said. “And you’ll pardon me if I’m not impressed in any way by Rand Paul’s fiscal responsibility virtue signaling.”
“Bret, this is about what kind of society do we have,” he continued. “At some point, we have to stand up for the people who have always stood up for us, and at this moment in time, maybe cannot stand up for themselves, due to their illnesses and their injuries. And what Rand Paul did today on the Senate was outrageous.”
“He is a guy who put us in hundreds of billions of dollars in debt,” he added, noting how Paul voted for President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut.
“And now he’s going to tell us that a billion dollars a year over 10 years is just too much for us to handle?“
Rand Paul Responds
Paul responded to Stewart’s retorts while speaking to Fox News host Neil Cavuto Thursday.
“I know Jon Stewart, and Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, sometimes informed, but in this case, he’s neither funny nor informed,” the Senator said, going on to argue that he has spent his whole Senate career “putting forward “pay-fors anytime spending is expanded.”
“So he’s really not informed and his name-calling just sort of exposes him as a left-winger, part of the left-wing mob that really isn’t using his brain and is willing to call people names,” he continued.
“Its really kind of disgusting, because see he pretended for years when he was on his comedy show to be somebody who could see both sides and see through the B.S. on both sides. Well, now he is the B.S.”
Both Paul and Lee argued that the reauthorization bill should be passed through an amendment vote and not a unanimous consent vote.
“Not blocking the 9/11 bill – simply asking for a vote on an amendment to offset the cost,” Paul said in a tweet on Wednesday.
An amendment proposed by Lee would give the VCF finite funding of $1 billion a year for 10 years, rather than providing indefinite funds through 2094, like the House bill.
“Since 2011, the 9/11 Victims Fund has always had finite authorizations, and by all accounts it has an excellent record avoiding waste and abuse,” Lee said in a statement on Thursday. “These two things are not coincidental. They go together.”
Others argue that the limited terms set out by Lee’s amendment would just set Congress up for another reauthorization debate in 10 years.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who brought the bill to the floor for the unanimous consent vote, the called Lee’s amendment “unbelievably callous.” She also told the Senators “to stop these political games and pass this bill now.”
Paul also proposed an amendment, though it is not immediately clear how it would change the bill, according to reports.
After negotiations, Gillibrand and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made a joint announcement Thursday saying that the Senate is set to vote on the bill early next week.
They also said that they would oppose both of the amendments put forward by Paul and Lee. Both Senators expect the bill to pass before the Senate leaves for recess in August.
“Senator Paul may have turned his back on our first responders today, but now we have a filibuster-proof bipartisan support of 73 cosponsors in addition to myself,” Gillibrand said.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (Fox News)
Trump Rally Crowd Chants “Send Her Back” After Comments About Rep. Ilhan Omar
- Attendees at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump started chanting “send her back” as Trump talked about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
- This prompted numerous responses, including ones from conservative commentators who condemned the chant.
- During Trump’s speech, he also made numerous false claims about Omar and took several of her past statements out of context.
- While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Pundits Respond to Trump Campaign Rally
Several prominent conservative commentators have spoken out against the “send her back” chant that broke out at the Greenville, North Carolina campaign rally for President Donald Trump, following remarks the president made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Well-known conservative commentator Ben Shapiro condemned the chants in a tweet, writing that while he disliked Omar and believed she was an anti-Semite, “She is also an American citizen and chanting for her deportation based on her exercise of the First Amendment is disgusting.”
“Omar is a citizen and was elected to congress,” YouTube commentator Tim Pool said on Twitter. “You have a problem? Then vote her out. ‘Send her back’ is disgusting.”
Fox News contributor and conservative talk radio host Guy Benson also chimed in, saying “‘Send her back’ is an appalling chant. Omar is a US citizen.”
Omar herself responded on Twitter, writing, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”
Omar also addressed the chants while speaking to reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.
“And as much as he is spewing his fascist ideology on stage, telling U.S. citizens to go back because they do not agree with his detrimental policies for our country, we tell people that here in the United States, dissent is patriotic,” she said.
While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims
The rally comes towards the end of a highly polarized week where Trump’s tweets aimed at the four congresswomen, known as The Squad, and the subsequent debate about whether the president’s remarks are racist have dominated the news cycle.
Trump has continually and fervently defended his remarks, arguing that they were not racist. He has repeatedly said that The Squad hates America and that they should be condemned for their past remarks, not him.
Despite receiving backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump has remained steadfast and continued to lash out at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to return to the countries they are from if they are unhappy in the U.S., despite the fact that all three women were born in America.
However, throughout this whole ordeal, Trump has specifically targeted Omar, a war refugee from Somalia who has lived in the U.S. almost all of her life and has been a U.S. citizen for nearly 20 years.
Trump reiterated many of his old talking points to attack Omar during the rally Wednesday night. Let’s take a took at his most significant claims.
Omar’s Statements on 9/11
Trump started out his blitz against Omar by reciting a frequently used criticized statement she made about the September 11 attacks.
“Omar minimized the September 11 attacks on our homeland, saying ‘some people did something.’ I don’t think so,” Trump said.
That claim, however, is out of context. Omar’s original statement comes from a speech she made at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In that speech, Omar said that the Muslim extremists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks are not representative of the entire Muslim population and that all Muslims should not be treated poorly because of the actions of a few.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned we are only talking about terrorists, and if you say something you are sent to the principle’s office,” Omar said.
“So to me I say, raise hell! Make people feel uncomfortable, because here’s the truth, here’s the truth: far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second class citizen,” she continued.
“And frankly I’m tired of it and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognize that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” she added.
It’s worth noting that CAIR was actually founded in 1994, and not after 9/11, but that fact still does not change the full context of the quote.
Omar’s Statements on ISIS
Later in his speech, Trump said: “She [Omar] pleaded for compassion for ISIS recruits attempting to join the terrorist organization.”
That claim appears to refer to a letter she wrote on November 8, 2016, to a judge overseeing a case in which nine Somali-Americans were found guilty of attempting to join ISIS.
Omar was just one of many who wrote to the judge, seemingly on the defendant’s behalfs, recommending a lighter sentence than the 30-years the prosecution was recommending.
Omar’s letter did not mention the accused by name, but seems to be recommending that in general, judges should consider lighter sentences for young people attempting to join an extremist group.
She did not say this because she supports ISIS, nor anyone joining ISIS, but because she believes a “compassionate” and restorative justice approach is a better way to combat extremism.
She also argued that a 30-plus year sentence for a 20-year-old man is essentially a life sentence, and feeds narratives that extremists use to recruit.
“Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: ‘Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr,’” she wrote.
Some of the most controversial comments of the night were Trump’s comments about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“Omar laughed that Americans speak of al-Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that you don’t say ‘America’ with this intensity,” he said. “You say ‘al-Qaeda’ makes you proud. Al-Qaeda makes you proud!”
What he is referring to here is a 2013 interview Omar had on a local PBS show in Minneapolis while she was working as an activist.
In that interview, she talked about how Islamic terrorist groups seem frightening to Americans because the words seem foreign, even though they usually come from everyday Arabic words.
She says she took a class about terrorism in college and goes on to say, “The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaeda,’ he sort of like — his shoulders went up ‘Al-Qaeda,’ ‘Hezbollah.’”
“But it is that, you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You know, you don’t say ‘the Army’ with an intensity,” she continued. “But you say these names [of terrorist groups] because you want that word to carry weight, you want it to leave something.”
Nowhere in that interview does Omar say she is proud of Al-Qaeda, or that she supports them. In fact, she describes Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups linked to them as “evil” and said they were “taking part in terror” around the world.
Trump also went on to make another comment about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“And at a press conference just this week, when asked whether she supported al-Qaeda,” he said. “She refused to answer. She didn’t want to give an answer to that question.”
That comes from the press conference The Squad held earlier this week to formally respond to Trump’s tweets. When a reporter asked Omar what her response was to Trump’s claim that she supports Al-Qaeda, she responded, “I will not dignify it with an answer.”
“I do not expect every time there is a white supremacist who attacks or there is a white man who kills in a school or in a movie theater, or in a mosque, or in a synagogue, I don’t expect my white community members to respond on whether they love that person or not,” she added.
Accusations of Anti-Semitism
The final claim that Trump made about Omar, which promoted the crowd to start chanting, was about the allegations of anti-Semitism.
“And obviously, and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” he said. That statement refers to a few things.
In February, both parties criticized Omar after she posted a tweet suggesting that pro-Israel groups buy off politicians. In the since-deleted tweet, Omar wrote: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
That tweet got a lot of backlash from people who called the post offensive for using what many took as an anti-Semitic trope. Omar later apologized for the tweet.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she wrote.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she continued. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
The second instance occurred when Omar responded to another member of Congress who criticized her stance on pro-Israel lawmakers, writing, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
Some took that as offensive because they felt that Omar suggested that pro-Israel lawmakers have dual loyalties to Israel and the U.S.
Trump also attacked Omar for her statements, but then a month later, he made a very similar statement. Speaking in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition Trump referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” to a group of Jewish Americans.
See what others are saying: (PolitiFact) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)
House Votes to Condemn Trump’s Tweets to Congresswomen
- The House voted 240 to 187 in favor of a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets that targeted several Democratic Congresswomen as racist.
- Despite the fact that the resolution is only symbolic, many have said the move is significant because it is very uncommon for the House to rebuke a sitting president, with the last instance happening more than 100 years ago.
- The debate on the resolution got heated after Nancy Pelosi was barred from speaking following a statement she made on the floor where she called Trump’s tweets racist.
- Trump defended himself on Twitter arguing that he was not racist, and that the Congresswomen in question should be condemned, not him. Other Republicans also made the same argument during the floor debate.
House Votes to Condemn Trump
The House of Representatives approved a resolution Tuesday condemning a series of tweets by President Donald Trump as “racist comments directed at Members of Congress.”
On Sunday, President Trump said on Twitter that “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen” who came from other countries should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The president’s tweets sparked a significant amount of backlash, largely because they seemed to be about a group of freshman representatives who are known as “The Squad.” The group consists of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).
All of those representatives are women of color who were born in the U.S., with the exception of Omar, who was a Somali war refugee as a child and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.
On Tuesday night, the House voted in favor of a resolution that “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”
The resolution was passed 240 to 187, mostly along party lines. Four Republicans and Independent Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), who recently left the Republican Party, voted in favor of it.
The measure is a non-binding resolution, which means that there is no policy action or law connected to it. Even though the resolution is entirely symbolic, it still is significant because condemning a sitting president is just something the House does not do.
According to the New York Times, it was “the first House rebuke of a president in more than 100 years.”
Drama on the Floor
Making the decision to condemn the president was nowhere near unanimous.
Many members felt strongly about their support or opposition of the resolution, and what resulted was an incredibly polarizing floor debate. One of the most contentious and unusual things that happened during the debate came after a statement from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting, and those comments are racist,” Pelosi said, speaking from the floor. “There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong, unified condemnation.”
“Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” she continued. “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”
Immediately after that statement, Republican Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) asked Pelosi if she wanted to “rephrase that comment.” Pelosi responded that she had cleared her remarks in advance.
Collins went on to ask that Pelosi’s statements be removed from the record because they violated a rule outlined in an 1801 text by Thomas Jefferson. That text, known as the Jefferson Manual, sets the rules and precedents for House procedures on the floor.
Under a long-standing precedent set by that text, Congress members can not make disparaging comments about the president. In other words, members of Congress cannot call the president– or even his words, racist while speaking on the floor.
After Collin’s motion, the members debated for a full hour if Pelosi’s words should be struck. That debate got so heated that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), who was presiding over the House, banged his gavel and walked out of the chamber in anger.
“We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is,” he said. “We want to just fight. I abandon the chair.”
A little later, it was announced that the members decided that Pelosi’s comments were not in order, which meant she was banned from making comments for the rest of the day.
However, Democrats voted to overrule striking her remarks from the record, and Pelosi was allowed to speak again.
The whole ordeal took about two hours, but eventually the resolution was passed, and afterward, Pelosi defended her words.
“I stand by my statement,” Pelosi said, speaking to reporters in the Capitol. “I’m proud of the attention that’s being called to it because what the president said was completely inappropriate against our colleagues, but not just against them, against so many people in our country.”
President Trump took to Twitter to respond to the vote on Tuesday, and defended his previous remarks.
“Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Trump said on Twitter. “This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country.”
…..Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country. Get a list of the HORRIBLE things they have said. Omar is polling at 8%, Cortez at 21%. Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are forever wedded to the Democrat Party. See you in 2020!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2019
After the vote, Trump took to Twitter again to praise House Republicans.
“So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today’s vote concerning statements I made about four Democrat Congresswomen,” Trump said. “If you really want to see statements, look at the horrible things they said about our Country, Israel, and much more.”
Trump was not the only one who said that the House should condemn the things that the four Congresswomen have said in the past. A number of the Republicans who spoke on the floor Tuesday night made the same argument.
Other Republicans defended Trump’s tweets and said they are not racist, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Rep. Sean Duffy.
“In those tweets, I see nothing that references anybody’s race — not a thing — I don’t see anyone’s name being referenced in the tweets, but the president’s referring to people, congresswomen, who are anti-American,” Duffy said.
As for the Democrats, despite their divisions, they appeared to be unified in Tuesday’s vote. However, that unity could be short-lived.
Right after the resolution was passed, Democratic Rep. Al Green (D-LA) reintroduced articles of impeachment against the president.
“What do you do when the leader of the free world is a racist?” Green asked. “You file Articles of Impeachment, impeaching the president of the United States of America.”
If Green can force a debate, Democrats could see renewed divisions between the more liberal members of the party and the more moderate members who have consistently opposed impeachment.