Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke regarding the hiring of Kenneth Prewitt at the Census. Prewitt, a former Census director under President Clinton, had been widely expected as Obama’s choice to run the 2010 Census. Then he abruptly withdrew his name from consideration for unknown reasons.
Now the Census Bureau, which has a new director, is planning to hire Prewitt anyway — possibly to a role that will have big responsibilities but will not require Senate confirmation. Oversight Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R, Calif.) writes in the letter:
Mr. Prewitt’s eagerness to serve as Census Director and his subsequent withdrawal from consideration make his prospective reentry into operations of the 2010 Decennial seem like a backdoor way of allowing him to run the Census Bureau without having to be confirmed by the Senate. For these reasons, it is easy to interpret the Department’s current machinations to hire Mr. Prewitt as a circumvention of Congressional oversight, including the Senate’s Constitutional Advice and Consent authority over Presidential appointments, set forth in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Prewitt’s back door entry into the management of the Census Bureau via his hiring by the Commerce Department would be a blatant disregard of the entire Senate confirmation process and an affront to the Senate’s Constitutional Advice and Consent prerogative.
The question seems to be whether Prewitt will be running the Census from behind a curtain — and if that’s the plan, why should the Senate not have the right to confirm him?