Amid questions about his personal financial disclosures and legal challenges over his decisions to add a question to the 2020 Census on citizenship, President Donald Trump's Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, is again refusing to testify before a key spending committee in the Congress, drawing sharp criticism from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
The latest refusal by Ross was to appear for a regular budget hearing before the House Appropriations Committee; last week, Ross backed out of testimony on the President's 2020 budget before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"I was looking forward to asking him why he misled me during his last appearance," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), referring to Ross's answers about the citizenship question on the Census.
"What do you have to hide?" Leahy added.
In a letter, Ross offered to have his deputies testify instead - which is not normal procedure in Congress on a President's budget request.
“I know our bureau heads can provide all the information your members need to carry out their appropriations duties,” Ross wrote to the House Appropriations Committee, asking that others testify in his place.
JUST IN: @SecretaryRoss is refusing to testify on @CommerceGov’s budget, writing: “My appearance...would unfortunately distract from the Department’s important business before the subcommittee.”— House Appropriations (@AppropsDems) April 3, 2019
Mr. Secretary, government funding IS the business of the Appropriations Committee. pic.twitter.com/OACWJxdE5w
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also declining to testify in front of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Approps subcommittee today.— Jennifer Shutt (@JenniferShutt) April 3, 2019
Friendly reminder: These subcommittees determine how much funding his department receives and have the ability to set restrictions on spending. pic.twitter.com/mFl43k37lU
The Census issue has proven to be very controversial for Ross, as questions about the veracity of his statements, and the actions of his department, will go before the U.S. Supreme Court later this month, in arguments on April 23.
Lower courts have barred the Commerce Department from adding the citizenship question, finding there was a 'smorgasbord' of administrative law violations in the decision-making on the census question.
On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee voted along party lines to subpoena records from the Commerce Department about the decision to add the citizenship question.
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