When a Congressional committee pulled legislation from their meeting agenda for March 12 that would have gutted the American Community Survey (ACS), some called it a victory, but we may have only bought ourselves more time.
We discovered late last week that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee planned to vote on H.R. 1078, legislation from Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX-02) that would effectively make responding to the ACS a voluntary option. The bill would remove the mandatory response requirement from all but four ACS questions (name, contact information, date of response, and number of people living or staying at the same address).
The ongoing ACS, which replaced the traditional Census long form in 2005, is sent to 3.5 million addresses every year and collects many useful demographic data — including education, occupation, income, ancestry/ethnicity, disability status, English-language proficiency, housing type and age, health insurance coverage, and commuting patterns — to an extent unavailable from any other source. Most importantly, the ACS provides the baseline for private and public sector survey, opinion and marketing research by ensuring the accuracy and proper weighting of statistical samples for the research profession in the U.S.
More than a few Republican members of the committee are curent or past cosponsors of H.R. 1078. Nearly all of them, like most of the GOP caucus, voted in favor of an amendment to a budget bill back in 2012 that would have similarly eviscerated the ACS had that legislation made it through the Senate.
MRA and our Census Project coalition allies went into overdrive on the Poe bill, reaching out to the committee staff, rank and file committee members, and House leadership. MRA spent much of Friday and Monday on the hill. By the end of the day Monday, we received word that H.R. 1078 had been pulled from the agenda.
Unfortunately, the committee will likely bring the bill back for a vote before too long. That is one reason that the Census Project coalition letter in opposition to H.R. 1078 was still sent on Tuesday. MRA is stepping up our lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill and seeking alternative means to assuage concerns about the ACS.
For more information, contact MRA Director of Government Affairs Howard Fienberg at (202) 800-2545.