sectors were invited to testify. Because the hearing was merely on the subject matter, and not a hearing or meeting on the bill itself, no further action was taken on the bill in the immediate wake of the hearing.
Several weeks later, on May 9, two amendments were offered during House floor consideration of H.R. 5326, the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill including funding for the Census Bureau. Both amendments took the form of policy “riders”—not explicitly striking or replacing a specific funding number, but simply prohibiting the use of any funds in the bill for certain purposes. The first amendment (introduced by Rep. Poe) would bar the use of funds in the bill to enforce penalties for nonresponse to the ACS, effectively making the survey voluntary rather than mandatory.10 The second, offered by Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, would prohibit use of the funds to “conduct the survey” altogether. Under the rules governing debate on the bill, consideration of each amendment was limited to five minutes on each side; the central arguments made in favor of the amendments were concern for the intrusive nature of some of the ACS questions and the argument that the detail of the ACS queries exceeds the constitutional mandate for the decennial census. After those short debates, the Poe amendment was judged to have passed by voice vote and the Webster amendment was ultimately passed by a 232–190 vote.11 The next day, the House wrapped up consideration of the whole bill and passed it, as amended.
In the wake of the House vote, a version of the standalone Poe bill (to make the ACS voluntary) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Neither the Paul bill nor the Senate’s Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill for FY 2013 have progressed to further consideration at this writing in summer 2012; the prospects for completing work on the FY 2013 bills could reasonably be described as uncertain heading into a presidential election and the closing sessions of the 112th Congress.12
Introducing the workshop on behalf of the steering committee, CNSTAT Director Constance Citro noted that these recent legislative developments were an “elephant in the room” for the workshop. She noted that the workshop was
10Both the Poe amendment and the full bill, H.R. 931, speak only to the penalty defined in 13 USC § 221(a)—for “willfully refus[ing] or neglect[ing]” to provide a response. They let stand the penalty applying under 13 USC § 221(b), which penalizes giving willfully false answers.
11There was no request to hold a recorded vote after the chair ruled that the yeas had prevailed on the voice vote on the Poe amendment and—initially—the Webster amendment appeared to carry by voice vote as well. Rather than immediately call for a recorded vote on the Webster amendment, floor managers instead asked special dispensation to let a late-arriving speaker comment on the amendment—after which the chair moved on to other amendments. Shortly thereafter, opponents of the Webster amendment prevailed on the bill managers to vacate the voice vote and instead hold a recorded vote, which produced the 232–190 result.
12The Senate appropriations subcommittee’s mark for the Census Bureau gave the Bureau its full request for FY 2013, including some funds for both the 2010 and 2020 decennial censuses and the 2012 economic census that were trimmed in the House version. As of early December 2012, no further congressional action had been taken on the relevant FY 2013 appropriations bills.