Senate nixes emergency census funding

The Senate has eliminated $210 million in emergency supplemental funding that Commerce Department officials say they need to offset the 2010 census’ rising costs.

The Census Bureau might not get an additional $210 million as a result of a recent Senate vote.The Senate voted 77-21 June 26 to remove the emergency spending designation from the funding, essentially dropping it from the fiscal 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act.Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez had requested additional money for this fiscal year at an April 3 hearing before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. He said the money would help offset the total cost of the 2010 census, which is estimated at $2.2 billion to $3 billion more than the original estimate, bringing the total to $14.5 billion. Some of that  increase has been attributed to the Census Bureau's decision to make follow-up surveys paper-based rather using handheld computers. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who demanded the vote, argued that the $210 million could not be considered emergency spending. He blamed the rising costs on Census' mismanagement.Coburn also said additional funding for the census could be provided in the next fiscal year, which comes in three months.“Emergency spending bills should be reserved only for true emergencies, and the 2010 census is not one of them,” Coburn said in a floor speech. “The real ‘emergency’ with the 2010 census is the failure, mismanagement and incompetence of the Census Bureau."

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