Today, the Senate voted 60 to 39 in favor of cloture and effectively ended debate on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill without considering an amendment proposed by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) which sought to cut off financing for the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 survey unless it added a question about citizenship. Vitter, however, did not go down without a fight. In a final floor speech before the vote, Vitter denied criticism that his amendment was anti-immigrant and demanded an apology from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for promoting inaccurate accusations:
It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me — some of the statements that have been made about it…the Majority Leader called my amendment “anti-immigrant”…Senator Reid said my effort is akin to the activities in the 1950s and 1960s to intimidate Black citizens and try to get them to stay away from voting in the voting booth. I take personal offense to that. I think there’s no reasonable comparison and I ask Senator Reid to apologize to me for that outrageous statement on the Senate floor…
It’s interesting in this debate that the other side has been flailing around for an argument against my amendment. It’s interesting that nobody’s argued — that I’ve heard — that reapportionment should be done counting citizens and non-citizens. That that’s more consistent with the notion of Congress being the representative body of citizens of the United States.
If Vitter were asking for nothing more than a “simple citizenship question,” as he repeatedly claimed throughout his floor speech, Reid’s remarks may have been out of line. However, Vitter consistently justified his amendment by claiming that states with many immigrants would steal the representatives of states with few immigrants if non-citizens aren’t excluded from congressional apportionment decisions. Considering the fact that Vitter’s amendment didn’t contain any language stipulating a change in the way representatives are apportioned, it can only be assumed that he was hoping to limit the enumeration of non-citizens by discouraging them from participating.
Deliberately discouraging non-citizens from participating in the Census and deterring African Americans from voting have one major aspect in common: the violation of the Constitution. The 14th Amendment made African American slaves citizens with voting rights and also stipulated that representatives would be apportioned according to “the whole number of persons in each State.” Along those lines, Vitter’s critics actually have suggested that “reapportionment should be done counting citizens and non-citizens” because the Constitution says so.