The election on Monday of Dr. Robert M. Groves, a University professor of sociology, to be the next leader of the Census Bureau came after a staunch effort by Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) to end a nearly two-month hold on the nomination by two Republican senators.
The nomination glided through hearings in May, earning unanimous approval from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on May 20. But shortly thereafter, Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana issued a hold on the nomination, preventing unanimous consent to confirm Groves to lead the Census Bureau.
In an effort to quicken the process, Reid announced Thursday that he filed for cloture on the nomination — a move that requires a sixty-vote approval and ultimately forces a decision on the nomination.
According to Regan Lachapelle, deputy communications director for the office of Sen. Reid, cloture petitions can be initiated by any senator as long as 15 other senators have signed the petition. But in most cases the Majority Leader will file cloture, Lachapelle wrote in an e-mail interview.
Lachapelle said in an interview on July 10 that there have been many holds filed with President Barack Obama’s nominations. She added that holds take away vital floor time from confirming important governmental positions.
“We of course want to confirm all of these nominees as quickly as possible,” Lachapelle wrote. “It is unfortunate to have to use precious floor time on these nominations, all of which so far have eventually been confirmed. We have so many important issues to address and the President needs his full team.”
Lachapelle added that though holds are common practice in the Senate, filing for cloture for nominees is an uncommon action. She added that Reid has filed cloture for a number of Obama’s appointments, which signals that members of the Senate have had difficulty agreeing on nominations.
“The part that’s uncommon is actually having to file cloture, and we’ve had to do that a number of times this year on the President’s nominees,” she said.
Both Shelby and Vitter said they issued the hold because they were concerned that statistical sampling would be used in the upcoming count. Members of the Republican Party have been concerned that Groves would use statistical sampling because he proposed to do so during the 1990 census while he was the Census Bureau’s associate director. Congress denied the statistical readjustment.
But Commerce Secretary Gary Locke — who oversees the census — said that there are no current plans to use statistical sampling methods in the count and that any adjustments would aim toward measuring the accuracy of the census, according to The Associated Press.
Vincent Hutchings, a political science professor and research associate professor for the Center for Political Studies, said in an interview earlier this month that based on Groves’s background as director of the Institute for Social Research Survey Research Center since 2001, it is likely that he would propose using statistical sampling.
“His credentials suggest that he would be sympathetic to this move, even though the administration said they were not going to do that,” Hutchings said.
Groves has been a University staff member since 1975 and has studied methods to improve survey response and accuracy. He served as associate director of the Census Bureau from 1990 to 1992.
When Groves was originally nominated in April to lead the Census Bureau, James Jackson, director of the University’s Institute for Social Research, praised his appointment.
“Groves is an excellent choice for this important job,” Jackson wrote in a statement on Apr. 1, “and he will be sorely missed at ISR if confirmed for the job at Census.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.