THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF COMMERCE BILL DALEY The Briefing Room
3:55 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY DALEY: Let me make a few comments, and good afternoon. Right now the House of Representatives is engaged in a debate about the Census 2000. Within the next few hours the members will decide whether to adopt a bill requiring post-census local review, and the implications of their actions are enormous. The accuracy of Census 2000 is at stake.
This bill will disrupt census operations by allowing 39,000 local governments to contest counts within their jurisdictions long after April 1, 2000, which is the census date. According to the experts at the Census Bureau, this proposal will seriously disrupt and delay the schedule for the Census 2000 by inserting an operation that did not work well in 1990. Based on the Bureau's analysis of the legislation, I would strongly recommend to the President that he veto this legislation if it was presented to him.
Let me concentrate on a couple other items about the census and about our preparations for it. Most people know that there is a census every 10 years and that it tallies how many people live in our country -- not just citizens, but all people in our country at that time. But not everyone knows how critical it is.
An accurate census is vital to every person, every local government, and our private economy. Decisions on how we distribute federal money, where we place our schools, roads and how businesses should plan and invest, and where to draw district lines for representation all depend on the information from the decennial.
This plan that was put together by professionals at the Census Bureau is well designed and thoroughly tested. It will produce one of the most accurate results possible, and then produce them within the time period accorded by law.
As you know, the Supreme Court ruled last January that the use of scientific sampling to apportion congressional seats was not consistent with the Census Act. They did not rule that it was unconstitutional, they ruled that it was not legal according to the Census Act.
The Court also wrote, however, that the use of scientific sampling was required for purposes other than apportionment, if it's feasible. Those other purposes include the distribution of federal funds to states and localities, and the drawings of lines both state, local and federal legislative districts. The Census Bureau is determined that it would be feasible to use scientific methods for these purposes.
Obviously, this has produced a great controversy in the
Congress, and until the Congress acts and settles its differences with the administration over the use of sampling, funding for the entire Department of Commerce, State, and Justice will cease on June 15th.
It is clear, as the experts at the Census Bureau and the National Academy of Sciences and the vast majority of the statistical community have concluded, that a plan that includes modern scientific methods is the only plan that can correct the differential undercount of children, minorities, the poor, and residence of the very rural and the very urban areas of our country. This is the case, regardless of how much money or effort we pour into non-sampling efforts.
Once again, to reiterate, the 1990 census missed over 8 million people, including 4.4 percent of African Americans, 5 percent of Hispanics, 2.3 of Americans of Asian descent, and over 12 percent of American Indians living on reservations.
Let me again state that without these scientific methods, the Census Bureau will not be able to correct for similar, if not worse, undercounts in 2000.
The President, the Census Bureau, all of us at the Commerce Department and the entire administration are committed to using the most accurate, most modern, most effective methods to ensure this is a success, as the President has emphasized, Because every person in America counts, everyone must be counted.
Thank you very much. I would be happy to take any questions.
Q Why hasn't the administration accepted Chief Justice Rehnquist's request to pull out the Justice Department funding so that it does not get held up by this dispute?
SECRETARY DALEY: We are working with the Congress to accomplish that, if possible. The Congress has to pull it out, not us, to tell you -- legislative action that was taken by the Congress to hold up all three departments; so it's going to be up to Congress to do that.
Q Has the administration rejoined Chief Justice Rehnquist's --
SECRETARY DALEY: We've not taken a position yet to take them out, but we would hope that this box around which all three departments are existing would eventually be taken off and we would be funded for the full year.
Q What can you say about the renewed China trade talks? How soon are you looking for an agreement? What kind of structure --
SECRETARY DALEY: As you know, the President's conversation yesterday and the statement that was put out calls for trade negotiators to go back to Beijing. I'm optimistic that they can come to a conclusion shortly. I wouldn't want to put a time frame on it. The Europeans have yet to come to a conclusion with the Chinese on their differences. So there's, obviously, things to be done not just by us, but by others.
So we're optimistic it will be shortly. As the President stated last Friday in his joint statement, he is committed and fully supports the accession in 1999 of China to the WTO.
Q -- are you looking at an accelerated timetable from what was even envisioned by the President in the news conference last week?
SECRETARY DALEY: Well, again, I'm not going to try to define "shortly." Obviously, the endgame is to try to make sure that when the ministerial occurs in Seattle, and if there is a new round that comes out of that, that China is in the WTO. That would be good for that new round, to make sure that they are in that. That's the endgame. I believe the Chinese endgame is to get in the WTO in order to be involved in the ministerial and be involved in a new round if there is a round.
So I'm optimistic that can be done.
Q Was the President's phone call yesterday a reflection of the fact that the administration underestimated the degree of support among the business community and maybe even Congress?
SECRETARY DALEY: No, I don't think that's the case at all. I think it's still to be seen, the level of support in Congress. And the level of support not only of the business community, of the American people for the deal. The business community I just did a press conference with, and the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce are all very committed to putting together an endeavor to move forward.
They want to see the final deal also, but it remains to be seen, not only their activities, but the support that they can generate not only on the Hill, but among the American people, and the support that we can generate for a good deal.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:03 P.M. EDT