Updated Jun 10, 2019

House Oversight schedules contempt vote for AG Bill Barr, Wilbur Ross

Elijah Cummings. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has announced the committee will vote on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas related to its investigation of the Census citizenship question.

Between the lines: The announcement comes on the same day that House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler said he had reached a deal to delay a contempt vote for Barr in exchange for the Justice Department turning over underlying documents from the Mueller report. While the Oversight Committee's vote is related to an entirely different subpoena, DOJ's willingness to compromise under threat of contempt may again come into play over the next 48 hours.

Context: In April, the committee issued 3 subpoenas related to its investigation of the citizenship question, a controversy that has now been taken up by the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has blocked Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore from testifying, citing the committee's refusal to allow a DOJ lawyer to be present in the same room during Gore's deposition.

The big picture: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross touched off a firestorm last year when he announced the addition of the citizenship question. He told lawmakers that he acted solely at the request of the Justice Department to enhance the Voting Rights Act, but critics say the question is intended to influence the allocation of congressional seats across the country.

  • Court documents filed last month revealed that a study conducted by now-deceased GOP gerrymandering strategist Thomas Hofeller concluded that adding a citizenship question would "clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats" and "advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites."
  • Hofeller, who recently died, went on to help write a draft Justice Department letter that argued the question was essential to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the same argument that Ross has used.

What they're saying:

  • Chairman Cummings: "President Trump declared to the entire country that he is fighting all the subpoenas—even when they are bipartisan and seek information on matters as critical as the Census.  The Trump Administration has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing to disregard the Constitution, defy decades of clear precedent, and invent frivolous new arguments to delay and obstruct Congress’ oversight authority, and Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross are complicit in this cover-up."
  • Wilbur Ross: "I never refused to meet with the Chairman.  I did urge him to first provide the information we requested numerous times, and that is why the Committee specifically needs privileged information that the Chairman himself and the litigation process have recognized as confidential. He declined, because the Committee isn’t interested in cooperation - it wants to improperly influence the Supreme Court’s impending decision with media broadsides. ... Let’s remember, in response to the Committee’s requests, the Department has provided 14,000 pages of documents, I have voluntarily testified before the Committee for nearly seven hours, and we have agreed to make three Department witnesses available for interviews in the next two weeks, including one scheduled for tomorrow."

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Six Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers have sued CVS Health, alleging the pharmacy chain overcharged them based on "artificially inflated prices" for generic drugs and concealed the true cash prices of those drugs.

The big picture: CVS has faced legal scrutiny over its cash discount programs since 2015, and this lawsuit adds big names to a mounting problem.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 patients in hospital after another day of zero new infections. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But it was decided to include her in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,690,951 — Total deaths: 355,575 — Total recoveries — 2,350,071Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,699,073 — Total deaths: 100,396 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Public health: CDC issues guidelines for reopening officesFauci says data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine.
  4. States: California hospitals strained by patients in MexicoTexas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to state voters.
  5. Business: MGM plans to reopen major Las Vegas resorts in June — African American business owners have seen less relief from PPP, Goldman Sachs says.
  6. Tech: AI will help in the pandemic — but it might not be in time for this one.
  7. World: EU proposes a massive pandemic rescue package.
  8. 1 🎶 thing: Local music venues get rocked by coronavirus.
  9. 🎧 Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter ... vs. Trump.
  10. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy