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Groves Confirmed as Census Head

Updated Tuesday 1:42 p.m.

The Senate on Monday confirmed Robert Groves to lead the Census Bureau, approving the nomination on a voice vote after successfully breaking a GOP hold that had tied up the installment for almost two months.

The Senate voted 76-15 to break a pair of holds by Republican Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and David Vitter (La.), which delayed consideration of Groves’ nomination since May 20 when the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved it. Both Senators were concerned that Groves, director of the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and a former Census Bureau official, would use statistical sampling for the 2010 census.

“The information collected from the census has a significant impact on the distribution of political power on this country,— Shelby said in a floor statement Monday, noting that census results influence Congressional redistricting and the allocation of federal funds.

But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel, noted that Groves pledged not to use that technique — which Republicans charge is unconstitutional and a political maneuver — and called for his swift confirmation.

During Groves’ confirmation hearing, Collins noted that he “not only committed to keeping politics out of the population count, but also said that he would resign and actively work to stop any action to improperly influence the census for political gain.—

Groves, who will likely be sworn into his Commerce Department post shortly, will begin ramping up to lead the national head count that is set to kick off April 1, 2010. The agency is already beginning to verify addresses in preparation for next year’s census.