Oct. 3 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's nominee to take over as director of the U.S. Census Bureau -- a post that's been vacant for over a year -- will begin taking questions Wednesday from Senate lawmakers.
If confirmed, Steven Dillingham will take over the agency that's preparing for the 2020 census amid some controversy about a question involving citizenship status. The 2020 census is also expected to be the first that's largely conducted online.
The census bureau has been led by acting chief Ron Jarmin since director John Thompson retired in June 2017.
The Trump administration has said the contentious question about citizenship is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Democrats argue the question will scare immigrants from filling out the census and lead to inaccurate figures.
A lawsuit filed by attorneys general from 18 states and six cities seeks to strip the question from the census. A U.S. District Court judge will question Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross next week, who included the question that sparked the legal challenge.
The lawsuit could interfere with the census process, which begins in Alaska in January 2020.
"The Census Bureau has to take the census on time," said Census official Terri Ann Lowenthal. "It simply cannot hit the pause button anywhere ... The Census Bureau will not let any proceedings in court interfere with its continued preparations. There's simply no flexibility in the schedule through the final year and a quarter in preparations."
Lowenthal said if Congress or the court removes the citizenship question, the bureau will make the needed adjustments.