The Senate voted 58-35 Thursday to confirm Robert Santos as the permanent commissioner of the U.S Census Bureau. File Photo by Gil C/Shutterstock
Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The Senate on Thursday confirmed Robert Santos as head of the Census Bureau, making him the first Latino to lead the agency.
Lawmakers voted 58-35 to confirm Santos as the bureau's permanent director after its previous head resigned amid concerns that the agency had been used as a political tool under the Trump administration.
Santos' appointment is expected to last through the end of 2026 as the agency prepares for the 2030 census.
The Census Bureau, which has traditionally held an apolitical role, is responsible for counting the U.S. population, tracking changes in demographics and wealth, and balancing the number of electors to the Electoral College.
During his hearing before the Senate, Santos -- a prominent statistician who is also a vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute -- said the agency needs "more transparency and independence to build public trust" after a "tumultuous" year in 2020.
"I understand the importance of data quality and the Census Bureau's role in providing data that nurtures our democracy, informs our people and promotes our great economy," he said.
In January, former Director Steve Dillingham resigned early amid a whistleblower report that he was trying to pressure career census employees to rush out a report on undocumented immigrants in the United States and was offering financial incentives to get the job done quickly.
Last summer, former President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13880, which demanded that the census not count residents who were not U.S. citizens and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the executive order, dismissing a lawsuit brought by 23 states' attorneys general to halt the order.
The Census Bureau also experienced severe delays in the count as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expressed his support for Santos, saying he believes he will be able to get the agency back on track.
"We need to protect our census from the pressures of partisan politics, and Mr. Santos is a perfect fit," Schumer said. "I am confident that Mr. Santos will restore trust and integrity to one of the most important agencies in government."