Opinion: Justice Department to Oversight Committee: Stop trying to do oversight

On Thursday, the Department of Justice blew past its congressionally mandated deadline to hand over documents pertaining to the controversial citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 census. In return, the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee threatened to hold Atty. Gen. William Barr in contempt.

In a move mirroring the viral note an Ohio kid left for his mother explaining why he missed the bus and skipped school, Assistant Atty. Gen. Stephen Boyd wrote the Oversight Committee a letter explaining the missing documents.

With an equal level of conviction as the seemingly elementary-age student who wrote to his mom, “I’ve decided to stay home. This was a tough decision to make while you were gone for 20 minutes,” Boyd assured the committee of complete cooperation.


As he also outlines in his letter, the Department of Justice, of course, has no plans to cooperate.

“One challenge,” Boyd writes, “… has been the the Committee’s desire to conduct oversight of the Commerce Department’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 Census while the matter is being actively litigated.”

Man. He is this close to getting it.

It is, as everyone for the past 243 years has understood it, Congress’ job to check the decisions of the executive branch. And if there is one committee most responsible to fulfill this duty of oversight it would be, *checks notes*, the House Oversight Committee.


In case any confusion remains, “oversight” means watchful and responsible care, or regulatory supervision. Synonyms include supervision, surveillance and inspection, in case Barr still needs further clarity.

So now that everyone is on the same page, Justice Department, I kindly ask the next time you decide to go rogue, at least do what the kid did: Acknowledge we are all on a “roller coaster of emotions” and end your nonapology letter with a pros and cons list.

Brian Boyle is The Times’ editorial page intern.

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