Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) said on Tuesday that he wants his state to have less federal representation and get less federal funding. His reasoning: non-citizens, many of whom live in his state, should not factor into the equation.
The junior senator made the unusual argument during a Fox News interview. Asked about a May 2018 op-ed by then-Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and then-Republican state Sen. René García — which noted that President Donald Trump’s plan to ask about citizenship status on the 2020 national census would discourage undocumented immigrants from participating in the process — Scott acknowledged the impact it would have on Florida.
“‘The state of Florida stands to lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding and as many as two additional congressional seats if the census question on citizenship moves forward and depresses response rates,'” host Dana Perino said, quoting from the op-ed.
Scott responded that he supported asking the citizenship question even though it would hurt his state.
“That’s how we ought to be deciding how many additional congressmen and women Florida gets, it ought to be based on citizenship,” he said.
“I understand their issue, we lose out some federal funding,” he continued, “but the truth is, we should allocate the dollars based on citizenship. We should allocate congressmen and women based on citizenship, so it ought to be on the [census].”
Last month, a spokesperson for Scott told the St. Augustine Record that Scott fully supported Trump’s citizenship question.
“Only the radical left would think otherwise,” the spokesperson said. “Florida is an immigration state, but we believe in legal immigration. It makes us stronger. Illegal immigration makes us weaker.”
Based on Scott’s suggestion that only citizens should count toward apportionment and federal funding, even legal immigrants would not count as residents. Given that the most recent federal estimates showed more than 1.25 million lawful permanent residents live in Florida, the fourth highest of any state, his approach would likely cost his own state millions of dollars.
Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross first announced in March 2018 that the administration would include a question about citizenship on the 2020 census — a move expected to lead to a 5.1% differential decrease in self-response rates among noncitizen households. A legal challenge is currently awaiting decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last week, documents from a deceased political operative were filed in federal court, revealing that he had urged the Trump administration to place the question on the census expressly because it “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”