Santos, who is Mexican American, was confirmed in a 58-35 vote. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to confirm him.
Santos “is an expert in survey sampling, survey design and more generally in social science/policy research, with over 40 years of experience,” the White House said in a statement at the time of his nomination. He currently serves as vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization.
President Joe Biden’s selection of Santos had followed a turbulent year at the Census Bureau after the coronavirus pandemic hit just as the massive once-a-decade effort to count the US population was getting underway and scrambled the agency’s plans.
The census, which happens every 10 years, determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress, and how billions of dollars in federal funding is spent. Schools, roads and other important things in your community will gain — or lose — funding over the next 10 years depending on this official population tally.
The most recent count was mired in political controversy following the Trump administration’s drive to compile citizenship data and use it to the benefit of Republicans in an effort experts called unprecedented. Former President Donald Trump had specifically attempted to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted when seats in Congress are divvied up between the states.
Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office requiring non-citizens to be included in the Census and apportionment of congressional representatives. He rescinded the Trump-era policy saying that it “conflicted with the principle of equal representation enshrined in our Constitution, census statutes, and historical tradition.”
California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, the son of a cook and house cleaner who immigrated from Mexico, tweeted about the confirmation, saying in part, “Great news! We just confirmed Robert Santos as Director of the Census Bureau—the first Latino to hold the position permanently. An accurate census is critical to our democracy & economy.”
Santos’ term is set to last five years and expire on December 31, 2026.