Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (Nev.-03) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of today’s vote to override President Donald Trump’s veto of H.J.Res. 76, Rep. Lee’s resolution overturning Education Sec. Betsy DeVos’s 2019 Borrower Defense rule that guts essential protections for student borrowers and taxpayers.
Rep. Lee’s bill was passed by both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support and supported by a number of organizations from across the ideological spectrum, including veterans’ organizations such as The American Legion. President Trump vetoed her bill on May 29, 2020, leading to the House’s vote to overturn his veto today. The final veto override vote was 238 to 173 with 19 members not voting, failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass the House.
The following are Rep. Lee’s floor remarks urging her colleagues to vote in favor of overriding the President’s veto of H.J.Res. 76:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge my colleagues to join me in overriding the presidential veto of House Joint Resolution 76.
“Last night, we took a historic vote for racial justice—the Justice in Policing Act.
“Time and again, Congress takes votes—votes like this one that will soon be forgotten in the media—but these are the votes that quietly perpetuate the systemic inequality and racism in our country.
“That’s what this vote today is about.
“Communities of color, minority and low-income students, and veterans are preyed upon by predatory, for-profit schools. They’re manipulated, they’re lied to, they’re defrauded.
“Because we, the federal government, did not do enough to prevent that fraud, we established the Borrower Defense rule as part of the Higher Education Act as a way to give those students a path to justice and relief.
“But the Department of Education not only rewrote that rule to make justice for our students virtually impossible, it’s also failing to hold these predatory schools accountable for their actions.
“Time and again, we tell young students in this country: education is the answer.
“And they believe us, but that system failed them.
“The system failed my constituent, Kendrick Harrison, a brave Iraqi war veteran, a father, a Black American.
“Kendrick and his family were left homeless after his for-profit school blew through his GI benefits and convinced him to take out $16,000 in debt, right before shutting their doors.
“He’s fighting to this day, working as hard as anyone, to get his life back on track.
“And I promise, his story is not an exception. There are over 350,000 students in recent years who were lied to, manipulated, and defrauded by predatory schools.
“So, I ask my colleagues, are you going to stand with these students? Are you going to stand with a system that perpetuates inequality and holds down brave Americans like Kendrick?
“Are you going to let these for-profit schools wreak havoc on the lives of these students and take advantage of American taxpayers?
“Because it’s us, American taxpayers, who foot the bill for these bad actor schools because the Department of Education refuses to hold them accountable.
“Well, I’m ready to take a stand against this broken policy and I need you to stand with me.
“Take a stand for the very communities who have been rising up in this country.
“These protests over the last several weeks, they are about police brutality, but they’re about so much more.
“They’re about decisions that we make in this body that continue to perpetuate inequality and continue to stack the deck against Black Americans, student veterans, students in poverty, and working people who are just trying to better themselves.
“I urge my colleagues to vote to override the President’s veto. It’s time to take a stand.
In September 2019, Rep. Lee and Sen. Durbin introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the 2019 Borrower Defense rule.
In January 2020, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Lee’s resolution with bipartisan support. Following suit, in March 2020, the Senate passed Sen. Durbin’s resolution with bipartisan support, successfully passing the resolution through both chambers of Congress.
The resolutions were supported by a number of organizations, including veterans’ organizations such as The American Legion and Student Veterans of America.
President Trump vetoed the resolution on May 29, 2020, leading to the House’s vote to overturn his veto today. The final veto override vote was 238 to 173 with 19 members not voting, failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass the House.
2019 Borrower Defense Rule
The Secretary DeVos-led 2019 Borrower Defense rule makes it more difficult for borrowers who were defrauded by their schools or harmed by school closures to receive the relief to which they are entitled, and which Congress intended, under the Higher Education Act (HEA). Specifically, the 2019 rule:
- Cuts $11.1 billion in expected relief to students compared to the 2016 rule by making it more difficult for borrowers to obtain relief;
- Increases the burden on defrauded borrowers to gather and submit, often impossible to obtain, evidence to prove their claim including that the school intentionally harmed them;
- Requires borrowers to apply individually for relief rather than receiving automatic discharges when a group of borrowers has been harmed by widespread fraud or misconduct;
- Establishes a statute of limitations on claims—expiring three years after leaving school—despite the fact that a school’s misconduct often doesn’t become known until many years after it;
- Eliminates judgments against a school for misconduct as a sufficient ground for a borrower to receive a discharge;
- Eliminates prohibition on class action bans and mandatory arbitration clauses from the 2016 rule—practices used, primarily in the for-profit college industry, to prevent students from suing a school for misconduct;
- Eliminates ability for borrowers whose claims were denied from having their claims reconsidered with new evidence;
- Eliminates the automatic closed school discharge provision from the 2016 rule for schools that close after July 1, 2020. The provision requires automatic discharge of loans for any borrower who has not enrolled in another Title IV program within three years of the school’s closure.
History of the Borrower Defense Rule
In 1992, Congress added a provision, known as borrower defense, to the Higher Education Act to give borrowers a legal right to discharge their federal student loans due to misconduct by their institution. In 1995, the Department of Education, at the direction of Congress, promulgated a final rule establishing the criteria for borrowers to receive a borrower defense discharge. The authority was rarely used until the major collapse of predatory, for-profit Corinthian Colleges.
As a result of this collapse which left an estimated 350,000 students with worthless degrees and fraudulent student debt, the Department began receiving a flood of borrower defense claims from Corinthian and other students—largely from for-profit colleges. Facing a flood of defrauded borrowers seeking discharges, the Obama Department announced it would enter a negotiated rulemaking process to update its 1995 borrower defense rule because it “provided little detail on how borrowers could submit, and how the Department would adjudicate claims.”
In October 2016, the Department issued its final borrower defense rule—estimated to provide $17 billion in relief to students harmed by school misconduct and abrupt school closures. Upon taking office, Secretary DeVos delayed implementation of the 2016 rule—delays which a federal judge eventually found to be illegal—and announced an effort to rewrite the rule. In the meantime, the Department has more than 227,000 pending claims from students waiting for relief and, as of December 10, 2019, the Department has not discharged a single borrower defense claim in 18 months.