Congress

House Democrats push through measure to nullify Trump student loan rule

Democrats get only 6 GOP votes as effort moves to Senate

Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., is the sponsor of the Democratic measure to overturn the Trump administration's revamp of the Obama-era student borrower debt forgiveness rule. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House on Thursday passed mostly along party lines a measure that would overturn a Trump administration rule rolling back protections for student loan borrowers, but the margin was well short of being veto-proof.

The joint resolution passed 231-180 with six Republicans joining 225 Democrats in favor. It now heads to the Republican-led Senate but must wait until after the presidential impeachment trial.

Still, the House’s action marks the first time in the 116th Congress that lawmakers have sought to overturn a Trump administration regulation via passage of a resolution under the Congressional Review Act.

The law allows Congress to overturn regulatory actions of federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers, but subject to a presidential veto. Democrats in the Senate can force a vote, and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., is leading the effort in the chamber to get the resolution cleared.

“The Obama administration said to these students, ‘You’ve been defrauded, now step up. The law is there to protect you,’ ” Durbin said a press conference after the vote. Referring to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Durbin added, “She said to these students, ‘Lawyer up. You’re going to have to fight this. Individually. Every single one of you has got a burden of proof here.’ ”

“By passing this resolution, the House made it clear that we care more about defending defrauded students than enriching predatory schools,” Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., who sponsored the House resolution, said at the press conference. “We told Betsy Devos that we’re not going to sit on the sidelines while these institutions scam our families, our friends, our neighbors and our veterans while they’re trying to get an education.”

[After months of delay, DeVos touts limited student loan forgiveness plan]

The Education Department rule in question sets a tougher standard for eliminating student debt when students argue they were defrauded by a university. The rule would require defrauded borrowers to demonstrate financial harm as a result of the fraud in order to have their debt partially or completely canceled, and it would allow for mandatory arbitration agreements related to such claims and require borrowers to file claims within three years of leaving an institution.

The rule is set to take effect on July 1. Republicans argue it effectively counters a 2016 Obama administration rule putting original protections in place that they see as overreaching and costly to taxpayers.

“The 2016 Obama regulation created more chaos than clarity and set massive loan forgiveness as a goal, regardless of cost to taxpayers,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said at a House Rules Committee meeting Monday.

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