Home > Uncategorized > My Thinking: The Democrats in the House Should Spend Time and Energy Legislating Instead of Investigating

My Thinking: The Democrats in the House Should Spend Time and Energy Legislating Instead of Investigating

November 27, 2018

Yesterday’s Morning Report from Politico included a rundown of the various investigations the House Committee chairs might launch. The synopsis is pasted below, with my commentary in red italics. :

HOUSE DEMOCRATS GEAR UP TO TAKE ON DEVOS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will face new scrutiny next year from as many as many as five Democratic-led House committees. Even as Democrats eye a wide-ranging list of oversight priorities across the Trump administration, DeVos stands out as a major target.

— A handful of the Democrats who are set to wield gavels next year are lawmakers who have long worked on education issues and have been particularly vocal about their opposition to DeVos. Read our full story here — and here’s a guide of what to expect from each of the presumptive Democratic committee chairs:

— Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), poised to be chairman of the House education committee, will have DeVos squarely in his sights. Earlier this month Scott said his top oversight priorities would be the Education Department’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as its handling of claims for student loan forgiveness by public servants and borrowers defrauded by their colleges. Maybe Rep. Scott could introduce a bill that forgives student loans.

— Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) , who is expected to lead the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said that a top priority would be oversight of for-profit colleges that enroll veterans — including DeVos’s efforts to deregulate them. “I want to examine the extent to which her rollbacks of regulations negatively impact veterans,” he said in an interview.

— Takano said he’d like to see joint hearings with the House education committee on “the impact of the for-profit industry on our student veterans.” In addition, Takano said he’s “concerned about the reach of for-profits on military bases in terms of their recruitment”—an issue he wants to address by working with the House Armed Services Committee. Maybe Rep. Takano could introduce a bill forbidding the use of federal dollars to pay for tuition of for-profit schools unless those schools accept regulatory oversight and funds are provided to ensure that such oversight is possible.

— Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) , in line to lead the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing education funding, said that taking on the Trump Education Department will be a priority. The panel’s oversight work, DeLauro said, will focus on ways to “hold Secretary DeVos accountable for her agency’s failure to uphold federal protections for our students.”

— DeLauro called DeVos’ record on student debt issues “appalling,” pointing to her efforts to eliminate or scale back the “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” rules enacted by the Obama administration. “I will make sure Secretary DeVos knows Americans want her to protect students and veterans, not the for-profit school industry,” she said. Maybe Rep. DeLauro could introduce a bill that incorporates the “rules enacted by the Obama administration and funds auditors to make certain federal protections for students are in place. 

— Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) , incoming chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, said that while she’ll largely be focused on big banks and Wall Street, the panel also has jurisdiction over student loan companies and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I’ll be involved in student loan issues, absolutely,” she told POLITICO.

— Waters has also long railed against for-profit colleges – and forecasted more scrutiny for the industry with Democrats in control of the House. “Just as you saw us put the pressure on Corinthian [Colleges] so that they had to basically close down, I think you’re going to see more work that’s being done on private postsecondary schools,” Waters told POLITICO. Perhaps that “work” might include the passage of legislation that regulates for-profit colleges and, while she’s at it, regulates for profit K-12 schools. 

— Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is the presumptive chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which could also take on DeVos. Cummings conducted an investigation of CEO pay at for-profit schools during the Obama administration. And this past year, he and Scott expressed concern over DeVos’ treatment of the union that represents her agency’s employees. Maybe his committee could introduce legislation that restores the power to unions that was eviscerated by the Trump administration.  

— DeVos has so far struck a conciliatory tone with Democrats coming to power in the House. “I look forward to working with Congressman Scott and the rest of the committee as well,” she told reporters last week. An Education Department spokesperson declined to comment on how it was preparing for an onslaught of oversight requests.

My thought: hold back on those oversight requests and begin drafting legislation that will empower the government to regulate the for-profit colleges and K-12 schools. In doing so, it might help the public appreciate that their tax dollars are going from the pockets of hard working students and veterans and into the pockets of billionaires and shareholders… and since the agencies have been stripped of money and power “government” cannot intervene on their behalf. The Democrats have an opportunity to do something positive: they can pass legislation that is designed to help middle class Americans. I hope they don’t squander that opportunity by “going after” the Trump administration, for in so doing they will be giving the Trump administration the opportunity to frame the argument. Why give Betsy DeVos and her cronies another chance to convince voters that choice is a good idea. Force them to agree that the regulation of avaricious profiteers is a bad idea.

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