Waiting until almost the very last minute on a Friday, President Trump issued his first veto of domestic policy legislation. This veto was of House Joint Resolution 76, sponsored by Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), a bill that would’ve prevented Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing her new rule determining how defrauded student borrowers could get loan forgiveness.
The “borrower defense to repayment” rule provides the Secretary of Education the authority to discharge student debt if student borrowers were defrauded by their college. In 2016, the Obama Administration issued a new regulation for the borrower defense rule after the floodgates opened with students claiming fraud from the now-defunct Corinthian College.
Secretary DeVos thought the Obama-era rule was too generous and recently rewrote this rule making it very hard for borrowers to receive loan forgiveness. Her new rule created a really high standard, placing a nearly impossible burden of proof on student borrowers.
While the old regulation provided that a student must show a substantial misrepresentation by a school, DeVos would require that students prove schools did so knowing the information was false or that the school acted with reckless disregard to accurate information. Students would also have to demonstrate that they were financially hard — an incredibly difficult standard to prove.
In March, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, joining the House of Representatives in rebuking DeVos’s new rule. Ten Republican Senators joined every single Democrat in the Senate to send this resolution to the White House.
Trump’s veto will likely angry many veterans across the country, just days after Memorial Day. In March, more than 30 military and veteran organizations – including the American Legion and Veterans Education Success — signed a letter urging President Trump to support the legislation. Just before Trump vetoed the measure, the American Legion tweeted a statement calling for the president to sign the legislation.
Many veterans have been the target of predatory colleges seeking to profit off of military and veteran education benefits. Veterans Education Success even ran an ad on Fox News targeting the president in hopes that it could sway him to support the legislation.
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to overturn an administration’s regulation. A veto from Trump was always the likely outcome because a president is unlikely to override their own administration. White House staff issued a statement in February that the president should veto the resolution.
However, Trump himself has shown some inconsistency on the issue. Last year, Trump announced he was going to discharge debt of disabled veterans when his administration had been slow to do so previously. He was also reportedly considering some debt forgiveness as pressure built from the 2020 campaign and debt cancellation proposals from Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The resolution will now return to Congress, where the House will have the first shot at overriding the veto. Two-thirds of the members in each chamber must vote for the override in order for it to be successful. The House is expected to vote to override the President’s veto, but it is unknown if enough Republicans would join the Democrats.
And if the House is successful, the override faces a much steeper hill in the Senate. Winning over the initial 10 was already a big win for proponents of the legislation, but it will take winning over more republicans to override the President in the Republican-controlled chamber.