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Courtney Votes to Support Defrauded Veterans and Students, Override Trump Veto of Borrowers Defense Bill

June 26, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, voted to override President Trump’s veto of H.J. Res. 76, a bipartisan resolution that passed the House and Senate and would prevent U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing her 2019 rewrite of the Borrower Defense rule. Today’s vote failed to reach the two-thirds threshold required to override a presidential veto.

Rep. Courtney voted to pass H.J. Res 76 on January 16th, and the Senate voted to pass the bill on March 11th. Despite bipartisan support to reverse Secretary DeVos’s harmful new Borrower Defense rule—which would deny debt relief to students who have been defrauded by predatory colleges, and would shield those colleges from accountability—President Trump vetoed the resolution on May 29th.


“Right before Memorial Day, President Trump, very quietly and behind closed doors, vetoed this bill—a bipartisan bill that protected a Borrowers Defense rule supported by a wide range of veterans service organizations,” said Congressman Courtney. “For years, young veterans who sought an education after serving their country have been targeted by for-profit, rip-off education factories that swallow up their G.I. benefits, and then pile on new student loans. Stories abound about men and women who wore the uniform of this country left with crushing debt and worthless degrees that denied them the rewarding careers they were promised.”

“Although many today are ‘entitled’ to loan forgiveness, the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos has willfully made the process as onerous as possible. The American Legion, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and many others have made their position clear: Congress should vote to override this veto. The failure by some in the House today to stand up for a bipartisan bill that we already passed through both chambers of Congress is a betrayal to thousands of Americans who stepped up to volunteer and protect our nation.”


In 2016, following the collapse of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute—two major for-profit college chains that routinely defrauded students—President Obama issued a comprehensive, updated Borrower Defense rule, creating a streamlined process to help defrauded borrowers access relief and to move forward with their lives. The Obama-era rule was slated to go into effect on July 1, 2017.


Since taking office, Secretary DeVos has refused to implement a strong Borrower Defense rule, leaving hundreds of thousands of defrauded student borrowers waiting for relief. The Department initially attempted to prevent the Obama-era rule from going into effect. Then, after a federal court ordered the rule to be implemented, the Department finalized a newly crafted Borrower Defense rule that forces future defrauded students to navigate a complex process to get relief, severely restricts how much relief they can receive, and lets failing schools go unchecked, shifting higher costs on to taxpayers. According to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), the share of eligible loan debt forgiven under Secretary DeVos’s new Borrower Defense rule will drop from 53% using the Obama-era standard, to just 3% under the DeVos rule.


H.J.Res. 76 would reverse Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration’s new Borrower Defense rule, and marks the first instance that the House has used of the Congressional Review Act to reverse a Trump Administration rule. In doing so, it paves the way for the House to advance the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), a bill Congressman Courtney co-sponsored that would crack down on predatory schools, and restore the 2016 Obama-era protections for students and taxpayers. In October, Rep. Courtney and his colleagues on the House Education and Labor Committee voted to approve H.R. 4674 during a three-day legislative markup session.


Rep. Courtney has consistently sought to protect the veterans, servicemembers, and their families from the aggressive and predatory practices of for-profit colleges. In addition to seeking to block Secretary DeVos’s harmful new Borrower Defense rule through H.J. Res. 76, Courtney has also sought to close the “90-10” loophole, which creates a perverse incentive for for-profit colleges to aggressively recruit beneficiaries of G.I. Bill benefits and Military Tuition Assistance.


For direct testimony from U.S. veterans across the country who have Borrower Defense applications pending at the Department of Education, click here.


Despite President Trump’s veto, H.J. Res. 76 is supported by a broad coalition of veterans and military groups, student advocates, and others. Supporting organizations include the American Legion, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, AMVETS, Veterans Education Success, Veterans for Common Sense, the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association & Enlisted Association, and many others.