WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Susan Wild joined her Democratic colleagues on Thursday berating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
As Democrats in the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee spent hours attacking DeVos over the Trump administration’s controversial rewrite of a student loan forgiveness policy, Wild, D-7th District, questioned DeVos’ stated commitment to students.
“Did you not state at the very beginning of your testimony that students are your No. 1 priority?” the Lehigh Valley legislator asked her. “Because listening today, I have a hard time believing that a defrauded borrower would think that you are in their corner.”
DeVos appeared on Capitol Hill after a subpoena threat and months of wrangling with Democrats over her policy. The Trump administration overhauled an Obama-era policy for forgiving loans to students defrauded by their schools. DeVos said that policy was too lenient.
After taking office, DeVos signed off on claims approved but not finalized by the Obama administration. She wrote when she signed off on those claims that she did so “with extreme displeasure.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of borrowers are reportedly waiting for the government to process their claims.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., asked DeVos Thursday about her “extreme displeasure” comment. “Why would you write that? Why would providing relief to defrauded borrowers whose claims have been reviewed by experienced professionals displease you?”
DeVos cited concerns about the process, stating that she wanted to make sure taxpayer dollars were being properly used. “Very simply, there was no process. The claims were simply forgiven without consideration for the individual circumstances,” she said.
Wilson, a former educator, wasn’t satisfied. She said she’s had “honest disagreements” with Republicans about how to move education forward, but told DeVos, “I’ve never, not one time, believed that they were out to destroy public education until I met you.”
The Florida Democrat told the education secretary, “You are the most unpopular person in our government. Millions will register to vote in 2020, many will vote to remove you more than to remove the president.”
Pennsylvania Republicans joined other GOP lawmakers on the committee in defending DeVos.
“Unfortunately what you inherited from the last administration was really no structure, quite frankly, just providing loan forgiveness,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District. “Where harmed, I think that’s important, but there is a duty and a responsibility to do this diligently and in the right way.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District, lauded DeVos for doing “an excellent job of outlining your response and the department’s response to the questions that have been raised legitimately here today.”
He slammed Democrats for their attacks on the education secretary. “Anyone who looks at your body of work and says that you don’t care about children [or] about public education, that’s untrue, it’s false and it’s offensive.”