Democratic lawmakers went after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday during a hearing on the department’s handling of students claiming to be defrauded by for-profit colleges. Freshman Democratic Rep. of California Josh Harder’s remarks were so rude that the committee chairman had to admonish the 33-year-old congressman before continuing.
After sharing the story of a student suffering under $40,000 in student loan debt from an institution that manipulated its statistics of post-graduate success, Harder chastised the secretary’s wealth to characterize DeVos as an out-of-touch elite unable to sympathize with the misfortunes of the student.
“Maybe … $40,000 in student loan debt just doesn’t sound like a lot to you because it’s only one-tenth of one-percent of one of your family’s ten yachts,” Harder charged, going on to accuse DeVos of violating a federal court order to stop collecting debt from defrauded students. “So I guess I just have one question for you, Secretary DeVos: are you deliberately violating this federal court order because you are too corrupt to uphold the law? Or because you are too incompetent to do your job.”
Committee Chairman Bobby Scott of Virginia stepped in before DeVos had a chance to respond to demand Harder offer the secretary the respect she deserved.
“The gentleman will address the facts and figures and not question the character of the witness,” Scott directed, prompting Harder to rephrase.
“Secretary DeVos, why have you been held in contempt of court?” Harder condescendingly asked.
“Well, Congressman, let me begin by saying I took great personal offense to everything you just said,” DeVos answered. “I come to my job everyday on behalf of students. I don’t need to sit and listen to what you just spewed out of your mouth. I did not defy any court order.”
Rep. Harder: “Are you deliberately violating this federal court order because you are too corrupt to uphold the law or because you are too incompetent to do your job?”
Sec. DeVos: “I don’t need to sit and listen to what you just spewed out of your mouth.” pic.twitter.com/WHP1sj8NBs
— Resistbot (@resistbot) December 12, 2019
The court order Harder complained about was in reference to a case in the Northern District of California challenging the methodology the Education Department uses to determine eligibility for student debt relief.
According to Bloomberg, DeVos was fined $100,000 by a federal judge for not stopping debt collection efforts for students who chose to pursue higher education at a now-bankrupt institution.
This week, DeVos rolled out a new methodology to determine student debt relief eligibility. In other words, DeVos is being targeted for following the laws that require people who took on debts to pay them off.
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida also launched personal attacks on the secretary and accused DeVos of trying to “destroy public education.”
“I’ve had some honest disagreements with my friends in the Republican Party on how to move education forward but I have never, not one time, believed they were out to destroy public education until I met you,” Wilson lambasted.
I'm glad that @BetsyDeVosED attended today's hearing on debt relief for defrauded students, but her answers about her refusal to provide that much-needed relief were extremely dissatisfying. pic.twitter.com/9OxcOw5kU0
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) December 12, 2019
The ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, said the personal attacks went too far.
“I just have to say one of those last comments was over the line — absolutely over the line,” Foxx said. “To say that Secretary DeVos is trying to destroy public education is going too far, and I believe every one of my colleagues agrees. We all sat up very quickly when that comment was said. That kind of comment cannot stand in this committee.”
Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito also slammed the proceedings as unprofessional and out of line.
“Make no mistake: this was not an oversight hearing,” Morabito told The Federalist. “It was a cheap political show trial designed to personally attack and denigrate the secretary of Education… it was outside of the rules of the House, and it set a terrible example for America’s young students who watched those shameless attacks.”