Where, exactly, in the age of President Trump and his defenders in Congress, is “the line”?
Rep. Virginia Foxx, Republican from North Carolina’s 5th District, thinks she knows. In a recent Education and Labor Committee hearing in the House of Representatives, Foxx accused a Democratic congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, of going “over the line.”
Wilson was speaking out of frustration over the role of Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, in trying to make people pay federal student loans even though the schools they attended defrauded them.
It’s no secret that Democrats have been upset about the position DeVos and her boss, Trump, have taken on student loan forgiveness. After widespread fraud among online and other for-profit schools came to light, the Obama administration began forgiving loans if students had been defrauded.
That makes sense. After all, most people who try to get degrees or certifications from such for-profit schools are trying to better themselves despite limited means. The last thing they need is to be saddled with debt with nothing to show for it.
If anything, the federal government should have done a better job vetting the schools it approved for the student loan program.
But no, DeVos thought the forgiveness policy was too generous. She stalled the process of handling claims.
She says she’s afraid some of those defrauded students are trying to take advantage of the federal government. Congressional Democrats have been arguing with DeVos over the policy change for months. And they aren’t the only ones who see a problem.
In October, a federal judge held DeVos in contempt for violating a court order telling her department to stop trying to collect loan repayments for those who had been defrauded by Corinthian College, which has gone out of business. The committee threatened a subpoena to get DeVos to testify, and when she finally appeared, they questioned — and chided — her for several hours.
It was when Wilson accused DeVos of being “out to destroy public education” that Foxx became indignant.
“That kind of comment cannot stand in this committee,” Foxx declared.
Well, forgive us if we thought that the line already had been pushed way beyond that.
While Wilson’s passionate interjection may seem almost as harsh as something Trump might say, it’s bolstered by the evidence that destroying public education may be what Trump had in mind when he chose DeVos as education secretary. Why else pick someone with zero experience with public schools?
And then there’s the way DeVos had spent years promoting voucher programs, charter schools and ways to privatize the public education system, while calling public schools “a dead end.”
Foxx wasn’t the only North Carolina Republican on the committee expressing displeasure over Wilson’s comments, which included calling DeVos “the most unpopular person in our government.”
Sixth District Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro said he thought all the “painful stuff” and “crazy things” were happening in another committee. He was referring to the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings, which some of his Republican colleagues had loudly tried to turn into a circus.
He doesn’t know how poor DeVos has taken abuse for three years, especially when it “goes personal,” he said. It’s embarrassing, Walker said.
What is truly embarrassing is DeVos’ callous negligence of fraud victims, even after the court ordered her to take action. Anger over such a situation seems justified.
Which brings us back to the question of where “the line” is at a time when Republicans do “crazy things” during a constitutional crisis.
Maybe “over the line” applies to anybody but them?