The liberal Democrat in question is Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY10). He has a problem with the way the Obama Department of Education has gone about drafting its new “Gainful Employment, or “GE” rules. These rules are directed at for-profit schools, and would limit the financial aid they can extend to students. Rep. Towns voices his objections to the GE rules in a letter, dated May 24, 2011, to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD), who is the Democrats’ ranking member on the committee. Towns writes:
I am writing to ask you to initiate an investigation and to hold a balanced, non-partisan public hearing concerning the process by which senior officials at the Department of Education (“DoE”) drafted the proposed “Gainful Employment” (“GE”) regulation.
The GE regulation, if implemented as proposed, would apply virtually exclusively to college programs at career colleges – and not to private not-for-profit or most public college or community college programs. Since a majority of students who attend career colleges are minorities or from economically disadvantaged families, the DoE’s proposed GE regulation would disproportionately hurt some of the most vulnerable populations.
Thus, DoE has a special obligation to ensure that its rule-making regulatory process — whereby unelected federal officials are empowered, in effect, to make policy into law — is even-handed, open-minded and transparent in all respects at all times.
The letter, linked here, goes on to list serious allegations that the GE was drafted “with a predetermined agenda to harm career colleges,” and even appeared to intentionally mislead career colleges. Towns also accuses DoE of drafting the GE regulation in secret meetings. It’s strong stuff, especially coming from someone who is usually an ally of the Obama administration.
The new GE regulation is by no means the first time the Obama administration has been accused of acting in secret and using agencies of the executive branch to create what amounts to sweeping new law without input from Congress. The National Labor Relations Board’s actions against Boeing in South Carolina, the FCC’s move on net neutrality, and the EPA’s rules on carbon emissions have been hit hard for similar reasons. But this marks one of the few times a liberal Democrat has directly taken on an Obama agency.
Update: Here is video of the Washington Times quizzing Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan on why his department is pushing the rules though so fast.