The senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee is ramping up pressure on the White House to explain how it intends to pay for its student loan program, saying it will "leave the taxpayer holding the bag."
Speaking on "Fox and Friends" Monday, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) criticized the president for bypassing Congress with an executive order and said his committee is still unsure what the program does or how it will be paid for.
"This administration has been bypassing Congress on issue after issue after issue," Kline said. "They sort of famously issued hundreds of rule changes and executive orders to bypass Congress, and I think that’s a mistake.
"Also I think that [the student loan program] is a mistake," he continued. "It’s very confusing. I’ve talked to a lot of people about what the president’s proposal is and it’s very difficult to figure out. Some of the changes are going to affect a small number of students; some of them are going to affect a larger group of students. But all of it, in fact, is going to encourage more borrowing, I’m afraid, and leave the taxpayer holding the bag."
Last Wednesday, President Obama was in Denver to unveil his "Know Before You Owe" program, which will cap loan payments at a percentage of income, consolidate loan payments and, in some cases, lower interest payments.
The president argued that the loan program was necessary because students are leaving college with an average of $24,000 in debt, and were having trouble finding jobs to pay back those loans.
Student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in the U.S. for the first time ever this year.
On Friday, Kline responded with a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s office requesting briefings and analyses on the impacts of the program by Nov. 18.
“The colleges and universities are going to have to face the fact that there’s not an endless supply of money coming from state and local governments,” Kline continued on Monday. “They’re going to have to look at their own operating costs and start to curtail the cost of going to college. We simply can’t keep providing money from the federal government in the form of subsidized or actual loans and Pell grants when we don’t have the money.”
“We’d like the president to stop campaigning and come work with us to put Americans back to work,” he added.
Last week Duncan argued that the push for education reform is a part of Obama’s American Jobs Act, which Senate Republicans voted in unison to block. Senate Republicans also voted to filibuster a scaled-back piece of the bill aimed at putting teachers and first responders back to work.
Obama said that instead of relying on Congress to pass education reform, he would act via a series of executive actions to reduce the debt burden on recent college graduates.
“We should be doing everything we can to put a college education within reach for every American,” Obama said. “It’s never been more expensive. There was a new report today — tuition has gone up again on average, much faster than inflation, certainly much faster than wages and incomes,” Obama said.