Many of the plans address hurdles that previously made it difficult for Americans to navigate these programs.
Education Department Proposals
In an interview with Rogue Rocket, the Under Secretary of the Department of Education, James Kvaal, provided insight about proposals released earlier this month that would expand and improve existing student loan forgiveness programs.
The programs include debt relief for borrowers defrauded by their colleges, students who faced a school closure, and those who are permanently disabled. The regulations would also expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which allows borrowers who work for at least 10 years in nonprofit or government jobs and meet other requirements to have their debt forgiven in full.
The proposed changes come after years of complaints that these programs have confusing rules, are extremely hard to navigate, and have been very poorly administered. Those issues were further exacerbated when even more obstacles were put in place by policies implemented under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
As a result, the programs have failed to administer millions of dollars to eligible applicants who should have had their debts paid. To address this, the under secretary said the new plans aim “to clarify who is eligible and […] take away some of the obstacles that have existed in the past.”
Among other measures, the proposals would use existing information to discharge loans, such as using Social Security data to provide relief to people with permanent disabilities who collect the benefits. Similarly, the department is also working to automatically credit federal employees through data-matching.
These tactics, Kvaal said, will help cut down on bureaucracy and paperwork that have plagued applicants for years, especially for those eligible for PSLF.
“One of the problems, particularly with public service loan forgiveness, is you had to have a specific type of loan, and then you had to have a specific type of repayment plan,” he explained. “It was very confusing. People got bad advice. Most people were not eligible. They had to take additional steps to convert their loans or change repayment plans.”
“So we’ve been able to wipe away some of that paperwork, and if you had filled out the right form at the right time, you’re now eligible,” he continued, emphasizing that those who wish to take advantage of the benefits must do so by Oct. 31.
The new proposals are part of the Education Department’s efforts to enhance protections for specific borrowers and undo Trump-era regulations.
“The vast majority of people who were eligible just weren’t able to navigate our systems, and so, you know, it was heartbreaking,” Kvaal said. “They were permanently disabled in some cases, they had been cheated by their for-profit college. They made career choices counting on this help, and they just weren’t able to navigate our bureaucracy. And so we […] have been able to cancel the loans of 1.3 million borrowers just by getting them the benefits that they were already entitled to.”
“A lot of for-profit colleges are using deceptive recruiting and false promises and leaving hundreds of thousands of students with loans they can’t afford to repay, and the efforts to clean up this mess were dismantled by the Trump administration — they repealed these rules,” he continued. “They sat on claims for borrowers for years and years. And so that’s something we’ve been working really, really hard to clean up. We’ve canceled the loans entirely for 800,000 borrowers […] and we’re putting in place new rules to try and make sure this never happens again.”
Kvaal also outlined other efforts the education department and the Biden administration are working on in regards to student loan relief.
“Another thing that is coming out soon is a new repayment plan, and we’re working on reducing monthly payments, especially [for] people with low incomes,” he stated, noting that more details would be announced in the coming weeks. “We think this new plan will make student loans much, much more affordable.”
“We are looking at across-the-board forgiveness,” Kvaal added. “We’ve talked about $10,000 for our borrowers as something that could be done by Congress, and we’re examining whether we might have the authority to do that even without an act of Congress.”
“We need to think about how we’re going to pay for the college opportunities we want to give people,” he continued. “For President Biden, that means doubling Pell Grant scholarships, it means free community college […] We do need the help of Congress to get those things done. But in the meantime, we’re thinking very aggressively within the Department of Education what we can do with our authority […] And we think that is going to deliver, you know, really substantial benefits to millions of Americans.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Business Insider)
House Report Details Violent Threats Against Election Workers Driven by Misinformation
Election administrators specifically flagged election falsehoods promoted by Trump and restrictive election laws that have been put in place by Republican state lawmakers.
Oversight Committee Investigation
The House Oversight Committee published a jarring report Thursday outlining in grisly detail the real-world, lasting effects of the ongoing election misinformation campaign spearheaded by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
The report is part of an investigation into the impact Trump’s lies have had on election administration and American democracy at large. The findings published Thursday draw from comments made by the leaders of election worker organizations in four battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Texas.
“The investigation uncovered that coordinated campaigns of election disinformation are disrupting the crucial work of local election officials, subjecting these Americans to violent threats, and overwhelming the limited resources available to provide accurate information to voters and protect the integrity of our democratic system,” the panel wrote.
“The investigation revealed that local election officials were singled out by politicians with a national platform, leading to unprecedented threats and harassment.”
The 21-page report mentions a number of examples, including one election official in Texas whose home address leaked after he was “singled out” by “out-of-state candidates.”
“Social media messages included, ‘hunt him down,’ ‘needs to leave Texas and U.S. as soon as possible,’ and ‘hang him when convicted for fraud and let his lifeless body hang in public until maggots drip out of his mouth,” the official told the members of Congress. “Perhaps most disturbing, messages threatening his children, saying, ‘I think we should end your bloodline.’”
Another instance centered around an election supervisor in Florida who was targeted by many prominent conservative figures, including commentator and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as far-right political operative Roger Stone.
According to the panel, the two men spread outlandish conspiracies about the worker, publicized his office phone number, and encouraged listeners to call the supervisor to tell him “that they are watching him, that he is a piece of crap, and that these are their elections.”
The administrator’s office “was inundated with phone calls from angry conspiracy theorists from across the country,” the report stated.
Ties to Trump and GOP Election Laws
In addition to the Trump allies who targeted election workers simply trying to do their jobs, the committee’s investigation also explicitly drew connections to the former president himself.
“We had many people demanding to know exactly when their ballot was counted because ‘the President told them to,’” an Arizona election official told the representatives.
Election officials also detailed how harmful the restrictive election laws passed by Republican lawmakers have been. These laws, they said, are “impossible to enact,” can be very expensive for taxpayers, and have “magnified the belief” in election disinformation — thus further perpetuating the cycle of violence against election workers.
The report further emphasized how these conditions have pushed many election workers out of their jobs, creating a need for labor in an already meager pool. To address these issues, the panel outlined several executive and legislative steps.
At the executive level, the representatives proposed the creation of a federal agency to support local efforts to combat misinformation. The members also called on the Justice Department to ramp up federal prosecution of the threats and harassment of election administrators.
The committee additionally urged their fellow members of Congress to allocate funding for election offices to increase both physical and cyber security efforts and counter threats against workers.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (UPI) (The Washington Post)
Rep. Khanna Renews Call for Congress to Impose Supreme Court Term Limits
The congressman told Rogue Rocket about his proposal, which would limit justices to 18-year terms and set appointments every two years.
The Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act
Congress has faced increased pressure to make reforms to the Supreme Court in the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Several lawmakers have been pushing for changes, such as imposing term limits on the high court’s justices. Among those leading the efforts are Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who has been working on the issue for several years now, and proposed the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act in 2020.
Khanna initially introduced the legislation in 2020 and again in 2021, but has since been urging Congress to take up the measure. The proposal would set 18-year term limits for all Supreme Court justices but allow termed-out members to serve on lower courts.
It would also change the appointment process so every president can nominate a new justice during each odd year, giving them the power to nominate two justices per term. If for any reason there are more than nine justices, the nine most recently appointed would serve on the court.
The bill additionally mandates that the Senate must act on a nomination within 120 days or the nominee will automatically be seated, so if one party holds the senate and another holds the presidency, the senate majority could not indefinitely block the president’s nominees.
“The founders never intended for people to be on the Supreme Court for 40, 50 years. The idea was people would go on the court at the end of their legal careers as sort of a final service to the country,” Khanna told Rogue Rocket. “Now, you have people gaming the system. You have Clarence Thomas, for example, appointed in his early forties […] it makes no sense that 50 years after the president who appointed him, he may still be making decisions.”
Khanna Outlines Arguments in Favor of Term Limits
“My view is that by having people on the court for so many years, [they] lose touch with what’s going on in modern life,” he continued. “So you have a court packed with people who may not be in touch with what the climate change issues are of this generation, of what the challenges are for getting an abortion in this generation. And having 18 years ensures that justices don’t lose touch with actual life as people live it.”
“You don’t want too much distance between the democratic legitimacy that a Supreme Court justice has, which is that a president elected by the people is appointing them and their decision making,” the Congressman stated. “The longer they’re on the court, the harder it is to argue for that democratic legitimacy. You’re saying, ‘oh, come on, someone appointed them 30 or 40 years ago, and that gives them that legitimacy now from we the people.’ I just think that that’s a harder argument to make than if they were there of up to 12 or 18, 20 years.”
When asked if term limits would be imposed on the current Supreme Court justices should the bill pass, Khanna said that the matter was “open to interpretation.”
“I would want an immediate push out, but you may have people who would argue that you can’t make it retroactive, you have to make it going forward,” he continued. “And that is a legal question that would have to be settled and is not clearly settled. I do think if you made it going forward, you would have a lot of support.”
“I think even people like Justice Roberts or others, if it goes up to the Supreme Court, would likely support it because they much prefer term limits to the expansion of the court. And I think if that court strikes down something like term limits, they know that the next measure would be expansion.”
On the topic of support for the bill, Khanna said there is growing momentum both among the public and within the federal government, noting that the commission President Joe Biden assembled to look into Supreme Court reforms has expressed interest in term limits.
“The commission, while they haven’t formally recommended the term limits, has said that that is the one that’s most plausible. That’s what a lot of the experts agreed on is a likely path,” he said. “Term limits is something that even Republican voters agree on, Independents agree on. So when you poll, a lot of people say, ‘yeah, that intuitively makes sense,’ and it’s not political.”
Khanna also echoed that comment when asked about whether his proposal would require a Constitutional amendment.
“The president’s own Supreme Court commission recommended this as the most plausible path,” he asserted. “Now, you can’t strip the justice of being a judge […] but you can say that people should be limited in the amount of years on the Supreme Court and many legal professors and experts have looked at it and said that is constitutional.”
“I think we have too much deference for people who are Supreme Court justices, are somehow almost philosopher kings, and that they’re coming on as independent and they’re going to make these decisions. Really, they are political actors,” Khanna concluded.
“Obviously, we have to abide by Supreme Court decisions because we are a nation of rule of law, but we shouldn’t afford them this sense [that they’re] sort of holier than thou. And term limits, I think, helps remind people that this is a political process and these are political actors making those decisions.”
Trump Refuses to Answer Questions in New York AG Probe
Although he wouldn’t speak under oath, Trump called James “racist” on Truth Social and labeled her investigation a “radical witch hunt.”
“I Plead the Fifth”
Former President Donald Trump testified in front of New York Attorney General Letitia James and her team of lawyers Wednesday morning but said in a statement he refused to answer any of their questions.
“Under the advice of my counsel and for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution,” Trump said, referring to his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
He was seen leaving Trump Tower for a scheduled deposition with the investigators, who have said they possess significant evidence that the Trump Organization illegally inflated and deflated the value of its real estate assets on paper to obtain better terms from lenders, insurance companies, and tax authorities.
In the past, Trump has criticized his political adversaries for pleading the fifth, suggesting that doing so is a sign of guilt.
“The mob takes the fifth,” he previously said. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
“I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?’” Trump acknowledged in a Wednesday statement. “Now I know the answer to that question.”
“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” he continued.
Trump Attacks Letitia James
On Tuesday night, Trump announced his arrival in New York City via Truth Social.
“Seeing racist N.Y.S. Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. history!” he wrote. “My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides. Banana Republic!”
On Wednesday morning, Trump used the taxpayer-funded Office of Donald J. Trump to release four videos in emails with the subject line “ICYMI: Letitia James’ Radical Witch Hunt.”
They showcased past quotations from James in which she expressed her desire to take down Trump and called him an illegitimate president.
Trump also ripped into James on Truth Social from inside her office Wednesday.
“At the very plush, beautiful, and expensive A.G.’s office,” he wrote. “Nice working conditions, as people are being murdered all over New York – and she spends her time and effort on trying to ‘get Trump.’”
The drama in New York came just two days after the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida Monday, reportedly to investigate claims that he mishandled White House documents.
The following day, a federal appeals court rejected his attempt to block a House committee from obtaining his tax returns.