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Lawsuit Filed to Declare Legislation that Reduces Financial Aid for Student Loans Unconstitutional


Cuts in federal student loan programs resulting from recent legislation could significantly affect the college education of millions of Americans. The legislation cuts $12 billion from financial aid programs. Student loan consolidation is also affected and will impact students looking to consolidate high interest loans. This is not good news for students or parents of students.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, S. 1932, that was signed into law on Feb. 8 by President Bush continues to come under fire. Another lawsuit to declare that the legislation is unconstitutional was filed April 28 by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-MI, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, who was joined in the suit by 10 Congress members including Rep. George Miller, D-CA, ranking member, House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

The first lawsuit to challenge the bill’s constitutionality was filed Feb. 13 by Jim Zeigler, Republican activist and Mobile, AL, elder law attorney. Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit consumer advocacy group, on March 21 filed its own suit seeking to declare the Deficit Reduction Act’s unconstitutionality.

Different Versions of the Legislation

According to Democrats the House and Senate passed different versions of the legislation, therefore rendering the bill unconstitutional. The House passed a version of the bill that included funding for 36 months of durable medical equipment and the Senate’s version contained only 13 months. As a constitutional requirement, both the House and Senate must sign identical versions of a bill prior to it being signed into law by the president.

“Once again the Administration is playing fast and loose with the Constitution. Anyone who has passed the sixth grade knows that before a bill can become a law, both Houses of Congress must approve it. That the Bush Administration is now saying otherwise underscores the Constitutional crisis we are facing in this country,” said Conyers in an April 27 press statement released from his office. “Over 200 years of legal precedent dictate that such discrepancies can be handled through simply refiling the paperwork, or re-voting the whole bill. Because the bill cuts billions of dollars to the Nation’s most needy, the Republican leadership prevented a re-vote at all costs.”

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Conyers suit names anyone responsible for the budget, which includes Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and President Bush along with other parties responsible for enacting the budget cuts required by the Deficit Reduction Act, according to Democratic aides.

With his lawsuit, Conyers asks for the entire bill to be declared unconstitutional and, therefore, not law, Democratic aides said. The lawsuit asks that an interim restraining order be put in place to prohibit enactment of the law.

“Republican leaders were in such a rush to ram this bill through Congress and get the President to sign it that they violated the Constitution in the process,” said Miller in the press statement. “And they were in a rush because this was a very, very bad bill. They wanted to spend as little time as possible having to explain their backwards priorities — like cutting $12 billion from financial aid programs for college students — to their constituents.”

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District Court of Michigan, case No. 2:06-CV-11972. Judge Nancy Edmunds is scheduled to preside over the case; however, it is not known when the case will be heard.

Education is the foundation on which any great civilization is built and this is certainly the case in the United States. When educational opportunities are taken away it can erode this foundation. That is why we need to take action to declare the Deficit Reduction Act unconstitutional. I believe an education is the best investment anyone can make and I am dedicated to helping individuals pursue their educational dreams by making college funding as easy as possible.

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