WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Rand Paul (R-KY), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, blasted the Department of Education (ED) for misusing the “Controlled Unclassified Information” (CUI) designation to conceal information from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report regarding potential fraud risks in its previous student loan cancellation scheme. Despite information being withheld, the report released earlier today still showed that the Biden administration was prepared to transfer $430 billion in student loan debt onto taxpayers with little guardrails to verify borrowers’ income to determine eligibility for student debt cancelation.
Prior to the release of the report, GAO informed congressional staff that ED designated some portions of its report as Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), preventing it from being released to the public.
After congressional staff reviewed an unamended copy of the report it was clear these changes and the CUI designation were unwarranted. Regardless, ED’s use of CUI led GAO to change and even delete information that was previously included in the report.
The senators raised serious concerns that the Biden administration is attempting to manipulate GAO reports to prevent the release of potentially embarrassing information that could reveal a more concerning picture of the Biden administration’s irresponsible student loan schemes.
“As members of Congress, we recognize the need to protect highly sensitive information from public release when it poses a threat to public safety or is required by statute. When there is no legitimate basis for safeguarding information, however, it is important to ensure maximum transparency for the American people,” wrote the senators. “The Executive Branch should never unnecessarily apply its own designations just to hide material from the public because it is embarrassing or difficult to explain.”
Additionally, Cassidy expressed concerns with GAO over its willingness to alter and delay its report based on demands made by the Biden administration with little justification. GAO is part of the legislative branch and responsible for assisting Congress in its constitutional oversight role.
“When GAO believes the Biden Administration is improperly applying the CUI designation to content in its reports, it should push back consistently and it should not take actions that it believes are unwarranted,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “It is critical to ensure maximum transparency for the American people when there is no legitimate basis for safeguarding information.”
“Going forward, when the Executive Branch delays or makes unreasonable demands, GAO must take a firm stand and remember that it serves the needs of a separate and coequal branch of the U.S. Government,” continued Dr. Cassidy.
Read the full letter from Cassidy and Paul to Secretary Cardona here.
Read the full letter from Cassidy to Comptroller General Dodaro here.