Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Trump responds to controversy over his signing statement on HBCUs

On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the controversy over his May 5th signing statement that accompanied the Consolidated Appropriations Act. That statement appeared to many to question the constitutionality of the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Capital Financing Program.

“The statement that accompanied my signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, sets forth my intention to spend the funds it appropriates, including the funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), consistently with my responsibilities under the Constitution,” Trump said. “It does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions.”

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Thurgood Marshall Foundation, and Congressional Black Caucus all expressed concerns over the May 5th signing statement that said the HBCU Capital Financing Program was an example of a program designed to “allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender” that the administration would treat “in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the law under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”

The UNCF and Thurgood Marshall Foundation said the Trump administration informally assured them of its intention to continue supporting HBCUs. But the UNCF still said it asked “the White House to issue an official clarification of its policy to the HBCU community, as the HBCU Capital Financing program has provided tremendous value to HBCUs and the students they serve over the past 25 years.”

It added that “President Trump’s signing statement regarding this critical HBCU program may simply be lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget being overly cautious and perhaps not fully understanding the legal basis for federal HBCU programs. However, these programs have been thoroughly vetted by the Congress and prior Administrations, and the new Administration must eliminate any doubt as to their Constitutionality.”

The UNCF stated that it was pleased with Trump’s clarifying statement.

“We are gratified that the administration has reaffirmed its support for HBCUs; however, the signing statement has suggested that the administration has some doubt about the constitutionality of HBCU programs and that doubt needs to removed,” the UNCF said in a press release. “The FY 2017 omnibus appropriated funds in the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies, including the HBCU Capital Financing Program, and we look forward to the administration executing those funds as quickly as possible for the benefit of the nation’s HBCUs and the 300,000 students they serve.”

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