As expected, President Joe Biden made a unilateral move Wednesday to implement a student loan forgiveness plan that “will include at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness for borrowers who make less than $125,000 annually, as well as another payment freeze for roughly four months.”
While Republican members of Congress are understandably outraged, most of the ones openly speaking out against Biden’s move seem to be studiously avoiding the “i” word (impeachment) even though that is an option that should definitely be on the table considering Biden does not have the authority to carry out this plan, which does an end run around Congress and the required legislative process.
But according to a statement from Biden’s Education Dept., he indeed has such authority, something that was pointed to by reporters Wednesday after many raised questions as to where he thought he was getting his power from:
How’s he doing it?
Biden is employing a post-9/11 law that allows for debt cancelation “in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.”
Which emergency? “[T]he present COVID-19 pandemic,” per a Dept of Ed memo issued yesterday.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) August 24, 2022
According to that August 23rd memo, which was written by Dept. of Ed. General Counsel Lisa Brown, Secretary Miguel Cardona has the legal authority to force taxpayers to pay for the student loan debts of others thanks to the 2003 HEROES Act, which is a reversal of a January 2021 memo which stated that they didn’t have such authority.
From the Tuesday memo:
For the past year and a half, the Office of General Counsel (“OGC”), in consultation with our colleagues at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, has conducted a review of the Secretary’s legal authority to cancel student debt on a categorical basis. This review has included assessing the analysis outlined in a publicly disseminated January 2021 memorandum signed by a former Principal Deputy General Counsel. As detailed below, we have determined that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (“HEROES”) Act of 2003 grants the Secretary authority that could be used to effectuate a program of targeted loan cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have thus determined that the January 2021 memorandum was substantively incorrect in its conclusions.
The HEROES Act, first enacted in the wake of the September 11 attacks, provides the Secretary broad authority to grant relief from student loan requirements during specific periods (a war, other military operation, or national emergency, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic) and for specific purposes (including to address the financial harms of such a war, other military operation, or emergency). The Secretary of Education has used this authority, under both this and every prior administration since the Act’s passage, to provide relief to borrowers in connection with a war, other military operation, or national emergency, including the ongoing moratorium on student loan payments and interest.
Isn’t it just amazing how they managed to override themselves on the legality of such a move just in time for Biden’s announcement? It’s like this power just magically appeared out of thin air – and conveniently just in time for the November midterms.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said in April 2021 that Biden didn’t have the power to forgive student loans, has also done a convenient 180:
PELOSI IN APRIL: “People think that the President of the United States has the power for debt forgiveness. He does not.”
PELOSI TODAY: Biden’s move to cancel student debt “is a strong step in Democrats’ fight to expand access to higher education.” pic.twitter.com/zr3PRKHjk5
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) August 24, 2022
“Well, we’re excited about the president, because we didn’t know what — what authority the president had to do this. And now clearly, it seems he has the authority to do this: $10,000 for those … making under $125,000 a year.”https://t.co/6UJGIW4DU3
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) August 24, 2022
It sure would be nice if someone on the Democrat side understood the folly of such a move and how it has the potential to backfire big time when election time rolls around.
Someone like this:
“Suppose … your child just decided they, at this time, [do] not want to go to college, but you’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations. You may not be happy about that.”
The Democrat who said that? Nancy Pelosi, a year ago as Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pushed for Biden to forgive as much as $50,000 in student loan debt.
My, how times – and political circumstances – have changed.